The Elitegroup PF88 Extreme: An Athlon 64 or Pentium 4 Motherboard

Upgrading The Motherboard By Swapping Processors

Slots from top to bottom : x16 PCIe slot for the Pentium 4’s use, a slot for the Athlon A9S support card, a conventional PCIe-Slot, and an x16 PCIe slot for graphics use with an Athlon 64 and the A9S.

The functional layout of this 2-in-1 motherboard may be explained quickly. By design, the PF88 Extreme is first and foremost an Intel Pentium 4 product. As we already mentioned, an add-on board that Elitegroup calls the A9S can be installed instead. This card delivers the SiS756 Northbridge chipset that the Athlon requires, along with two 184-pin sockets for DDR400 DIMMs, and socket 939 in which any Athlon 64 may be added.

Because the leads between the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets, as well as to the x16 PCIe-slot for a graphics card can’t be switched, ECS chose an interesting technique to solve the problems that the installation of either CPU might pose.

If an Intel Pentium 4 is installed, the primary x16 PCIe-slot is where the graphics card must be inserted ; if an Athlon 64 is installed, the second x16 PCIe-slot that’s tied into the A9S Athlon card must be used instead since the A9S card with the Athlon heat sink covers both the primary PCIe graphics slot and the P4 socket on the motherboard itself.

Two jumper blocks with 12 jumpers each manage the linkup between the Southbridge and the appropriate Northbridge chipsets. Unfortunately, the Northbridge components on the motherboard (which serve only a Pentium 4 CPU) remain active even when the A9S sister board is inserted, and continue to consume power. This is disappointing, not only because of the extra power consumed, but also because of the unnecessary heat it produces.

Before you start up this system using the CPU conversion hardware, it’s also necessary to use one of the two available BIOS versions that corresponds to the chipset you add to the motherboard. This also takes some manual effort : two sockets for flash ROMs are included that indicate which appropriate Northbridge components to use. Purchasing the A9S sister board includes one of the flash ROMs, which must be inserted in the socket labeled ROM1_765 on the primary motherboard.

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