Finally, it's time to take a look at the board itself. When we unpacked the board it was encased in a plastic bubble, much like GIGABYTE and ASUS do for their high end boards. So it was nice to see J&W taking the same time and care here. A full 30x24cm ATX PCB is used with 6 layers in a black colour, which looked quite attractive to us. There's no generic green or brown; the black really looks good, especially in case mods with lighting.
The 24-pin power connector is placed behind the four DDR2 memory slots on the upper right hand side of the board. The 8-pin power connector is located behind the PS2/USB tower port combo, however due to the heatpipe placement it was hard to get the cable in and out. While not impossible, it makes it hard when the board is in the case with limited space. My chubby digits would find it hard to remove it, should you need to replace the PSU.
Following down on the right hand edge of the board, the single IDE port that is controlled by the JMicron SATA/PATA controller chip resides on its side, just below the power port. J&W has gone with stacking the SATA ports on the right hand side the board, keeping all the major cable clutter to one area of the board and making it easier for routing and keeping the memory, CPU and GPU clear of cables whilst also allowing for a much better air flow profile. On the bottom right hand edge of the board there are two press button switches; one for power and one for reset. So if you don't want to install the board into a case, you can still power up the unit.
The only real problem we found with the layout was the placement of the FDD connector in the middle of the bottom edge of the board. If you want to use this antiquated hardware you need to run a large ribbon cable through the system and even across the graphics card in some cases. For those who have USB based FDD drives or now live in the 21st century, this won't be a problem.
While very impressive in design, the heatpipe assembly that J&W has used on this board really does need a bit more thought. While during our testing it did keep the voltage system nice and cool, it also interfered with the install of our OCZ Vanquisher heatsink test. We use this heatsink as its very large design gives us an idea on how easy it will be to install oversized heatsinks on the boards. And with this test, we were scraping knuckles on both the CPU heatsink and the heatpipes on the board just to get it in. Removing it proved just as painful.
Speaking of voltage, the CPU is fed through a 6 phase voltage system using solid state components rather than the older components some companies stick to. For an unknown company like J&W we expected to see electrolyte caps, but were given a big surprise with what was offered to the users.
Turning our attention to the rear I/O ports, we were surprised to see the lack of a PS/2 mouse port on the board; rather having two USB ports below the keyboard port. The only other company we know who does this is ASUS; could J&W be imitating ASUS? - Who knows, but if you have a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, you're going to have to swap one or both over to USB to use this board. Digital audio is included with S/PDIF RCA and S/PDIF Toslink ports included. Thanks to the two extra SATA ports that the JMicron chip provides, they have been routed to the rear I/O in the form of eSATA ports; two of them in fact. Well done J&W, use everything you can.
Finally, it's onto the expansion slots. Using the X48 Northbridge the board gets two full speed x16 slots for Crossfire configurations. And thanks to the dual full speed lanes, you can run CrossfireX with the X2 series cards that ATI has out. Rounding up the expansion slots, we have three PCI Express x1 slots coming off the ICH10R and two PCI legacy slots.
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