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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.07.05]
Manufactured by: Soltek

Lowest Price Finder $122

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Board Layout

Soltek had some hits and (many) misses with their board layout. Check it out:

On the expansion area of the board, you come across the first 'miss' on this board - the USB headers. Instead of being at the bottom of the board, where cables can be neatly tucked away, they are in the middle of the expansion area. If you have a PCI card or two in there, along with a video card, you will have a mess of cables slithering throughout all the cards.

The header on the bottom left portion is the LPT1 header. Although there is no printer header on the rear panel of this board, LPT1 is still supported. You'll be on your own in finding a port though, as one is not included in the bundle. I can't think of too many people with printers old enough to require this type of port however.

Finally, there is the LED based error code display on the bottom right. While this is potentially a nice feature to have, it is all but useless without proper documentation. Some error codes are listed in the manual, but not all of them. This is something that I am directly familiar with, as I had problems with another Soltek board using the same type of display. The error code was not listed anywhere, so it didn't help with troubleshooting at all.

If the SATA port layout seems weird to you, you're not alone. The black headers are for the VIA Southbridge controlled SATA (this version supports RAID), and the orange headers are for the Promise controller you see above. In addition, the Promise controller supports two more IDE channels, and arrays can be spread across all drives.

One major issue I have is the horizontal arrangement of the IDE ports. With the exception of one Gigabyte board, I haven't seen this type of arrangement in years. This one isn't quite so bad though, as all three ports are situated below the video card. On the Gigabyte board, the video card tucks between two IDE cables. Still, this is far less than satisfactory, considering the bulk of IDE cables.

My last gripe at this end of the board is the front panel header. The pins are quite clearly labeled; if you have this board on a well-lit workbench, you won't have to look in the manual to see which headers are which. However once the board is in a case, it will be tough to make out the fine print. This is why I like colour-coded front panel headers so much. Everyone from Gigabyte to Abit to Intel are doing this, and I wish everyone else would follow suit.

Dimm clearance is one area where the SL-K890 Pro939 does quite well. Installing memory with a video card in place will be a snap on this board.

VIA gets another strike at the top portion of the board. As I've said in many motherboard reviews, I like the 4-pin header to be situated near the top of the board, preferably next to the 24-pin header. While I like the placement of the 24-pin header on this board, the 4-pin is way over on the other side, requiring you to route the cable above or across a potentially large heatsink.

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