Let's talk about the good stuff first, the layout is the best we have seen in quite a while. Of course, it's not perfect either, because the Port 80 diagnostic LED is placed too much toward the middle; the same goes for the USB header, but otherwise you get plenty of space.
The VRM is an analog dual 3-phase design driven by an ADP3189. Sadly, eVGA did not opt for a digital VRM solution. While testing we ran into some troubles, when overclocking the VRM did sometimes exceed Intel's specifications and dropped over 0.05V. Most of the time it barely stayed below the magic 0.05V mark.
The memory slots are far away from the primary PCIe x16 slot and changing memory modules in an installed environment is not a problem at all. Below you find the IDE port and the 24pin power connector.
The slots are configured for a dual SLI configuration. When using two dual-slot graphics cards you will have at least one PCI slot free. The downside is it will block the Port 80 diagnostic display. On the left edge you also find LEDs for power and HDD which doubles also for power and reset switches. Near the EEPROM chip a small red button resets the CMOS.
Network connectivity is provided by the chipset, the Realtek Gb 8211B chip provides the connection to the Gb LAN port. A Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip provides two Firewire-ports, one on the back panel, one header onboard. As usual, a Realtek chip covers onboard sound.
The SATA connectors are, as usual, on the bottom edge of the board. The funny thing is, they are split in two ports each with the floppy connector in-between. All connectors are angled so you can connect nicely even with full-size graphics cards installed.
The printing of the package states "10 USB 2.0" ports, and our test sample came with only one header. We hope that eVGA ships two brackets with the retail board.
If you like to break the 500MHz FSB mark, you need something to cool the Northbridge cooler. When you look the cooling-solution you know in an instant that it just can't work, because only one heatpipe going into the MOSFETs cooler of the VRM, can't get rid off the heat produced by the Northbridge. So eVGA was wise and included a fan. Unfortunately, the fan is roaring at 5400 RPM, which is incredibly noisy. Nvidia did this to its 680i board as well, and unfortunately eVGA didn't change the reference fan.
If you listen to the fan unattached, it's not that bad, but when attached the fins create a lot of turbulence, increasing noise exponentially. Next time eVGA should not opt for the nVidia cooling solution, but rather develop something different themselves. Even eVGA should have noticed the trend is going to "silent" solutions, even for gamers, because they want to keep their love-life intact.