Whoa, what a sight! ASUS has gone with the traditional ROG black/dark brown PCB colour scheme and blue and white expansion slots. It's a monster of a board coming in at 30x24cm, and it's a heavy monster with all the heatpipes and heatsinks on it too. You're going to need a forklift to move it! Okay, I'm going overboard.
It's hard to find too many faults on the board. The 24-pin power connector, FDD and IDE are located all behind the four DDR3 memory slots with the IDE port being placed on the very edge and aligned 90 degrees. The extra 4/8 pin CPU power combo port is squeezed between the heatpipe assembly and the rear I/O ports at the top left of the board, this keeping it as far away from the CPU area as possible; though if you have to unplug this cable inside the case to replace a PSU, it's a bit cramped here to get to the locking latch.
The SATA ports that the board is equipped with are located below the IDE port and are stacked two atop each other and also rotated 90 degrees to the board. This keeps the cables from sticking up and preventing large graphics cards being installed. GIGABYTE's P965 had this problem where you couldn't get a second graphics card to install if you had all the SATA ports populated.
Moving to the CPU area and this is where things turn around a bit. Because of the Fusion block heatsink, heatpipe and cooling fins around the voltage regulators, the CPU area is a little cramped; it doesn't stop the installation of large heatsinks or water blocks though, but the nature of the LGA775 locking pins means you have to push them down hard, and with little space to do it in you're really going to struggle. The best idea is to do it outside the case as when it's installed you're going to be in a mission impossible stage.
The CPU is powered by an 8-phase voltage system with all solid capacitors and voltage regulators. Reliability and overclockability go a long way with these types of components.
The rear I/O ports on the back are proprietary to ASUS and have changed again, so if you are an ASUS upgrader (that being you're moving from an older ASUS board to this one), you're going to need to install the new rear I/O shield. On the back you have a single PS/2 port for a keyboard, but there are no mouse PS/2 ports which is kind of silly. If you're going to have one PS/2 port there, might as well put the other in too. Two eSATA ports are located on the back and are powered off the JMicron PCI Express controller chip which gives the board its single IDE channel. The most notable feature on the back is a Clear CMOS button that allows you to reset the CMOS without having to open the case.
Lastly on our list are the expansion slots the board supports. Based on the X38 chipset we now get full speed Crossfire support. Intel's X38 chipset supports 32 PCI Express lanes off the northbridge which are PCI Express 2.0 compliant; so if you are lucky enough to have a PCI Express 2.0 card (or two) you can take full advantage of it on this board. The slots are backwards compatible with the PCI Express 1.0a protocol so you can run your current graphics card(s) in this board no worries.
There are a total of three PCI Express x16 slots on the board; two blue and one white. The two blue ones are routed off the X38 northbridge and run at full speed. If you decide to use the last one, you have to enable this option in the BIOS and this is when the magic happens. ASUS has included the IDT PCI Express router chip that will split the last PCI Express x16 slot with the x16 slot above; this making up two PCI Express x8 slots if you desire to use an extra PCI Express graphics card and enable the feature in the BIOS. This chip is the same one used on the Blitz Formula and Extreme boards which give the Crosslinx support.
Finishing off the expansion slots you have a single white PCI Express x1 slot and two PCI slots. The last small slot sitting at the top is the audio module card slot; it is not a PCI Express slot but simply a routed slot from the southbridge's AC'97 audio system.
The additional extras that populate the board are two PCI Express Marvell ethernet controllers, a JMicron PCI Express SATA/PATA controller chip, a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip and the IDT PCI Express router.
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