680i SLI motherboards were notorious for getting very hot and the original Striker carried a hefty passive cooling system that linked the two parts of the chipset with coolers on the power regulation hardware. A wise man would ensure that his case cooling was up to snuff to avoid problems with the motherboard overheating.
This is clearly an area that Asus has worked on with the Striker II Formula as it has changed the design of the cooling system from the original Striker and it now resembles the Intel X38 Maximus Formula that we referred to in our Maximus Extreme review. It doesn’t so much cover the various chips but instead joins them together in an amorphous mass that sprawls across a large part of the motherboard. The coolers are low profile and don’t get in the way of the graphics cards or the CPU socket.
The original Striker had an LCD debug display on the I/O panel which was very handy but also a touch inaccessible as the only way you could read it was by crawling behind your PC on hands and knees. Striker II Formula takes this a step further with the LCD Poster which is an external device that looks rather like a small LCD clock. This is a great step forward and also frees up some space on the I/O panel which is used – yes – for part of the chipset cooling system.
The layout of the Striker II is immaculate and packs in all of the features that you’d expect to find. There are six RAID enabled, horizontally oriented, SATA II connectors on the front edge, and a similarly “laid down” ATA133 connector sits along side. Also, the power connectors and floppy connector are positioned just how we like them – at the edges of the board. Across the foot of the board there are USB and Firewire headers and there’s a single bracket in the package with two USB ports and one Firewire to add to the six USB and one Firewire on the I/O panel. The only possible gripe is an absence of eSATA ports, which is something we’ve come to see as standard nowadays.
Integrated audio is handled by a PCI Express riser card which carries an ADI SoundMAX chip and six analogue mini jacks, with coaxial and optical connectors on the I/O panel. This arrangement we particularly like because it frees up space on the I/O panel and keeps the sensitive (to interference) analogue audio parts clear of the board.
It should be clear that you will have very little scope for using expansion cards if you use the Striker II with two graphics cards and if you go all out with three cards then you’ll have none at all. This isn’t necessarily a black mark against the board as there’s only so much room on an ATX motherboard. It’s worth bearing in mind though.