Not that long ago, we had the folks from ASRock stop by the lab and talk to us about what we felt people were looking for in a motherboard. We spent about an hour explaining what we felt was wrong with the current philosophy in motherboard design and it would seem that ASRock listened. Looking at the layout here we can see that the R&D guys have put some thought into the way the 870 Extreme3 is laid out.
Looking at the RAM slots and the CPU space you can see that they have been shifted towards the front edge of the board. This gives a larger area for the power regulation components which translates into a potentially better tracing layout.
The 4-pin Aux header gets a little more room around it as a by-product of the shift.
In this shot you get the best impression of the move. Normally, the area between the power components and the I/O ports is very small. Here we have a large amount of room. We see large solid caps staggered in place instead of stuffed into a row. I hope this layout gamble pays off in cooling and performance later on.
Another area we talked with ASRock about was how often we saw wasted space with the peripheral slots on a motherboard; especially with PCIe x1 and x4 slots. ASRock has managed to put two usable PCIe x1 slots on this board. One is above the primary PCIe x16 slot and the other is right above the secondary PCIe x16 slot. ASRock left more than enough room to use a double height cooling solution and still have access to that second x1 slot.
The area around the Southbridge is very clean, but we have noticed something interesting. There are only five SATA 3.0 ports here. It seems that one of the normal six has been used for the eSATA connection on the back I/O port. ASRock also gives you a set of diagnostic LEDs and on board power and reset switches.
Speaking of the I/O ports, we find a typical set back here including the popular but still scarce USB 3.0. One thing to note is that the single eSATA port back here is apparently SATA 3.0 (6GBps). While that is a good thing, to the best of my knowledge there are very few (if any) eSATA 3.0 enclosures so I am not sure how much value there is in this.