One thing we particularly like about some Asus motherboards is the Q-DIMM and Q-LED technologies that were introduced recently and it's good to see them present on this board. Q-DIMM is quite simply the use of single-clip memory slots. That is, only one end of each slot has a clip. This means you never have to worry about a long graphics card getting in the way when trying to remove or add memory modules. Apparently some people don't like this feature as they feel it's insecure but we've not found this to be the case.
Another clip-related positive are the long PCI-Express slots. These now have large double-sided securing clips that stay pressed down (rather than the generic sprung tabs of many boards), making it much easier to remove large graphics cards.
Q-LED, meanwhile, is Asus' name for four LEDs dotted round the board that light up if there's a problem with your components. There's one each for the CPU, memory, graphics and boot device, giving you a quick indication as to where your possible problems may lie.
Other 'safety' features include a MemOK LED and reset button. This essentially indicates if there is a problem with your memory settings and enables you to, at the press of a button, reset the memory settings back to a working state. We think this is somewhat superfluous, though, as the BIOS recovery will normally kick in and reset these if the board fails to POST. Also next to the RAM is the OV DRAM switch, which lets you override the BIOS limits for the RAM voltage, allowing you to set it to crazy levels - again, somewhat superfluous for 99.9 per cent of users.
Looking at the foot of the board and the two most obvious things are the presence of 6Gb/s SATA ports and Asus' 2oz copper PCB. The former is nice to see but is actually of limited use at the moment as the hard drives and SSDs themselves are still the main limiting factor in terms of speed. As for the 2oz copper, this refers to Asus' method of packing in extra layers of copper into the motherboard's PCB (making it eight layers in total) to make it more rigid and help dissipate heat - both features we certainly welcome.
Perhaps of more interest, though, is the presence of power and reset buttons along the bottom edge and the placement of the front panel header array right in the bottom corner.
So despite the annoyance of Intel introducing yet another new platform, Core i5 looks like it has many up sides and this board from Asus just goes to highlight these. Of course, it would all be for nought without Core i5 being able to perform as well as the competition so we're glad to be able to report that in our brief testing our system demonstrated impressive performance and overclocked considerably (over 1GHz) with ease. Unfortunately we can't talk specifics (as this is all pre-production hardware and we promised Intel we wouldn't) but what we can say is if you've been put off by the high-entry price of Core i7 and aren't tempted by AMD's current solutions then Core i5 should be right up your street.