Board Layout, Continued

The port layout is very good -- all of the major ports are placed around the edges of the board. The six SATA ports are all angled 90 degrees to the PCB in order to minimise cable mess and all of the highly used pin-outs are placed along the base.

The notable exceptions are the RS232 serial port pin-out (that barely anyone is likely to use) and the four-pin molex connector for additional PCI-Express power stability which is placed underneath it. This requires dragging a molex across the entire face of the board to use it, which increases cable mess. Fortunately, it's placed above the peripheral slots so it's easy to get to.

PCI and PCI-Express layout mirrors other nForce 680i SLI motherboards in that it offers two PCI-Express x1, three PCI-Express x16 and two PCI slots. The gap between the PCI-Express x16 slots for SLI is large enough to allow some decent airflow between dual slot cards, however this does mean the bottom slot leaves a dual slot graphics card exceptionally close to the bottom of your case.

Only the two blue PCI-Express x16 slots use full x16 bandwidth, while the middle black slot is only x8. You also get two PCI slots, and one can still be used even when two dual slot graphics cards are installed.

Foxconn N68S7AA nForce 680i SLI Board Layout Continued
The USB and Firewire pin-outs come with green and yellow keyed shrouds respectively, which not only easily identifies them but also ensures that the PCI bracket plugs only go in one way. The front panel pin-out is coloured red and the RS232 serial port pin-out is in green. Even though the board contains both optical and coaxial S/PDIF out on the rear I/O, it also contains another pin-out for an additional S/PDIF out. However, there is no cable supplied to make use of it.

The front panel pin-out is further colour co-ordinated in order to enable the end user to know what plug goes where. A great addition for bench testers is the on-board buttons for power and reset in the bottom corner, that's on top of the normal front panel pin headers.

Unfortunately Foxconn commits a heinous crime in soldering a speaker to the board. It should have just included a short and stubby one to plug in as an option in the package instead. Now you can't guarantee your PC will be quiet, so when you're using your computer in the early hours of the morning and it needs a reboot there's no doubt those beeps will echo through the walls and wake everyone up. You don't even really need a speaker, since Foxconn includes a far more useful Hex LED readout which provides a much more accurate indication as to what's wrong with a POST.

Sound is provided by Realtek's ALC888 High-Definition audio codec that supports 7.1 channel audio and S/PDIF. Whilst it isn't the ALC885, which features higher fidelity DACs and content protection support, it does still have the ability to play back at a maximum of 24-bit/192KHz and record at 24-bit/96KHz. Two Marvell PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet controllers supply the dual RJ45 sockets on the rear I/O and whilst two Ethernet adapters offer dual wired networking, no other variety of network connectivity, such as WiFi, is included.
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