The Motherboard - Layout and Features
Now we get on to the nitty gritty part we all love, the board itself.
ASUS uses its black PCB with a full-sized 30x30cm ATX layout. You can see why we call it an amusement park - with a lot of pipes and stacks, it looks like a rollercoaster ride. While ASUS has done a good job in the past with cleanliness of layout, there are a few slips here. The 24-pin power connector is located below the single IDE connector. These are on a vertical access to the expansion slots. Requiring a bit more space, this also proses a problem when putting in 7950GX2 cards which take a lot of space up, will it press against the power plug? The 4/8pin EPS12V connector is located between the I/O ports and the CPU socket, a routing nightmare this can be if you have thick cables.
The CPU is surrounded by a heatpipe/heatsink assembly that cools not only the Mosfets, but routes heatpipes to the SPP and MCP to take the heat away from these components. The heatsinks use the air from the CPU heatsinks that is exhausted to cool the sinks themselves. A 6 phase power regulation system is used to provide power to the CPU, a very stable setup. The 4 DDR2 DIMM sockets reside just beside the CPU to reduce the mount of trace wires leading from the CPU's on die memory controller to the DIMM's themselves - Bank 1 is colour coded blue, bank 2 is white.
Now we get to the rear I/O which is where ASUS has done a rather unique setup. The main features of this board are the LCD Poster. This LCD screen displays post codes of the board if your board shuts down abruptly or refuses to power on. This allows you to see the POST code without having to open the system. You will also note a small switch near the Firewire port. This illuminates the onboard blue LED's. This is so you can install components on the board without the aid of a flashlight or simply to add the bling factor to your board. For the LED's to work you need to have the PSU connected to give the LED's power, it draws its voltage from the 5vSB rail. This is also the first board from ASUS to add s couple e.SATA ports provided by a Silicon Image 3132 controller chip.
Lastly onto the expansion slots, and again ASUS does it unique, at the top of the board near the I/O ports is a small audio riser port. This is used to connect the Audio module card we showed you earlier. Below that is one of the three PCI slots the board supports. Then we get to the first of the PCI Express x16 slots that the board supports. Below is a PCI Express x4 universal slot. There is no back on the PCI-E x4 slot, so you can place cards of larger size into this slot, however, they will only run in x4 mode. Below that is the second of 3 PCI slots, after that the second PCI Express x16 slot for SLI graphics (and yes this board supports Quad SLI with two GeForce 7950GX2's) and last but not least is the third PCI slot.
In the way of additional features not supported by the onboard chipset is a Realtek Firewire controller chip and a Silicon Image 3132 PCI-E SATA chip to run the two e.SATA ports.