The board itself is of typical GIGABYTE design using a blue full sized ATX PCB on 6 layers. It has taken some harsh criticism in the past on not only our part but a few other sites to get GIGABYTE to do the layout right, but as of late we have nothing but praise for them.
The 24-pin power and FDD connector sit on the right hand side top edge of the board behind the DDR3 memory slots that the board supports, whilst the 4/8 pin power connector gets moved to the left top edge of the board behind the PS/2 ports and in front of the heatpipe cooler assembly, though this can make it a bit tricky to get the cable out if you ever need to swap power supplies.
The IDE controller port sits at the mid point of the right hand side edge of the board and is rotated 90 degrees which helps keep the IDE cable out of the way of any graphics cards that are being installed. Two of the eight SATA ports the board has are directly behind the IDE port. The final six ports are located at the very bottom edge of the board.
The CPU area on the board looks quite spacious these days thanks to GIGABYTE's new heatpipe design and total re-design of the voltage regulators. The CPU is provided with power though a 12-phase voltage regulation system that is cooled by the heatpipe assembly which is also connected to the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets to provide maximum convection cooling.
On the rear of the board GIGABYTE has placed two extra heatsinks to help remove heat from the system; an extra large one at the top cools the back of the CPU and the Northbridge while a smaller one is placed on the back of the Southbridge chipset.
The rear I/O ports are identical in design to the X38-DQ6 DDR2 version and the X48-DQ6 we just recently reviewed. It looks like GIGABYTE has decided to do a unified port arrangement on this series of boards which is good to see. There's no need to change them if you not adding extra ports.
Coming down to the expansion slots we have an identical arrangement to the X38-DQ6 and the X48-DQ6. There are two blue PCI Express x16 slots that are run off the Northbridge and receive 16 lanes each to support full speed Crossfire. NVIDIA still hasn't given Intel a licence for SLI so don't get your hopes up for this. The two blue slots are PCI Express 2.0 compliant so if you get one of ATI's latest PCI Express 2.0 cards you can take full advantage of it.
Three PCI Express x1 slots are given for additional PCI Express connectivity and two PCI legacy slots for TV tuners and sound cards also make the cut.
The IDE and two purple SATA ports are controlled by the JMicron PCI Express controller chip. The two Gigabit Ethernet ports are run off two separate PCI Express Marvell chips and the Firewire support comes from a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip.