The C51XEM2AA motherboard is a direct implementation of NVIDIA's reference nForce 590 SLI motherboard, right down to the way that NVIDIA designed the BIOS from both a feature and layout perspective. We will come to the BIOS after we have finished discussing the motherboard layout.
On the whole, the layout is well-thought out but there are some issues that may sway end users away from this particular board design. The first thing that became apparent was the minimal amount of room between the CPU socket and the first memory slot. In fact, we would go so far as to say that AMD's stock Athlon 64 FX-62 heatsink literally touches the memory that is installed in the blue memory slot closest to the CPU.
The blue slots are the primary memory slots on this motherboard, but it is possible to alleviate the problem by using the black memory slots for dual channel mode. Of course, this is not possible if you want to use four memory modules in the board. Corsair's PRO-series memory modules are taller and also slightly thicker than standard memory modules - we installed a PRO-series module in the primary DIMM slot and found that the problem was enhanced further with PRO-series modules installed. The module doesn't actually sit 100% vertical in the slot and you'll need to install the memory before installing the heatsink.
Of course, this may not be a problem for users looking to use this board with one of the slower Athlon 64 processors in conjunction with the stock heatsink, as we believe it is smaller and doesn't intrude on the memory slots quite so much. However, anyone that is considering the use of an aftermarket cooling solution may want to check whether the heatsink will fit or not with a memory module installed in the primary slot.
Insulation for phase change cooling may be a little tricky too, but that will ultimately depend on the cooling solution; in particular, the size of the evap head and the mounting solution will play a major part in how much of the area surrounding the CPU socket needs to be insulated.
The placement of the 8-pin ATX 12v connector isn't as bad as it may seem at first sight. Obviously in an ideal world, the connector would be located right next to the edge of the motherboard, but the position that Foxconn has adopted is easily accessible thanks to the fact that the CPU socket is so close to the memory slots.
As we have said for a while now, motherboard design is all horses for courses - design decisions affect a wide range of users in a different way. We think that the reason why the CPU socket is so close to the memory slots is due of the fact that the PWM controllers take up so much room next to the back I/O panel. This could be resolved had Foxconn implemented its Digital PWM technology
into this board design. However, as Foxconn bought NVIDIA's reference design to market, the Digital PWM implementation would have required a complete redesign.