A Closer Look At The Boards
Other than their differing memory slots, the Blitz Extreme requires DDR3 memory while the Blitz Formula requires DDR2, there is nothing to physically differentiate the two boards. They look almost identical, so we've only put together a single gallery of images below...
The Asus Blitz Formula and Blitz Extreme are built upon dark-colored PCBs with white and blue slots and connectors. The P35 Northbridge, ICH9R Southbridge, a third chip which we'll get to later, and the components in each board's 8-phase power arrays are cooled by an innovative, copper cooling apparatus, dubbed the Fusion Block System, that's linked together via a heat-pipe and works with either air or liquid-cooling. The Fusion Block is basically a standard chipset water-block, that happens to be linked to the other heatsinks via a heat-pipe. This is a nice touch on Asus' part and should make the Blitz board more appealing to fans of liquid-cooling since they'd need to do nothing more than connect a couple of hoses to reap the benefits of a liquid-cooled chipset, and remember the necessary fittings to do so are included with the board.
Despite the large cooling system, there is ample room around the CPU socket and overall the layout of the boards is quite good. All of the boards' various connectors and headers are situated around the edges of the PCB and the DIMM slots are not in-line with the first PEG slot, so installing / removing RAM is possible when a long graphics card is installed. The Blitz boards feature three PCI Express x1 slots, two PCI Express x16 (PEG) slots, and a pair of standard PCI slots. And they're configured in such a way that even when two double-wide graphics cards are installed, two x1 slots and a PCI slots are still accessible. There are also a couple of handy power and reset switches installed on the Blitz boards.
One of the more interesting feature unique to the Blitz line of motherboards is dubbed Crosslinx. Crosslinx is essentially a PCI Express switch that takes the 16 PCI Express lanes connected to the P35’s Northbridge and splits them to two PEG slots in an x8 / x8 configuration when dual graphics cards are installed. As we've already mentioned, other P35-based boards do not have a flexible PCI Express lane configuration, so the second PEG slot on non-Crosslinx enabled boards have only an x4 electrical connection, and that’s to the chipset’s Southbridge. Thanks to Crosslinx, Asus’ Blitz motherboards are the only P35-based boards currently on the market to offer a balanced PCI Express lane configuration for multi-CPU graphics (i.e. CrossFire).
The I/O backplanes on the Blitz Formula and Blitz Extreme motherboards house six USB 2.0 ports, a single Firewire port, two Gigabit LAN jacks, Coaxial and optical audio digital audio outputs, a single PS/2 keyboard port, two eSATA ports, and a convenient clear CMOS switch. Take the overclocking a little too far and you simple have to reach around to the back of your system to clear the CMOS - no more fumbling with jumpers inside the machine. As we mentioned on the previous page, the boards' audio duties are handled by an ADI 1988B HD codec. Its GigE LAN functionality comes by way of a Marvell 88E8001 controller and Firewire by way of a VIA chipset.