In the world of overclocking, there are a lot of
companies offering so-called 'enthusiast' gear. Trying to woo consumers
with fancy colours and the promises of high clock speeds sometimes works, but
if the hype overshoots real world results then disillusionment with a brand quickly sets in. This isn't the case
with Epox, however.
The company is ranked as Tier 2, and of that class of manufacturers it
is far from the largest, but what Epox lacks in size its products make up
for in overclocking friendly options, tools, and settings. At least
for the most part... in the last year or so Epox seems to have mellowed
out a bit. While its boards are still fast, gone are the really
high voltage options that drew a lot of attention from enthusiasts looking to
break down speed barriers. Still, in the grand scheme of things, this leaves the rest
of us with plenty to get worked up over as we pour over what is known as
the Epox EP-9NPA+ SLI motherboard.
The Epox 9NPA+ SLI supports any current and future
socket 939 AMD Athlon64 processor and is based on the Nvidia nForce4 SLI chipset
with support for up to 4GB of PC3200 DDR memory. We will get into the specifics
a bit later but on board goodies consist of Gigabit LAN, IEEE 1394a, 7.1 channel
audio and an additional Serial ATA II/RAID controller. A set of nice quality
rounded cables are bundled in with the package, and we find two sets of IDE
cables, and one FDD cable encased in white rubber sleeving. The wires are individually separated,
so it's easy to mold the rounded
cables around the inside of a computer case, from board to
drives. We see all manner of rounded cables tossed in with motherboards in the
PCSTATS labs, and some of them are really useless, so it's reassuring to
see good gear used.
||Epox 9NPA+ SLI Motherboard
Users Manual, Quick Install Guide, Driver CD, MOSFET Heatsinks, Phillips/Slot Screwdriver. Thermistor, Two Ultra/133 Rounded IDE Cables, Floppy Cable, Four Serial ATA Cables, Four Molex to Serial ATA Power cables, Rear I/O Fan, IEEE 1394 Bracket, USB Bracket, Rear I/O Shield, SLI Bridge, Epox Sticker
At first glance, the
Epox 9NPA+ SLI looks like a very busy motherboard but the layout
is actually near perfect for enthusiast users. In fact it feels like the engineers
at Epox really thought For instance, Epox places the IDE and floppy
drive cables to the right of the DIMM slots, this keeps the large cables away from the other
system devices. As you can see there is a gap between the
SPDIF/Optical audio output and the first set of USB slots, that space
is for a small 40mm exhaust fan. Working in conjunction with the MOSFET heatsinks, this helps
expel the hot air from the motherboard power supply area.
The 9NPA+ SLI motherboard contains a variety
of capacitors, some for the motherboard power supply are the type
used on videocards. We see Rubycon, TEAPO and a brand only indicated with a
capital M. Elsewhere on the board, tweakers will appreciate are the dedicated
power & reset buttons at the bottom right hand corner of the motherboard. I usually
like to power everything together once before I install hardware into a case, and
shorting pins to turn on the PC is a pain.
By default the nVidia NF4 SLI
chipset supports four Serial ATA II ports. Hard drives attached to these ports can be
run in RAID modes 0, 1 and 0+1. The Epox EP-9NPA+SLI motherboard adds on to this
capability with an on board PCI Express-based Silicon Image SiI3132 Serial ATA II controller.
The SIS SiI3132 supports two additional Serial ATA II channels,
and thanks to port multiplier capabilities it can accommodate up to 30 SATA
HDDs (fifteen on each port) with an appropriate port-multiplier device. Of
course the 15-drives would all share the bandwidth, but the fact that
multiple HDDs can be connected to the SiI3132 Serial ATA II controller is very
cool. It is good to know the controller runs through the high bandwidth PCI
Express bus too.