The Crosshair III is packaged in the same manner as other ROG motherboards on general release today. The red packaging of the Crosshair III is both appealing and sturdy. The matt effect cardboard sleeve has a luxurious feel to it and the omission of any fairytale figurines signifies that this is a serious motherboard for serious enthusiasts. The Crosshair III title is in holographic ROG text with only the obligatory AMD and ATI emblems accompanying the text on the front. However, flipping the box over, Asus begin to go into detail regarding some of the specifications of the motherboard.
Opening the lid of the box via Velcro tabs, we find that Asus have included a window on the package which allows the user to see the actual product without potentially damaging it by incorrect handling. The top of the 'lid' describes the main feature set of the Crosshair III including MemOK which Asus claim enhances memory compatibility of the motherboard. CPU Level Up is an auto overclocking device, great for folk who do not understand the dark arts of BIOS overclocking and to round off, the Crosshair also includes a separate XFI Supreme FX sound card.
Both the motherboard and accessories are separately packaged which is a great idea and helps keep the contents in place during transit. The accessories included are what you would expect from a premium motherboard including 6 SATA cables, USB/Firewire bracket, Q-Connectors, LED Display, IDE cables, Supreme FX sound card, I/O backplate along with the motherboard manual and driver CD.
The main board itself follows on with the ROG theme of blue and white slots upon a black PCB. Initial impressions are that the motherboard is well laid out with everything appearing to be in the right place. The rear of the Crosshair is nothing to interesting barring the fact that Asus deemed it unnecessary to include backplates to the heatsink assembly.
The CPU socket are is tightly packed a row of ten chokes accompanying 10 solid capacitors leaving very little room to the left of the socket. This cramped area has however left plenty of room above the socket. Upon installation of the test setup I found that the area next to the memory slots was very cramped and therefore using an over sized heatsink and tall memory modules would certainly prove difficult if you intend to use the blue memory slots. Fortunately for me, I had no such issues but it is something to bear in mind. As stated in the introduction, the AM3 affords DDR3 in dual channel, unganged mode and with four slots available on the Crosshair III, up to 16 GB can be fitted.
The PCIe area of the motherboard is well laid out with plenty of space for two GPU's. At the time of writing though, the Crosshair III is only Crossfire certified so SLI users will unfortunately have to look elsewhere. With both GPU slots filled you will only have use of a single PCI slot given that the top PCIe x1 slot will be taken up with the included SupremeFX sound card. To the left of the PCI slots are 5 SATA ports supporting 3GB/s. An IDE port is also included for those using this technology.
The bottom of the motherboard has revised Power and Reset buttons which light up white and red respectively when the board is powered on. To the left of these buttons is the MemOK button which loads the failsafe settings allowing greater memory compatibility during non-boot scenarios.
The I/O backplate area if fairly sparse compared to what we are used to seeing on premium motherboards with just 6 USB ports, Firewire, e-Sata, Lan port, and a PS/2 keyboard port. The Crosshairs only saving grace is the inclusion of an illuminated (green) CMOS reset button.
Dominating the board is the Northbridge heatsink which, along with the Southbridge heatsink utilises the 'Pin-Fin' design found on other Asus boards. Both the Northbridge and Southbridge heatsinks are gun metal grey in colour and are both aluminium. The Northbridge has an illuminated emblem to one side once the board is receiving power. This Northbridge heatsink is attached to both the Southbridge and Mosfet cooler via a heatpipe which snakes its way around the board.