In between the two PCI-E 16X slots is the SLI configuration card. As with a few other motherboards, you have to insert the card in a certain orientation depending on if you have single or dual video cards. I would’ve liked to have seen the card done away with for an automated detection solution though. Boards such as the ECS KN1 Extreme SLI
have done away with the SLI configuration card.
Two more PCI slots and two PCI-E 1x slot round out the expansion slots. One PCI-E 1x slot is situated between the two PCI-E 16x slots and if you are using two NVIDIA cards, that slot will be unusable due to the retention clip.
For the rest of the layout, the board earns some good marks. Color wise, the PCB and connectors consist of red and blacks. Nothing is lined up with the two PCI-E x16 slots whereas some boards had memory clips or SATA connects that could be interfered with if you had long cards. The two IDE connectors are situated horizontally rather than vertically. All four of the SATA connectors are situated near the bottom corner of the board and near the IDE connectors so most of your optical drive connectors are in once place. One connector that I am puzzled about its location is the extra one to provide more juice to the PCI-E area. It's located far down on the edge of the board next to the PCI slot. You'll have to string a power cable down there. Position wise, it's not the best that I've seen but that's a small gripe considering the rest of the board layout's pretty good.
Now, this isn’t the Fatal1ty version with the dual OTES cooling, different motherboard color scheme, and the uGuru panel display among a few other minor changes. But if you look at the layout of both the Fatal1ty version and the regular version, they are pretty much identical. And the board is $50 less than the Fatal1ty version so that’s something else to consider when choosing between the two versions.
The Silent OTES cooling solution provides just what the name suggests. Normally, there’s a fan covering the northbridge to help cool it down. That’s been eliminated in favor of a heatpipe solution. An aluminum heatsink with a copper base on the nForce4 chip transfers heat to a large copper heat exchanger via a heatpipe. Heat is then exhausted out the back by air flowing from the CPU fan. No fans are on the northbridge or the heat exchanger. Placing my hand at the rear of the board when in operation, I could feel the heat emanating so I knew it was working. I can really see this board in an HTPC solution with it's silent cooling. I hope more boards take advantage of the Silent OTES cooling technology.
The heat exchanger takes up a good amount of room on the back panel eliminating a few serial ports and a parallel port from the board. What are left on the back panel are two PS/2 connectors, one firewire connector, four USB connectors, and one Ethernet connector. I was a little disappointed that there’s only one Ethernet connector as many boards these days are being shipped with two. But I am glad to see a few of the legacy connections were done away with.
For audio, the AN8 SLI
includes ABIT’s AudioMaxHD. It’s a riser card that’s Dolby certified and delivers up to 7.1 channels of surround sound. The card holds the Realtek ALC850 and has one optical S/PDIF connector and six audio jacks. While they do heavily market the riser card, it’s still just the ALC850 moved off the board. I do like the amount of connectors on the riser card and the space that the heat exchanger takes up in the back does warrant the move of the audio plugs to an expansion bay. Taken from Realtek's website: Featuring four 16-bit two-channel DACs and a stereo 16-bit ADC, the ALC850 is an AC'97 Rev 2.3 compatible multi-channel audio CODEC designed for PC multimedia systems. The ALC850 incorporates proprietary converter technology and fully meets performance requirements for PC99/2001 systems.
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