Ordinarily we start with the packaging and what you get for your dollar, but today it's a little difficult to that as we were sent just the board due to the early stage of production. However it is the full MP board so there is no Beta BIOS'.
Starting on the layout ASUS has once again done a very effective job in keeping things simple and clean. The 24-pin power connector along with the FDD port sit behind the four DDR3 memory slots which are coloured black and deep orange. The 4/8 pin combo port sits behind the PS/2 rear I/O ports, just between the heatpipe heatsinks. The IDE port is located near the bottom right of the board on the very edge and rotated 90 degrees. Four of the six SATA ports controlled by the motherboard also share the same arrangement with the final two ports that are SB driven sitting upright.
ASUS has unfortunately crowded the CPU area with a large heatpipe assembly that cools the 8-phase voltage regulators, northbridge and southbridge. While the ASUS board falls short of the GIGABYTE's twelve phases, eight is more than enough for even the most demanding Core 2 series CPUs and even the Pentium-D series drawing 130 watts.
ASUS has put a single heatsink on the back of the southbridge chip. This is also a smart idea but would have been more effective if they also cooled the back of the CPU and northbridge like the GIGABYTE. X38 draws a lot more energy than P35 and in turn heats up more, there is no such thing as too much cooling.
ASUS has done away with a rear PS/2 mouse port on their new boards, and the P5E3 follows this with only a keyboard PS/2 port. Where the mouse port normally sits are now two extra USB ports giving you a total of six on the back of the board. The JMicron chip used to power the IDE port also powers the two eSATA ports available on the back of the board just below the Firewire port, these ports can be set as ACHI or RAID mode.
Now we come down to the slots on the board. ASUS has a very interesting setup with three PCI Express x16 slots. The two blue slots are routed to the X38 MCH and thanks to Intel they now both run at full speed. Crossfire finally gets full speed PCI Express to match that of NVIDIA's SLI. Too long we have had to deal with either dual x8 slots or the 16/4 slot configuration of the P35. The third PCI Express x16 slot is run off the southbridge and runs at x4, exactly how the P35 got its extra PCI Express x16 slot. This gives you the option to use a third graphics card for physics or if you want you can run RAID controllers that use x4 or x8 slots, the extra headroom is certainly nice. Added to this you get two PCI Express x1 slots and 2 PCI slots to make up the final bundle.