Our first look at the board shows us a large full sized ATX layout measuring 30x30cm using a 6 layer PCB, there is a lot of packing going on with the Gigabyte board. Placement of connectors is vital for good air flow, especially in Intel based system where temperatures are known to hit well above 70 on the CPU.
As far as power connector placement goes, the 24 pin ATX power connector is located behind the DDR-2 sockets along with the two IDE controllers just below it. With the 8 pin connector, Gigabyte really needs to start listening to good placement suggestions, especially when others out there have. The 8 pin CPU voltage supply connector is once again placed between the Northbridge heatsink and the Rear I/O interface. This means that the extra power cable is run around or across the heatsink, reducing air flow. The 4 pin restricted air enough to be a problem, now with 8 pin, its even bulkier. A better placement would be the upper left or right of the board. Let's hope Gigabyte start to listen to the enthusiasts and cooling freaks out there. Another sour note is the placement of the FDD connector. Located right at the bottom of the board, if you want to use a FDD, you will need to run the cable across just about every slot in the board - another no-no for Gigabyte here.
This is where things start to get very interesting. To date, this is the only motherboard to support more than two graphics cards simultaneously. The layout of the expansion slots incorporates four PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x1 slots and a single PCI slot. In the photo you can see that there are two black PCI Express x16 slots and two blue PCI Express x16 slots.
The two black PCI Express x16 slots are electrically 1x unless the SLI paddle card is set to SLI mode. The two blue slots are electrically x16 speed until the SLI paddle card is set to SLI mode, at this point they are then routed to PCI Express x8 speed. If you plan to use only two graphics cards, you will need to place them into the blue slots and then use the bridge connector. If you want to use four cards, you group them in black and blue configurations with the SLI bridges on each group. While allowing Quad SLI there is also have another practical use - multiple monitor support. If you choose not to enable SLI, or if you use cards not based on nVidia technology (yes, ATI graphics cards can be used in this board to run more than four monitors) you can have up to eight monitors in a single setup, which is not a bad desktop setup we must say!
Currently there are no official drivers to support Quad SLI and from what we've been told from nVidia, they currently don't have any plans at all to release drivers which support Quad SLI. There is a handful of Dell gaming systems which will come with Quad SLI but it remains to be seen if these drivers will be modded and leaked to the public for use on non-Dell systems.
The PCI Express x1 slots are usable when in SLI mode; however, if you use graphics cards with large coolers on them, the PCI Express x1 slots will become unavailable.
The 8N-SLI Quad Royal conforms to the FMB 2.0 power requirements set by Intel for the Dual Core CPU's. This requires a 4 phase voltage regulation system, which Gigabyte has place around the CPU socket. The layout round the CPU is very clean allowing you to install large after market coolers on the board without any interference from high capacitors. While the previous generation of boards (based on the original nForce4 IE chipset) refused to support the Pentium Extreme Edition Dual Core processors, we are happy to confirm that in our testing this board worked flawlessly with our Smithfield Extreme Edition, however, this board does not work with the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 Presler cores and most likely not with the Pentium D Presler or Pentium 4 6x1 Ceder Mill cores either.