The box contains just the basics: literature, drivers and software, I/O shield, some SATA cables, a Crossfire cable, control panel connectors and of course the board itself. Some people hate those extra adapters and prefer to plug their cables straight into the board but personally I am starting to like them as I can get everything plugged in without leaning over the case and doing one at a time.
As we talked about in the introduction, the TUF Thermal Armor is a prominent feature on this board. It also makes the color scheme mostly black with light green as highlights. Starting at the top left we can see the I/O panel is completely covered in a black shroud, but more on that when we get to that side of the board. Along the top the first thing I notice is that everything has been moved to the edge. The 8-pin CPU power is now sitting next to the dual 4-pin fan headers. Usually this is sitting in a little closer to the CPU socket. The heatsinks look to be of decent size and cover up the 8+2 phase energy processing, now titled “DIGI+ VRM”. The new method of energy regulation helps with Intel's Turbo Boost, ramping up the CPU power quicker than older variants. The TUF capacitors, MOSFETs and chokes are all rated high and made to survive server-grade conditions. Next we see four RAM slots, color coded for dual channel configurations.
On the right side of the board we see everything continues to be close to the edge. We have another 3-pin fan header and the usual 24-pin power connector. Next we have something I am happy to see becoming more common – a USB 3.0 internal header. This is followed by eight SATA connectors: two Marvell SATA3 connectors, two Intel SATA3 connectors and four Intel SATA2 connectors. There are plenty of options for expansion here, and as this has the B3 stepping, there aren’t any of the concerns we found out about with early Sandy Bridge chipsets.
The bottom side of the board has the majority of our connectors. Immediately we find the system panel connector. As there is an adapter included, you simply plug your case wiring into the adapter and pop that into the pins. Some like it, some hate it. Next we find a COM connector, which is a bit of a legacy inclusion, though there are still uses for it. After another case fan connection we find three USB 2.0 connectors. I like having three since I have actually managed to run out of internal headers while testing some newer cases. Last but not least we have our Firewire and audio headers.
There is a legacy PCI slot, though that will likely be covered if you install a wide GPU in the PCI-e 16x slot above it. There are a total of three PCI-e 1x slots and another full sized PCI-e slot. This will allow you to run dual GPUs in an x8 configuration. The rear I/O panel has a lot going on. You won't notice this from the outside, but it is encased in a plastic shroud. We have our audio jacks, RJ-45 Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, USB 2.0 ports galore, Firewire/eSATA, optical audio out and a legacy PS/2 port. The back is solid black and also has the standard Intel 1155 backplate. On the next page we will get this board installed.