Overall, it's another black motherboard with blue and white fixtures to provide some form of differentiation. Black seems to be the flavour of the year, with many other boards sporting the same boutique. To give you an idea of how ‘reference’ this board is, Inno3D hasn’t branded the board with its name and you’d never be able to tell it was an Inno3D motherboard from looking at it; the only logos on the board are NVIDIA and NVIDIA SLI.
There are three PCI-Express x16 slots on the board, with the two black ones used in SLI as full speed x16 slots, while the blue slot only supports up to x8 bandwidth. NVIDIA has suggested the use of a third graphics card for future GPGPU applications or as a physics processor, but details of that aren’t clear at the moment.
It also enables the end user to run a dedicated PCI-Express x4/x8 RAID card as well as having SLI. The extra space between the two SLI x16 slots allows some breathing space between the cards, but the bottom slot causes a dual slot cooler to suck up the dust right from the bottom of a case.
Inno3D includes six SATA 3Gbps ports, four of which are pretty high up on in the middle of the motherboard, but this isn't really an issue considering the length and size of SATA cables. The other two are orientated at 90 degrees to the board, pointing outwards, which makes for less cable mess. It would be nice if all the SATA sockets were 90 degrees to the board, but there just isn’t the space around the edge and the board is already bloated to full ATX size. If someone would ingeniously invent some retractable SATA cables that could be made to the exact length you needed, that way you'd effectively have a straight run from SATA port to hard drive in a standard ATX case.
Six is your limit though, there are no extra SATA ports from the likes of Silicon Image or Marvell included. But six is more than enough for most people, unless you're investing in some serious workstation class hardware, in which case we would recommend an equally serious hardware RAID card for that third PCI-Express x16 slot. This is despite the fact the native SATA ports incorporate all the common RAIDs: 0, 1, 5 and 10 as well as JBOD.
Strangely the floppy port is also at 90 degrees to the motherboard but the IDE port isn’t. It would have been far more useful to swap these two around, since more people use the IDE port than they do a floppy port in this day and age. The power connectors are well placed towards the edge of the board and you don't have to pull a Molex to the other side of the board to plug it in the extra power connector, minimising cable mess. The 12V connector is at the top corner too for easy access.
Interestingly the front I/O pins are half way up the board, rather than at the bottom of the case. Whilst this may seem strange, many cases now have their power switches at the top (like on the CoolerMaster Stacker 830) so putting the pins only half way down means they will definitely reach. Although you can bet your bottom dollar the cables in all the cases already available to purchase have cables that reach the bottom anyway because at least 95 percent of motherboards have the front I/O pins in the bottom corner. It's easy to hide the cables behind the length board, but takes a little more work to route them around the IDE/SATA/Molex power connector. The other pin outs are all colour labelled for easy identification: blue for USB 2.0, red for Firewire and yellow for serial.
The heatsinks are all passive, except NVIDIA include a fan for the northbridge in order to aid in cooling when overclocking, or when the user is using non-airflow cooling like watercooling. The voltage regulators around the CPU area are also heatsinked, but nothing else around the board is. Some solid state capacitors around the CPU area are also solid state but the vast majority are regular, but still high grade capacitors.
Audio is courtesy of Realtek and the ALC885 codec which includes support for protected content as well as includes the highest rated DACs and ADCs of any Realtek onboard product. Naturally it includes support for standard 7.1 High-Definition surround sound, through analogue and digital S/PDIF.