Intel® Desktop Board D101GGC Review

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Article: Intel® Desktop Board D101GGC Review (Embracing 3rd Party Chipset?) - Part I

III. Packaging

Intel®'s boxing line hasn't been updated with the new logo when this board was launched, so this still sports the old logo. Nevertheless, the box looks very professional and enticing, and may I add that it went away with the usual plain white and blue combination which are usually found on their earlier boards, back in Socket478 days. Users will not miss that this board is based on the newer LGA775, since the socket is imprinted on the front cover of the box. The major features of the product are clearly printed, showing the support the kind of processor, ram, audio, video card and form factor. This approach should be a really customer-friendly approach.

The back of the box gives buying customers of what the motherboard looks like without actually opening the package. This is particularly useful for those who ar ecurious as to how the motherboard looks, how the connectors are placed, how internal headers are situated, all through-out the motherboard. This portion also shows what industry regulations this particular board adheres to, such as RoHS compliance.

Opening the box reveals the offerings inside. It doesn't have any kind of frills to the looks of it, some will even think it only contains the bare necessities. But indeed it is containing the bare necessities, considering the segment of customer this particular motherboard is positioned to. However, regular customers will not find anything missing to the bunch of offerings, and oftentimes, the content of the box will fit most users within the targeted market segment.

The accessories included are the driver CD for the chipsets, a really large Quick Reference Guide, two(2) pieces of Serial ATA cables in a beautiful flaming red color, a piece of IDE cable and FDD cable, an I/O Shield and a Configuration Label sticker.

IV. Layout

The motherboard, as it is in micro-ATX form factor, looks smaller than it is supposed to be even if it's within the standard. It is bathed in no muss, no fuss, straight-colored green PCB, and still posses the marking of an old logo. A quick glance of the motherboard doesn't reveal any nagging problem, as everything is laid out nice and neat, muddled with quality capacitors all throughout.

The upper right section, the socket area shows no blocking parts that can hamper installation of the standard cooler. I never had problems using any of the stock cooler, and I even tried using LGA775 adapter and a Thermalright XP-90 to it and the cooler fit without any hassle. The surrounding area of the socket is really very inviting for an even more exotic kind of cooling, however, I doubt anyone will use anything other than the standard cooler with it. But hey, it'll still be fun to at least see a water-cooled value motherboard just for the fun of it. This section of the motherboard is where the 2x2 12v power connector is situated.

The upper left section is where the add-in card connectors are located. There are two(2) conventional PCI connectors, along with a newer one(1) PCI Express connector. The PCI Express x16 is also situated here in case the user needs more power graphics solution. I'd suggest that since this is an ATi-based chipset, an ATi-based PCI Express Video Card is preferred. The front-panel connector lies just above and between the PCI and PCIe x1 connector, so if you're planning to use the on-board audio-headers, and then have PCI or PCIe add-in cards, just ensure to plug the headers first for simpler integration. The BIOS battery is also seating here, and looking at it closely, the Realtek audio and lan chipsets are also positioned here. There is also a fan header situated here.

Just below the PCI and PCIe x1 connectors, is the Southbridge. The Southbridge has a passive heatsinks to it, held securely by clamping wires. In my test, the Southbridge does heat up, but not enough to make me panic and run to the store to replace it. Along the sides of the Southbridge chip are various on-board headers. The four(4) Serial ATA connectors are nicely grouped around here, and here, the two(2) USB headers are aligned along the edges of the motherboard. The front panel header for power switch, HDD LED, Power LED, and Reset is color-coded for ease of installation. In case of emergency, the CMOS/BIOS jumper will come in handy. There is also another fan-header here, users can mount a fancy fan on their Southbridge if needed or just use it as another header for a chassis fan. An on-board speaker is integrated in this section to give warning beeps.

The lower right section shows the two(2) DDR1 memory slots. There are also two(2) IDE channel headers and the long standing FDD connector. The ATX24 pin connector is nicely situated along the side, to ensure a better routing of the ATX power connectors. The hardware management chip is situated long the corner of the board. This section is where the 4pin CPU fan header is situated.
At the middle section of the board is where the ATi Northbridge is located. It has a passive heatsink to it, held securely by locking clips. The Northbridge heatsink is rather small, compared to other heatsink found on other motherboard. During testing, the heatsink seems capable enough to handle the heat generated by the chipset. I will not worry much about this heatsink. Since this is an ATi chipset, I would suggest that users use an ATi-based video card. I found that it is very easy to integrate an ATi video card as the chipset uses a unified ATi drivers, making it trouble-free when I installed an X700 video card. I never have to install any other drivers again!

At the rear portion, this motherboard is nothing spectacular. It still supports the old parallel printer power, a serial port, an PS2-type of keyboard and mouse. However, this board is never lacking on the USB connectors at the back, as shown by a full four(4) USB ports, this should be enough for most applications, such as adding a USB mouse, keyboard, camera, and printer. There's also an RJ45 connector for the LAN, and of course for the great sounds, the audio port header is situated here. There is also a VGA connector, to utilize the chipset's on-board X300 graphics.

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