The ASUS Striker Extreme is the first nForce 680i SLI motherboard to arrive at our labs that isn't based on the NVIDIA stock design. With our recent focus on the chipset, you should already know its main advantages and features. Proper Core 2 processor support, DDR2-1200 support, future 1333MHz FSB compatibility, triple PCIe graphics, MediaShield RAID, dual Gigabit LAN, FirstPacket, LinkBoost, SLI and extreme overclocking are all native chipset features available to the Striker Extreme. Like the Crosshair before it, onboard audio is based on the ASUS SupremeFX add-on card powered by an ADI 1988b HD Audio CODEC. A VIA VT6308P controller provides two FireWire-400 ports and there is also an extra Silicon Image SiI3132 SATA controller onboard, but it is included to provide dedicated eSATA ports only, without any internal connectors. The only feature missing from its repertoire is WiFi connectivity, but what makes the board different though are the distinctive R.O.G. features built into its design.
The first thing anyone would probably notice about the Striker Extreme is its cooling setup, which is an even more elaborate heat-pipe than any of ASUS' previous boards. The new cooler almost completely surrounds the CPU socket area with multiple short heat-pipes forming an intricate weave around the three main heatsink blocks. With this design, each block has at least two heat-pipes going through it to balance out the load. The design is also multi-directional in nature, which means that the board can be mounted in any way, even upside down if that's what your setup calls for, and the chipset cooling will still work. If you need further cooling, there is a bundled fan attachment you can use.
ASUS has also taken cues from Gigabyte using only solid capacitor throughout the board for the Striker Extreme, enhancing its lifespan and reliability. However, its PWM circuitry makes use of a different 'cap-less' design. This not the same as the digital PWM last seen on Foxconn's 975X7AB-8EKRS2H though, you can see the resistors surrounding the socket.
The Striker Extreme is geared towards enthusiasts and gamers who constantly tweak their PCs for better performance. And like all boards in the R.O.G. series, ASUS designed the board with some very intuitive features. The rear panel LCD Poster is an extended POST debug code display that shows intelligible text like "PCI INIT" for PCI bus initialization or "DET DRAM" for memory detection instead of the usual two digit LED display that requires for cross-referencing. Of course, since it's located at the rear panel, you've got to have ready access to see the codes for them to be any help, which unfortunately is a real hassle and a letdown of a possibly very helpful device.
Clearly marked connectors, headers and strategically located LEDs help you troubleshoot in dimly lit areas and large power and reset buttons on the PCB are greatly welcomed as well. There are a total of eight fan headers onboard and three dedicated thermal sensors that can be used to practically detect and monitor the temperature of any thing you want. The huge CMOS Reset button can be a little dangerous though if accidentally triggered. We would have preferred it if it was a little more discreet. These and the Q-Connector are many of the small things that make the board very intuitive and a joy to work with from a D.I.Y.'ers point of view.
The Striker Extreme is a very well panned out motherboard and ASUS has done an exemplary job on design again. Most of its components are well lined up with decent spacing. Main ATX power and storage connectors are located up front, while optional components like additional USB headers are tucked further back. The most heavily laden area will definitely be the heat-pipe network, but despite its size and setup, there is actually enough clearing for a 120mm cooler. Of course, due to its nature, there will be some coolers that may not fit on the board, so users should be careful when selecting third-party CPU cooling solutions with this board.