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As a spin-off of Asus, ASRock motherboards often includes design features formerly found in Asus products, but with a different market focus and naming scheme.
Targeting budget-minded enthusiasts, the K10N780SLIX3-WiFi focuses on performance and compatibility rather than excessive features. The long name is nothing to be scared of, as it aptly describes the motherboard’s support for “K10” AMD Phenom processors, using 780a SLI chipset with 3-way SLI capability, plus a built-in WiFi adapter.
The appearance of an old-fashioned “Paddle Card” PCI-Express mode selector between the second and third x16 slots seems out of place on a modern enthusiast board, but is much less costly to implement than the automatic switching devices found on more elaborate designs. A total of thirty-two PCI-Express 2.0 pathways can be divided as two x16 pathways or, for 3-way SLI mode, a single x16 plus two x8 pathways. Rather than being disabled, the third x16 slot drops to x1 mode when the paddle card is set to deliver all 32 PCI-Express 2.0 pathways to the first two slots.
The K10N780SLIX3-WiFi spaces each x16 interface two slots apart for adequate clearance of double-slot graphics coolers, leaving the space between the first and second x16 slot empty. Users will need at least a single graphics card simply to use the board, so the empty slot position is no loss to most builders. A single x1 interface beneath the second x16 slot would be blocked by the graphics cooler of any double-slot card, and 3-way SLI configurations will leave the system with only a single PCI slot for further expansion.
ATA connections are simplified by an Ultra ATA header near the top of the K10N780SLIX3-WiFi’s front edge and SATA 3.0GB/s connections in the lower front corner. These should have no problem clearing oversized graphics coolers on super-long cards, and are ideally placed for typical tower cases that have 5.25” external bays at the top and 3.5” internal bays at the bottom.
The placement of other data interfaces isn’t so thoughtful: The front panel audio connector is found in the “traditional” lower rear corner, and the floppy connector is crammed beneath the lowest PCI slot. The audio connector placement is a tradition we’d love to see go away, since most cases now have front panel jacks at the opposite corner. Also, routing a floppy drive’s wide ribbon cable to a front bay could be very difficult, and this is a problem still faced by Windows XP users who need to load RAID drivers.
The orange SATA connector near the top of the K10N780SLIX3-WiFi’s rear edge at first appears to be a remnant of bygone Asus design, but this isn’t actually a port! Because the K10N780SLIX3-WiFi lacks any third-party controllers for adding eSATA, ASRock instead provides a top-side SATA to rear-panel eSATA pass-through connection. Enabling the eSATA port requires the builder to run an SATA cable diagonally across the board, from the orange SATA port in the lower front corner to the SATA pass-through connector at the top rear corner.