The layout of the Strike II Extreme is dominated by the Fusion cooling system and the three PCI Express graphics slots. The low profile Southbridge cooler is securely connected to a copper backing plate with two screws, while the Fusion block on the Northbridge is attached with four screws and the two coolers on the power regulation hardware are also screwed down. Heatpipes link the coolers together and they encircle the CPU socket with one small gap for the eight-pin ATX 12V power connecter. Asus includes a bag of adapters in the package to make life easy if you decide to plumb the Fusion block into your water cooling system.
All of the neat features from the Striker II Formula have been carried over to the Extreme model including the LCD Poster, the Reset button on the I/O panel, the flick switch that clears the BIOS, and a PCI Express x1 slot above the top graphics card that accommodates an audio riser card.
On the I/O panel there are six USB ports and one Firewire and in the package there's a bracket with two more USB and a second Firewire. Other ports include dual Gigabit LAN, two eSATA and digital audio connections. At the foot of the board there are headers for two more USB ports along with Power and Reset micro buttons and moving around to the other edge of the board the six SATA connectors and single IDE connector are laid down. Next to the memory slots there is the floppy connector and the main power connector.
I've spent a good long while studying the layout of the Striker II Extreme and the only item I might like to change is the illuminated ROG logo on the Northbridge cooler but even that is a trivial issue as you can disable the light in the BIOS.
Testing with a Core 2 Extreme QX9650 started very well. The first job was to update the BIOS from version 0402 to 0504 which I did with the minimum of fuss by connecting up a floppy drive and then initiating EZ Flash within the BIOS. Once I'd finished testing the Striker II Extreme I shut it down, pulled the system apart and boxed it up. Then I received BIOS 0507 by email. Cursing gently I plugged the system back together and decided that I would make the most of the hassle by updating the BIOS from a USB key rather than an oldy-worldy floppy.
The process went swimmingly well until there was an ominous pop and the system shut down. After a brief examination I realised that one of the DDR3 modules wasn't fully secured and the 13A fuse in the mains plug had blown. I turned the power supply off, replaced the fuse, plugged the mains cable in and turned the power supply on. There was a damn great bang from the power supply and the downstairs socket circuit tripped out.