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Intel DX58SO "Smackover" Motherboard
Intel's press kit for Core i7 included an Intel DX58SO Smackover motherboard so, if you read that article, you've already seen something of this model. However, Ed said very little about whether the DX58SO was actually any good because the article was focussed on the technology behind Intel's latest family of processors. So it's time to put the record straight.
Historically Intel motherboards have been rather dull, reliable products that are aimed at the workstation and office PC market so you seldom get any exciting overclocking features, funky LEDs, or onboard POST debug displays. As if that wasn't enough Intel motherboards are traditionally rather expensive so we were apprehensive as we approached the DX58SO.
As it stands (being a brand new product), Core i7 is aimed at the enthusiast overclocker/gamer/power user, which is another way of saying that the new processor is rather expensive compared to Core 2. The changes to Intel's architecture with Core i7 move the emphasis away from the motherboard and towards the processor with less work for the chipset to handle.
First impressions of the DX58SO are of a very conventional motherboard. Conventional, that is, provided you picture an AMD Athlon 64 or Phenom motherboard, as the memory slots are arranged at the top of the board. This is logical as the memory is controlled by the CPU rather than the chipset, which is the arrangement AMD has been using for a while. A side effect of this layout is a stack of space at the side of the board. This is valuable real estate as it is well away from the graphics slots so there is no danger of any connectors being overshadowed by a long card like the GeForce GTX 280 or Radeon HD 4870.
For some reason Intel has used the space where you traditionally place the memory slots in an inefficient manner. The main power connector is up towards the corner of the board and below it we find the passively cooled Northbridge. The eight pin EATX connector lurks beneath the Northbridge towards the centre of the board just above the PCI Express x4 expansion slot and it seems unlikely that it couldn't have been placed somewhere more convenient.
The six SATA connectors are controlled by the ICH10R Southbridge and are arranged down the side of the board in three pairs. The top pair is well placed above the primary graphics card and the second pair looks fine although one of the connectors will be blocked by a double-slot graphics card. The bottom pair of SATA connectors will be completely unusable if you use a second large graphics card so that's three out of the six SATA ports if you want some serious CrossFire action. And it will be CrossFire as Intel hasn't signed up for Nvidia's SLI license so the DX58SO doesn't support two GeForce graphics cards in SLI.