The “OC Zone” is a nice touch and has been included on all top-range boards from Asus for the last few years. This is especially handy for me running on an open air test bench. Although having power & reset buttons on-board has become standard fair on top-end boards (and even some mid-range boards), it has not lost it’s appeal as a great feature for benchers. But in addition to the basic buttons, Asus adds voltage read points for all of the pertinent voltages on the board, which is extremely handy for verifying that the BIOS or software is properly setting voltages to the desired levels, and for verifying “vdroop” performance.
One fairly unique feature on this board is the Bluetooth module which comes bundled. This could be useful for many users and is a nice way to get rid of some of the cable clutter.
A little further down, I’ve included all of the details of the PCIe layout. I’ll be examining all of the possibilities in the next few weeks.
Here’s a little more detail on the socket area, as you can see here, it’s placed fairly close to the memory slots, this is potentially very good for memory performance, but could cause some issues when it comes time to mount your large air cooler.
All tests were conducted with the following configuration:
*** Note – The CPU used here in this review is hand-picked for it’s above average overclocking capabilities. Please keep in mind that many Sandy Bridge based CPUs will not overclock as well as this.***
Here you can see I’ve attached the Prolimatech Megahalems mounting hardware. Screwing in these pieces is normally a hands-free affair, but with this board, I had to get out my needle-nose pliers to cinch the thumb-nuts all the way down.
Here is the test hardware used in this review. As you can see, the Corsair memory cooler is touching the Megahalems cooler, and there isn’t any room for a fan to be mounted on this side of the Megahalems.
I mounted the fan on the backside (where there is plenty of space), while this worked fine for my open test bench testing, this is usually not optimal for users who have their systems mounted in a normal ATX case.
There is plenty of height clearance between the VRM cooling solution and the bottom of the heat sink fins on the Megahalems.
I also like that the DIMM slots are positioned fairly close to the top of the board, so changing memory or graphics cards can be accomplished without interfering with one another.
The MSI GTX 580 used for all testing is a reference design, and was clocked at 900MHz on the core and 1200MHz (4800MHz effective) memory speed. It is plugged into the 1st PCIe slot, which interfaces directly with the PCIe controller in the Sandy Bridge core. Although the board does utilize an Nvidia NF200 bridge chip to supply additional PCIe lanes for triple GPU support, the NF200 is bypassed when running single or dual card configurations (see below for more details).
In order to run a fan in the push configuration on the side of the Megahalems closest the DRAM, short DIMMs are required. This fan mounting is not possible with the Corsair memory used in the review.
As you can see below, the fan clips not only interfere with the closest DIMM, but also the second DIMM slot.
With the Megahalems turned 90 degrees, interference with the first two memory slots is still a problem with tall memory. Cooling was better by 2-4 degrees per core with the cooler mounted with this orientation. This is due to the Sandy Bridge core being long and narrow; with the cooler in this orientation, the heatpipes overlap the core more evenly allowing all the heatpipes to efficiently cool the chip.