The P4S8X seems to follow the same layout as previous Asus boards. It has the normal Asus gold color scheme. One thing that definitely pops out is the placement of the IDE port in the bottom left part of the motherboard. We will get into that a bit later in the review.
Above you can see the layout around the CPU socket. Asus has chosen to use a plastic clip-on to secure the P4 socket bracket rather then screws. There seems to be a lot of activity around the socket but we still had no trouble removing the socket bracket and installing an Alpha PAL-8942. The placement of the ATX power connector has its pros and cons. One good thing about it is that the ATX cable does not pass over your HSF, which can affect airflow. But once installed in the case, it is hard to remove the cable since the space between the power supply and the motherboard is very slim. Thus you will need to remove either the motherboard or the power supply to be able to detach the ATX power cable from your motherboard.
Asus has opted to just stick a black heatsink over the Northbridge to keep it cool. A lot of other manufacturers opt to use a fan of some sort to please all the overclockers out there.
The P4S8X comes with 3 DIMM slots that supports memory up to DDR 400. It is possible to fill all three DIMM slots with unbuffered RAM. The placement of the RAM slot can interfere with your video card (if it's too long) so it's best to use the furthest RAM slot from your video card to avoid any problems. It also comes with the standard two IDE ports. These ports support UDMA 33/66/100/133. They are placed quite well in the bottom right of the board.
Above you can see where the 12v power connector from your power supply goes. If some of you do not have a power supply that supports a 12v connector, Asus has included a 4-pin plug which will do the same thing as the 12v connector. According to Asus, having both of these connected can increase stability as well.
The back panel is very different to the normal panel you see on other motherboards. It has been modified to be able to use all the new features that the P4S8X includes. There are a few things that pop out right away. First, the game port is missing (which can be used with the add-on card) and has been replaced by a 1394 port. Also there is only one serial port rather then two. There is also an extra two USB ports on this panel rather than the normal two that every other board has. The last modification seems to be that the sound plugs are now vertical rather then horizontal. Of course, as shown above, Asus included a back panel that will fit into your case to accommodate these changes.
The P4S8X has six PCI slots and one AGP Slot. The AGP 3.0 slot supports 2x/4x/8x cards. Above the AGP slot you have a little red LED. While testing this board, I found out that this light stays on when you have the clear CMOS jumper on reset. It is sort of like a warning to remind you to put the jumper back and avoid frying your BIOS chip.
The P4S8X has only 32-bit slots like most mainstream motherboards. You don't really have an option for 64-bit PCI slots (or a need) until you hit the workstation/server market.
Towards the bottom of the motherboard you have all the pins for your power switch connectors, additional front and rear USB ports etc. You can also see the jumpers for things like enabling/disabling USB, resetting your CMOS as well as a few other things.
Above you can see two black connectors. You may be asking yourself "why haven't I seen these before?" Well take a wild guess what they are. Yes! They are Serial ATA connectors; the way of the future. The bottom one is your primary and the top one is your secondary. Between the two you see the PROMISE Serial ATA controller. Unfortunately, we were unable to test out Serial ATA because we don't have any Serial ATA HDD's at the moment. We'll update the review as they become available to our testing labs.
To the top right of that you see your CMOS chip as well as your CMOS battery. That is where all the fun overclocking options go down.
The Asus P4S8X uses the SiS 648 chipset. Above you can see a close up of the SiS 963 Southbridge. Earlier, we talked about how close the AGP slot was to the first DIMM slot. Well the above picture is an even clearer image of what we were trying to explain. It would be quite difficult to remove the RAM when you have a long video card installed.
Most of the boards available to us usually always have Dual channel RAID. With the ASUS P4S8X, they include a single channel RAID. But not a lot of people have two RAID channels setups, nevertheless actually use RAID. One thing that also caught my attention was the position of the connector. Once installed in the motherboard, it was easier for me to plug in an IDE cable into this plug then the normal IDE connectors.