Moving along to the board itself and this is where the big bickies are spent. The board is a 6 layer full ATX PCB measuring 30x24cm. The PCB in colour is a very dark chocolate brown with blue, white and orange slots.
Layout wise, we have a rather interesting setup. On the right hand side of the board, at the very edge we have the 24-pin ATX power connector. Directly below that we have the front panel switch header in orange, a front panel FireWire port header in red and two blue USB 2.0 port headers. This is a rather impressive way to keep the front panel cables up and away from the bottom of the board.
The 4/8 pin EPS power connector is located behind the PS/2 and S/PDIF out audio ports. One thing we found was there is a capacitor in the way of the clip lock on the power connector, so if the 4/8 pin connector has a large plastic lock clip on it like ours did, the cable won't lock in.
Keeping things good is a priority with today's computers which run faster and hotter than previous generations. ASRock has used a heat-pipe that covers the X58 Northbridge and the Mosfet assembly. The Southbridge has its own heatsink which isn't connected to the pipe network, so it is isolated.
Moving along; down the right hand side of the board we see how ASRock has arranged its mass storage connectors. Like most X58 boards, the IDE port and SATA ports are on the right hand side of the board towards the lower end. The SATA ports are stacked to reduce the overall amount of space required to put the ports on the board and are rotated 90 degrees. The IDE controller is run off a PCI-E based VIA IDE/SATA controller chip which gives the board its rear I/O eSATA port.
ASRock has managed to keep the CPU area as clear from large components as possible to allow large after market heatsinks to be installed. To give the CPU a clean power signal, ASRock uses an 8 phase regulation system that uses solid state components rather than the older electrolyte capacitors and copper wound chokes.
Moving to the rear I/O ports, we see that ASRock has done a pretty good job here. They have kept the two PS/2 ports and for its digital audio, an RCA and Toslink S/PDIF output. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports allow for Dual Net setup for increased speed. One of the best features is the eSATA port that is run off the same VIA chip that gives the board its IDE port.
It's now time for a run down on the expansion slots. There are a total of four PCI-E x16 slots for graphics cards. In this group of four there are two blue slots and two orange slots. The blue slots are x16 full speed until a graphics card is installed into the corresponding orange slots, in which case the blue slots are split into x8 slots to give the orange slots 8 lanes. Lastly, there are three PCI legacy slots. It's interesting to note that there are no PCI-E x1 slots on this board at all.