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Albatron PX845PE-PRO II - getting acquainted
Following on from the review of the Albatron PX845GE-PRO II we have received the Albatron PX845PE-PROII for review. We approached this board with some caution after the disappointing results that were observed with the PX845GE, however as you will find out, we need not have worried. Between the PX845GE and PX845PE the specifications are very similar, with the only major difference being the lack of onboard VGA on the 845PE, due to the chipset not having support for it.

The PX845 comes in three variations, the PX845PE, PX845PE PRO and top-of-the-range model, PX845PE PROII which consists of almost every available motherboard addition currently available. Choosing between the three would depend of course on what your personal requirements are. All three come with full HyperThreading support, but unfortunately no AGP 8x support at all, with the 845PE/GE/GV chipsets all leaving supporting this until E7205, otherwise known as Granite Bay.


For this review we are concentrating purely on the top of the range model, the PRO II. Upon glancing at the box you immediately realise the sheer amount of "gubbins" this board contains. All along the front of the box logos are paraded for each item : "DDR400 support" "ATA133 Raid" "Serial ATA" "6 Channel audio" "BIOs mirror" "Voice Genie" "3COM" (although this board is in fact an Intel LAN device) and "USB 2.0", a shocking amount of goodies indeed and to our knowledge only missing Firewire support. The back of the box displays motherboard layout and lists the features included with the three boards in the PX845PE series.

  

After a quick look over the box we figured it was time to open her up and see what treasures it contained, and we were not disappointed, the first thing that we noticed was the PCB colour. A very nice looking silver, yes it's only a visual treat but it is still effective to break away from the normality of the green pcb and a refreshing change it was too. Albatron give it the name of "Millenium Silver".

  

The contents were well packaged, neatly laid out and consisted of motherboard, main manual, manual addition, Fastrak RAID manual, quick installation guide, IDE cable, USB 2.0 adaptor containing 4 ports and an SP-DIF connector, it seemed all fine and dandy until we realised the box was lacking a serial ATA cable. No problem at the present time as we don't use Serial ATA drives but the fact it was missing from the bundle was slightly worrying and would be a problem for those who are counting on it being present, but as with most review boards, the PX845PE-PRO II had been around the journalistic block (so to speak) and maybe one of the many other journalists has the aforementioned cable.

After unpacking all the contents it was time to get down and dirty and take a look over the board itself to check general layout and any possible problems it could produce.


At first glance the layout seems to be all in order with minimal problems, and overall it does appear to have been well thought out with only a couple of minor niggles that we would have liked to seen done differently.


Viewing the top right hand side you will notice the IDE1, IDE2 and floppy ports are well placed at the edge of the board and neatly grouped together. Close but not too close as to make installation a problem, so nothing to complain about there. The ATX connector is positioned to the right of these ports and is unobtrusive. DIMM sockets 1, 2 and 3 are positioned in a place that has pretty much become the norm, sandwiched between the IDE ports and the CPU socket. There is a small spacing between the DIMM sockets, which allows air to pass between even the "chunkiest" of modules (ones that have heat spreaders fitted).


Moving to the left side we see the CPU socket, 12V power connector and Northbridge cooler along with the large smoothing capacitors to the left of the CPU socket. These are the cause of our first concern. Now most motherboards always have these capacitors present in this position but the difference here is how incredibly close they are to the CPU heatsink bracket. This is, of course no problem if the user only intends to use a cooler that sticks to the confines of the standard bracket but there are many coolers available that require the removal of this bracket and screw directly into the holes where it stood, eg. ThermalRight's SLK900. Some of these coolers are very very large indeed and we feel may definitely clash with the capacitors so it may be wise to check with your retailer whether your cooler will be compatible. We also had problems with our Coolermaster IHC-L71 heatpipe cooler, which encroached upon the capacitors.


The 12v power connector is positioned between the capacitors, possibly a little too close coupled to little clearance in the surrounding area. Not a major gripe if you have nimble fingers though, but chubby digit owners beware!


The passive chipset cooler is a pretty standard affair using a simple aluminium heatsink with no whiney fan noise to put up with, which is definitely preferred.


Moving down to the lower right of the board we find the IDE RAID port, it's still fairly close the edge of the board which of course is a good thing, ideally it would have been better near the other IDE ports but placing it behind those would have caused it to be far to near to the DIMM 3 slot, so all-in-all the placement is fine. Here we also have the Serial ATA (SATA) chip, Voice Genie, RAID controller, two BIOS chips, case connections, CMOS jumper and four dipswitches the use of which will be explained later.

The SATA ports are placed one either side of the controller chip the port furthest to the left is too close to the fourth PCI slot for comfort. This has shown itself to be a problem. Upon placing a sound card into PCI slot 4 it covered the port totally renderering it useless. The solution is, of course simple. Moving the card to another slot would do but if you have six PCI cards and 2 SATA drives then you might have some issues.


Over to the bottom left we have the on board sound chip, which is a RealTek offering supporting "6 channel playback ability (super 5.1 channel audio effect)", and 6 PCI slots which is plenty and probably more than most people would ever use.

Upon closer inspection you can see a little burn mark at the bottom corner of that picture. Here's a close up of it.


Exactly what this was caused by is unknown but as the board as it arrived to us in this state. It does put questions on the quality control levels, but it didn't appear to have made any difference to the functionality of the board. That said, it is certainly not something you want or indeed expect to find on a brand new piece of electrical equipment.


Ports available are from left to right the standard PS/2 ports, USB, just one COM port (although for most that is one too many), parallel port, MIDI/game port and three audio jacks.