Inspecting the Board
The Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6 has a wealth if integrated peripherals, as such, the board is packed with a number of additional controllers and connectors. Despite the relative complexity of the board, however, Gigabyte did a relative good job with its layout and overall design.
As you can see, the GA-N680SLI-DQ6 is built upon Gigabyte's signature blue PCB and all of its slots, headers, and connectors are color-coded for easier installation. The board's slot configuration consists of three physical PCI Express x16 slots (x16 / x8 / x16), three standard PCI slots, and a single PCI Express x1 slot. This is a very good slot configuration that'll allow users to run two, double-wide video cards in SLI mode, while still giving them access to two additional PCI Express slots and a PCI slot.
All of the nForce 680i SLI's inherent features are exploited on this board, so there is a wealth of USB and SATA connectors available (which support various RAID modes), but not all of the SATA ports are linked via a single controller. The 6 main ports are powered by the 680i chipset and support multiple RAID modes, but the purple ports along the bottom edge come by way of a pair of individual controllers and arrays can't be built across them; individually they do support two-drive RAID, however.
In general, all of the GA-N680SLI-DQ6's various connectors are situated around the edge of the PCB, which helps with internal cable management, with the exception of the auxiliary power connector which is crammed in between the NB heatsink and I/O backplane. Ideally, this connector should have been placed along the top edge of the board, but it's not a major issue. Speaking of the NB heatsink, get a load of the intricate cooling apparatus affixed to this board. The chipset and voltage regulators are all adorned with high-quality copper heatsinks, linked together via a heat-pipe system. Additionally, Gigabyte wraps the heat-pipe around to the underside of the board, where you'll find three more heatsinks situated underneath the CPU socket area and chipset. This is en excellent cooling scheme in our opinion, and it did a great job throughout testing. As you'll see a little later, despite being 100% passively cooled - and completely quiet - the GA-N680SLI-DQ6 suffered from no heat related issued and overclocked quite well. We should also note that this board features a 12-phase power array, which results in more stable power and lower operating temps. The 12-phase array is actually touted as a quad-triple phase array, which make it fit in with Gigabyte's DQ6, 6-Quad theme (Quad Core Ready, Quad SLI Ready, Quad Triple Phase Power, Quad eSATA, Quad BIOS, and Quad Gigabit LAN).
As we continue our tour around the GA-N680SLI-DQ6, you may notice that this board is equipped with nothing but solid capacitors; no electrolytic caps are to be found. This should help with the board's longevity as there no chance of a leaky cap.
The I/O backplane is home it a funky assortment of connectors. For some reason, Gigabyte decided to use up valuable real-estate with a 9-pin serial port, along with PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, optical and analog audio ports, a single mini-Firewire port, four USB 2.0 ports, and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN jack - yes, you're eyes are working fine, that's four GigE ports. The Firewire port come courtesy of a TI controller, two of the GigE LAN ports are powered by the nForce chipset, the other two by a pair of Marvell PCI Express controller, and audio functionality come by way of Realtek's best ALC888DD HD codec.