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The board is dominated by the humongous heatpipe array that snakes its way around the board, covering the northbridge, southbridge and the power circuitry surrounding the CPU socket. Due to the sheer size of the heatpipe array surrounding the CPU socket, you may encounter problems installing some of the larger heatsinks if there isn’t sufficient clearance.
Heatsinks with similar clearance to the Zalman CNPS9500 / CNPS9700 series will fit without issue, but anything that is wider than 103mm less than 35mm from its base will not fit on the board. If you are hardcore enough to be watercooling your system, Asus recommends installing the included fan on top of the heatsink nearest to the rear I/O panel to stop the board from overheating. It shouldn’t be required if you’ve got good case cooling though.
Another issue that you may run into is the positioning of the IDE port – it’s directly behind the 24-pin ATX power connector and is the wrong way around too. This makes cabling untidy because the ribbon actually comes out of the connector on the memory slot side. Cabling in this area of the board would be much easier to manage if the two sockets were swapped around and the IDE connector was rotated 180 degrees.
Next to the front panel pin headers in the bottom left corner of the board, there are three buttons for power, reset and clear CMOS functionality. The positioning of these buttons, especially the clear CMOS button, would have been better-served on the rear I/O panel since they’re almost completely blocked when you install a pair of dual-slot graphics cards in SLI.
Speaking of which, you’ll notice that the board has three PCI-Express x16 slots. The two blue slots are for SLI, while the white slot in the middle is for a third graphics card dedicated to physics acceleration. Although the slot’s primary function is for physics acceleration, it will also enable users to install another PCI-Express x16 compatible expansion card like a hardware accelerated RAID controller.
Being based on the nForce 680i SLI chipset, the board is designed with overclocking in mind and there are plenty of features to get to grips with in the BIOS. Although there is a comprehensive set of features, the BIOS is still relatively easy to maintain and navigate because the more enthusiast-orientated tweaking features are layered fairly well.
You can fully manipulate the clock speeds for the front side bus, memory, PCI-Express (on each of the three x16 slots), north-to-south bridge. In addition, there is the option to adjust the CPU multiplier, providing your CPU gives you the option to do that.
Voltage adjustments are equally comprehensive too and can be increased all the way to 3.425V in 0.025V steps, while CPU voltage can be adjusted between 0.83125V and 1.90000V in 0.00625V steps. There is also the option to increase 1.2V HT voltage, NB core voltage, SB core voltage, CPU VTT voltage, and DDRII Controller Ref voltages too, but these will be surplus to requirements for most end users.