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Published March 19, 2008
In the past, one of the biggest concerns we have had with nForce chipsets has been about how hot they ran. The nForce 680i SLI nearly rivaled today's most complex processors for thermal output, and the 780i SLI was no better in that regard either. It was a welcomed surprise to see that the new nForce 790i Ultra SLI is a much cooler, energy efficient chipset. However, that did not deter ASUS from going crazy when it comes to board cooling.
The C73 north bridge features what ASUS calls a “Fusion” block, which is essentially a water block that doubles as a passive cooler. This large heatsink connects via a copper heatpipe to a smaller heatsink designed to cool the south bridge. Also connected to the Fusion block are two arrays of fins that cool the 8-phase power circuitry. All in all, this setup works very well, allowing the Striker II Extreme to maintain a reasonable operating temperature when under load.
The dual LAN function is provided by two Marvel 88E1116 Gigabit PCI Express chips which feature Virtual Cable Tester (VCT) technology and Wake-on-LAN support. Firewire is offered by a VIA VT6308P chip that supports two IEEE1394a ports. ASUS has included one of these ports on the I/O panel, while the other connects to a supplied expansion bracket via an on-board header.
Rather than stick the audio solution on the same PCB as most boards do, ASUS has 'saved' valuable real-estate by going with a soundcard-like approach. What they call the “SupremeFX II” has existed for some time now, this small PCI Express x1 card features an Analog Devices AD1988B HD Audio CODEC, supporting 10-Channels and up to 101 dB performance. The SupremeFX II should essentially be the same as any other on-board AD1988B audio.
There is an abundance of USB 2.0 support, with six ports located on the I/O panel with an additional four via on-board headers. ASUS has included one expansion bracket which supports two ports, while the other two have been left to be used with a case's front panel connectors. The board’s eSATA feature is supported by a JMicron JMB363 controller. This single chip solution uses one-lane PCI Express to deliver two Serial ATA II ports and one PATA port. The two Serial ATA II ports are being used as eSATA connectors on the I/O panel.
The chipset also supports an additional six Serial-ATA 3.0Gb/s ports that feature the Nvidia MediaShield technology, while these SATA ports also support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JDOB. There are four DIMM slots supporting a maximum 8GB of DDR3 memory. The official DDR3-800, 1066 and 1333 speeds are supported while 1600, 1800 and 2000MHz speeds are supported through overclocking.
The ASUS Striker II Extreme expansion slots include three PCI Express x16 slots. Note that the middle x16 slot (white) is only a PCI Express 1.0 slot, while the blue x16 slots are PCI Express 2.0 and therefore work at x16 speeds. There are two PCI Express x1 slots, the black one is designed to be compatible with the SupremeFX II audio device. Finally there are two conventional PCI (2.2) slots for legacy devices.
The back panel I/O ports include one PS/2 port (keyboard), one Optical and one Coaxial (S/PDIF Output), along with two LAN ports, two eSATA ports, six USB 2.0/1.1 ports, one Firewire port, and a Clear CMOS switch. Completing the I/O panel is the specially designed ASUS Q-Shield, featuring better electric conductivity, it is meant to protect your motherboard from static electricity and shields it against Electronic Magnetic Interference (EMI).
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