Asus Striker II Formula 780i Socket 775 Motherboard
Board Layout & Features
Board Layout & Features
Having tested several of Asus' boards from both their "Republic of Gamers" and "Lifestyle" ranges, one thing that has always impressed me is the layout. A quick glance at the Striker II certainly looks like it follows in its predecessors footsteps, but let's get in for a closer look...
Thankfully Asus have kept the inoffensive blue, black and white colour scheme found on the rest of the ROG series. This not only looks much more professional than multi-coloured combinations used by some other manufacturers, but also ensures that the Striker II doesn't stand out in modified cases with windows.
In terms of general layout, the 8-Pin EPS-12v connector has been placed at the very top left of the board, keeping any cables trailing across the board to a minimum. Over on the right side of the board, the ATX connector sits just below the floppy disk connector and allows for easy routing of the PSU's ATX cable around the top of the motherboard without interfering with the CPU socket area.
Asus have made some minor changes to the layout of the heatpipe cooling system since we last visited the ROG series in our Maximus
review. Rather than using a single heatpipe to connect each of the mosfet heatsinks on the board, Asus have opted for two heatpipes. One makes a short journey around the left of the board to the heatsink closest to the I/O area, with the other heatpipe passing up the right-hand side of the motherboard in parallel with the memory slots.
This "fully enclosed" layout does certainly make the CPU socket area feel slightly claustrophobic, however water-cooling enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that we managed to fit both the D-Tek Fuzion and Swiftech Apogee blocks on the board without any clearance issues.
The Striker II keeps thing fairly modern on the I/O panel, providing only one legacy port for a PS2 keyboard. This is a great idea considering I've often experience problems with my USB keyboard not working correctly when trying to enter the BIOS or after swapping a motherboard over. Unfortunately, due to the additional space taken up by the heatsink attached to the heatpipe cooling system, Asus have been forced to ditch any eSATA connectivity.
Asus have also answered the prayers of many overclockers by providing a CMOS clear button on the I/O panel. I personally can't count the number of times I've been forced to pull the side off my PC case and fumble around for the CMOS jumper after a bad overclock. This little button will undoubtedly prove to be a life (and time) saver for many enthusiasts!
Cooling the Northbridge, Sothbridge, PCI-E 2.0 chip and Mosfets is Asus' "Pin-Fin Thermal Module". This large aluminium heatsink sits in the centre of the board and is attached directly to the 780i chip. Strangely, Asus have decided not to place any kind of active cooling directly on the "Pin-Fin", instead relying on the end-user to attach the Optional Fan's provided in the accessories box to the Mosfet heatsinks at the top of the board.
Asus seem to be relying heavily on GPU manufacturers making their latest cards with single slot coolers. Using the Striker II with a pair of 8800GTX's at present would leave you with a single PCI slot for other expansion cards. Of course this can be remedied by water cooling the graphics cards with low-profile water blocks, but this is certainly something worth thinking about before making any purchases.
As with the rest of the "Republic of Gamers" series, the Striker II features right-angled SATA and IDE connectors. These not only help to keep things looking a bit more tidy inside your PC case, but are also significantly more robust than the standard "upright" SATA connectors found on most other motherboards.
At the very bottom of the motherboard we can see where the Asus 3-in-1 Q-Connectors come in to play. Colour coded in red, blue and white for the IEEE1394, USB and Switch/LED headers respectively, these connectors are a boon for those of us who regularly install and remove our motherboards.
Sandwiched between these connectors are the illuminated Power and Reset switches. These make it extremely easy to use the motherboard outside of your PC case when benching (on a bench!) or testing other components.
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