While the Asus N4L-VM DH is based on a standard Micro-ATX sized PCB, the layout of some of its primary components appears strange upon first glance. Most notably, we see that the memory slots are positioned between the processor / chipset and the I/O panel, while typical desktop motherboard motherboards feature the memory slots closer to the IDE connectors. Other than the seemingly odd placement of these items, the rest of the board follows a fairly standard Micro-ATX layout.
The N4L-VM DH only supports Socket-479 Core Duo and Core Solo processors. The CPU socket is placed near the top of the motherboard, and uses an easy-to-use latch-based Socket-479 open/close mechanism for processor installation. Typical Socket-479 desktop motherboards require a flat-head screwdriver to install, whereas the N4L-VM DH is requires no tools. The board supports Core processors at 533 MHz and 667 MHz FSB, but does not support older Pentium-M processors. Intel has changed the pin grid of their new Socket-479 processors, so older Socket-479 Pentium-M processors will not fit properly in this socket.
There is very little breathing room around the CPU socket, and in addition, there are no mounting holes for a cooler around the socket. Since Intel does not bundle coolers with their retail boxed Core Duo processors, Asus has been forced to custom design and bundle a CPU cooling system with this motherboard. The Asus cooler hooks on to the motherboard by two small metal latches on each side of the processor. Asus's cooling unit is a small aluminum alloy HSF, similar to Pentium-III processors of the past. The cooler comes with thermal paste pre-applied and leveling foam on the bottom of the cooler, lessening the chance of cracking the exposed processor core during installation. We'll look at the effectiveness of this cooler later in this article.
The motherboard supports two (bright yellow) 240-pin DDR2 DIMM sockets. Each of these slots can hold up to a 1 GB module for 2 GB maximum capacity. The board supports DDR2 modules at 533 MHz and 667 MHz. Since the 945GT's memory controller is dual-channel compatible, with two memory sticks installed you will get a theoretical peak memory bandwidth level of 10.6 GB/s.
Sitting next to the processor is the Intel 945GT Northbridge, which is cooled passively with a large aluminum alloy heatsink. The 945GT Express chipset is designed specifically for Core Duo processors, although is heavily based on the 945G series chipset for Pentium-4/D processors. The feature-sets are virtually identical between the two chipsets, although the 945GT has Intel ViiV compliance (for whatever that is worth) and supports the Core Duo's 533/667 MHz FSB speeds. The chipset supports PCIe x16 graphics, GMA950 integrated video, and has an integrated dual-channel DDR2-667 memory controller.