The board itself is built on a black PCB with blue and white accents and has a pretty common sense layout. There are two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots operating at 5GT/s, one PCIe 2.0 x1 slot operating at 2.5GT/s and two regular PCI slots. The two x16 slots feature ASUS' Q-Slot locking tab that makes installing and removing cards easier than the traditional locking mechanisms we are accustomed to.
There are two fan headers located above the first PCIe x1 slot and the system battery is positioned under the first x16 slot.
Along the bottom of the board are several connections and buttons. From left to right: front panel audio connector, optical drive audio connector, 1394 FireWire connector, power and reset buttons, another FireWire connector, three USB connectors, two SATA 6G connectors, SATA connector, system panel connectors and another 3-pin fan header.
If you have ever used a system outside of a case, you know how useful onboard power and reset buttons can be.
Above the reset button is the PLX bridge chip which ASUS uses for their USB 3.0 and SATA 6G implementation. Many board manufacturers borrow PCIe lanes from the chipset and depending on the method used, either the PCIe lanes will suffer bandwidth limitations (especially with multi card setups) or the bandwidth of the USB 3.0 / SATA 6G will be hampered severely.
ASUS claims their method will deliver full bandwidth to the VGA cards, USB 3.0 system and SATA 6G connectors at the same time regardless.
The P55 chipset is located under the graphic-laden passive heatsink just above the SATA 6G ports near the bottom.
On the right side of the board are six angled SATA connectors and an angled IDE connector. These angled connectors make for a cleaner install with regards to the SATA cables. To the right of the IDE connector is the 24-pin ATX power connector, followed by the MemOK! Switch, a serial port connector and another 3-pin fan header.
The MemOK! feature allows your motherboard to boot even if there might be some compatibility issues between the board and the memory you are using. I have personally run into this issue in the past and had no choice but to boot with different memory then relax the timings in the BIOS in order to accept the original memory.
If your memory won't boot in the board, the LED beside the MemOK! button will light up red. Press and hold down the MemOK! button until the red LED beside the button begins flashing, meaning it is entering the compatibility tuning mode. During this process the system loads and tests failsafe settings. The system may reboot a few times as it cycles through its battery of tests. If successful, the system will boot up. If not, the LED will change to solid red and you need to try different memory.
In addition to this memory LED, there are other LEDs around the board such as the CPU and VGA LEDs. These are part of what ASUS calls its Q-LED system. These were designed to help troubleshoot systems that may not boot properly and you don't know why. With Q-LED, the corresponding LED will illuminate, letting you know what component is causing the hang-up.
More just ahead.