DFI NB76EA i845G Motherboard

10 thumbs up

The DFI NB76-EA i845G Motherboard
A Powerful Package Without a Premium Price...

By, Robert Maloney
July 1, 2002

THE NB76-EA's BIOS:

The DFI NB-76EA came with an AWARD BIOS that covers the basics well, and doesn?t overwhelm the user with a myriad of undocumented options. The Advance BIOS features are pretty standard fare, and the Advanced Chipset features are minimal at best. The user can opt for three choices for the dubiously titled ?System Performance?, with these being ?Normal?, ?Turbo?, and ?Ultra?. According to a note I received from DFI, these are adjustments for the DRAM timing, corresponding to DDR200, DDR266, and DDR333, respectively. As much as I would like to have gone ?Ultra?, DDR200 and DDR266 are the only two officially supported memory designations for the i845G, so I opted instead for the ?Turbo? setting, even though my stick of Corsair PC3000 DDR could have done the job. My other concern here was that using the ?Ultra? option would heavily favor the benchmarks towards this board, and I preferred to keep the playing field level for the sake of comparison.

On Integrated Peripherals screen, you will notice that mixed in with the usual components is the ?Onboard SuperIO device?. Sounds cool, doesn?t it? In here we found the setting for the various I/O ports, including the aforementioned Smart Card, Memory Stick, and Secure Digital Memory Card interfaces. The first time I ran through the setup, I enabled these without checking for any conflicts, and sure enough after everything was installed I noticed a problem in Windows concerning the Memory Stick drive. Back in the BIOS, I quickly realized that Serial Port I and the Memory Stick drive were both set to share IRQ4, so I disabled the Serial port (I couldn?t think of anything I had that still used serial ports anyway.) While these smart media drives were a nice addition to the system, and are ahead of the curve as far as innovation goes, I feel that most users may want to disable these items to prevent any resource conflicts unless they actually intend on using them. Unfortunately for me, I had no such cards or memory sticks to use to test these components.

On the PC Health status screen, we were shown the system and CPU temperatures, all three fan speeds (here only the CPU fan was actually attached) and the line voltages. At the bottom is part of DFI?s Bitguard technology used to safeguard the CPU and board. It is an automatic shutdown temperature gauge, which is unalterable. Should the CPU reach this level, let?s say from a non-working HSF, the system will immediately shutdown in order to prevent any damage to the CPU and  /or onboard components. In the Frequency Voltage control section, the clock ratio was locked for this CPU, but we giddily upped the bus to 116MHz, as seen in the screenshot.

Layout and Quality
Plain Jane...

THE LAYOUT:

This motherboard has a ton of connections and headers on it. Unfortunately, a number of these are placed immediately around PCI slots 1 and 2, which could be a hassle if adding additional cards. Located at the slot edge of the board, we have the audio connectors, and onboard audio and Ethernet LAN ICs. I am not a big fan of placing jacks or connectors between the slots, since when installed in the chassis, it makes it harder to plug in and remove cables when add-in cards are used. Even when simply connecting the extra serial and game ports, I had to run the cables directly over the added GeForce4 Ti 4600 card, one of which had very little slack to spare.

     

As we moved towards the other corner of the board, we found it to be clean and uncluttered save for the 12V ATX connector. This brings us to the Socket 478, fenced in by a number of capacitors, which should regulate the power nicely. The Northbridge (GMCH) came with a passive heatsink mounted to it, held down by four retention clips. This should normally be adequate for the job.

     

In the next corner we have the two DIMM slots, which is more of a limitation of the i845G than anything else, since population of three slots with double sided DIMMs, could lead to stability issues. We also see the Floppy drive, IDE, and the main ATX power connections. I agree with the placement of the FDD and IDE controllers as it always made sense to me to place them right where the end of the drives would normally be. Nothing irks me more than to run a FDD cable from the back of the drive to a connection hidden between two PCI slots. The ATX connection, however, was a little hard to get to once everything else was connected and it would behoove the PC builder to connect this first.

     

In the last corner, we have the last of the ATX connections, which keeps the cables spread out instead of bunching up at the power supply unit, thereby increasing airflow. Here also was the Southbridge and the usual switch and LED connections. You will also see three connectors which may not look too familiar. These are the connections used for each of the included smart media drives: Smart Card, Memory Stick, and Secure Digital Memory Cards.

One last item to mention was the AGP slot. As seen in the picture, a warning label comes placed over the slot, warning the user that only 1.5V AGP cards are supported, and 3.3V cards cannot be used. If such a card is even installed and the system turned on, a warning light will turn on alerting the user that there is a problem. There are also two other LEDs on the board, one up by the DIMM slots and the other between PCI slots 1 and 2 that come on during power-on, soft-off, and suspend states. Their purpose is to serve as a reminder that the system is still powered and should be completely shut down before installing or removing and memory modules or add-in cards.

The AGP slots also has a retention clip of its own, locking in the card to prevent it from ?creeping? and causing any incidental damage should it come loose. My only complaint was the placement of two capacitors behind the AGP slot. When I added a GeForce 4 Ti 4600, the card almost directly touched the two capacitors. It also prevented me from unlocking the clips on the DIMM slots since they were so close together. This means that to add or remove RAM, you would need to remove the video card first. Not a major hassle, but a hassle nonetheless.
 

Let's Get Down to Business

  

 

Article Index:

Login or Register to Comment
Post a Comment