Epox 9NDA3+: A New Socket 939by Wesley Fink on October 25, 2004 12:01 AM EST
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Board Layout: Epox 9NDA3+Epox has never really used any stand-out colors on their boards in the past. The 9NDA3+ is another in the long line of ugly green Epox motherboards. You know that they are Epox from the motherboard color, but it is not a color that is particularly attractive in an open-case design. In fact, the green motherboard with red round cables looks a little bit like Christmas.
The basic layout of the Epox is generally excellent, with some standout elements and a few glaring layout faults.
The ATX 20-pin and the 4-pin 12V connector are the worst part of the Epox design. Both are located on the top upper left of the motherboard between the CPU socket and the IO ports. This location requires snaking the bulky 20-pin ATX connector over the CPU in many case designs, and it just isn't the best location for good airflow in most cases. A better location, particularly for the 20-pin ATX connector, would have been the upper right edge of the board.
The CPU socket is in the top center of the board. AGP and PCI slots are below the socket and memory is to the right of the CPU. There is plenty of room around the Socket 939, so just about any Heatsink/Fan should work fine.
The locations of the SATA connectors are a huge improvement over the locations on the nF3-250 Reference Board. Two SATA have been located between the AGP slot and the PCI slot 1. This is a much better location than above the AGP slot that we saw on the nVidia Reference board. Two additional SATA connectors are near the lower right edge of the board. The IDE connectors are in the preferred right-edge location, but they are located on lower right instead of upper right. This will be fine in most case designs, buit it could be an issue in a full tower case supporting upper bay hard drives Overall, the arrangement of SATA and IDE connectors will work well in most case designs.
The floppy connector is in a terrible location at the bottom right edge of the motherboard. In a full tower case you, will have to find a super long floppy cable to reach this location. Since many users no longer even use a floppy drive, this may not matter, but if a floppy drive is still part of your build, this location will be a challenge in some cases.
The Epox arrangement for the AGP and 5 PCI slots is the best that we have seen. Most users don't use the slot next to the VGA card for better cooling, so Epox made the AGP two slots wide. It means that the 5 PCI slots are completely usable with most video cards. Even double slot cards like nVidia's 6800 Ultra will be right at home in the 9NDA3+. There is also enough room between the chipset and AGP card to reach the AGP slot release on this board. However, the common "push to releas"" lever that works fine with most cards can be a real pain with very large top end cards like the nVidia 6800 Ultra.
The option headers are lined up at the bottom of the board in out-of-the-way locations. The only exception is the audio connectors, which are in a much more reasonable spot between the AGP and first PCI slot. So, if you need to use an audio cable with your optical drives, the mid-board location will work for most audio cables. Like the disappearing floppy, audio cables are rarely required any more, but if you need them, this location works very well.