Looking at the actual board (once you get the stickers off), we do see that it is fairly well laid out. ASRock has made some pretty obvious design choices with air flow and cooling in mind.
Taking a look at the area around the CPU, we see that everything looks like it has been shifted towards the edges of the board. There is very little room between the 24-pin ATX port and the RAM slots. This should not be an issue unless you want to use a RAM cooler when it might get a little cramped.
We also see that ASRock is still giving you the option to use older fans for the 775 socket on this board. While I like the thought behind it, I would be concerned that some of the lower end 775 coolers would not be enough to keep a Core i7 cool.
The shifting of the components is even more evident when we take a look behind the cooling for the CPU power regulation. The space for the 8-pin aux connector is very small. Although this does not affect plugging the cable in when on our test bench, we have a feeling that once it is in a case you might have more difficulty.
The lower half of the board has been setup to potentially allow you to run Tri SLI with a little more room between the GPUs than you normally would get. Of course, if you are going to go for a Tri SLI setup you should be aware that the last PCIe x16 slot is only x8 electrical. You can tell this by looking at the number of pins visible in the slot (it is also in the manual). Also visible in this picture are two of the three NEC USB 3.0 controller chips. There is something else that I want to draw your attention to, though.
At the top of the peripheral slots we see a four-pin Molex connector for PCIe board power. Now this is not a bad thing (except for a minor placement issue), but the cluster of fan headers right next to it is. They are very difficult to reach and to use once inside a case. The extra headers are a great idea; they just need to be better spaced.
Now I know some of you are wondering how ASRock managed to stuff six USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 ports onto this board. After all, just putting in two of each pushes the limit of PCIe lanes available in the X58 chipset. Well, the way they did it was to follow the ASUS method (after all, they are still part of ASUS). They dropped in a PLX bridge to handle the extra load.
Of course, even with this we are still near the upper limit when there are that many extras on the board. We have to wonder what would happen if this board were loaded up with multiple USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 devices. Unfortunately we do not currently have the pieces to try this out, but perhaps in the near future we can take another look at it.
Moving over to the leading edge of the board (the lower half), we see the ICH10R along with a few other items. You can see the three Marvell SATA 3.0 controllers just above the ICH10R and also the third NEC USB 3.0 controller right next to the Diagnostic LEDs. This runs the header that is included with the board (the light blue set of pins next to the Power and Reset switches).
Looking at the I/O side of things, we find the typical setup with the obvious exception of the four blue USB 3.0 ports. Even the back mounted Clear CMOS button is now a common thing.
Still, I like the fact that ASRock has not abandoned PS/2 just yet. This helps with the positioning as a value option for the X58 market space.
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