The Commando is another Republic of Gamers branded board, and thus comes complete with black PCB, blue and white expansion and memory slots and RoG branded heatpipes. The overall look is very good, with a clear layout that has everything labelled differently, but still the theme is kept.
Unlike other RoG boards (e.g. the Crosshair
and Striker Extreme
), the Commando doesn't come with any on-board LEDs nor the button on the rear I/O that can turn them on and off. While it was an interesting and novel addition to the RoG series boards, it was far from a continually used addition.
The usable ports and plug sockets are placed entirely around the edges of the board and there should be no reason for a cable to be drawn across its face. The USB and Firewire ports have a keyed plastic shroud to not only highlight what they are, but also make sure installation of an appropriately keyed connector can only be made one way.
Along the bottom of the board there is also the front panel pin out along with the power, reset and clear CMOS switches of which are illuminated underneath so as you can find them in the dark. In addition, the three fan connectors may seem numerous but they are less than half of the eight
splashed around the board at regular intervals.
Both IDE and the six SATA ports are 90 degrees to the board to minimise cable mess. Despite having two solder points for eSATA ports on the rear I/O, there are no extra SATA ports on top of the six supported by the southbridge. However, ICH8R does support eSATA via the internal ports, but you will have to provide your own extension cables and adapters.
There are plenty of PCI slots, and you'd have to be in serious need of mass storage to require more than six hard drives. The Intel Matrix storage does support all common forms of RAID including RAID-5, although we'd thoroughly recommend the use of a discrete card instead of an onboard solution.
There are four PCI slots (yes, you read that right - Ed.
), which is the most we've seen for a while. If you use only one, single slot graphics card you get all four for expansion possibilities, but if you're plugging in a high end dual slot Crossfire solution you'll be reduced to an ample two.
Dual Gigabit Ethernet is provided, although only one of which is PCI-Express based. With four PCI slots as well you could end up overloading the PCI bus, which will cause the PCI-based Gigabit Ethernet adapter to suffer on the performance front. There is no additional network connectivity like WiFi, but there are plenty of PCI slots available if you want to add in your own.
The PCI-Express x16 slots are actually fixed into x16 bandwidth and x4. The BIOS supports a "graphics impeller" option that optimises the bandwidth restriction, but if you're using CrossFire, you'll still be limited by the slowest component. Add into this the fact that the graphical bandwidth is also sharing the northbridge-southbridge link with all of the southbridge data; a link that's not designed to take graphics bandwidth, and you've some serious data bottlenecks to cope with.
The ADI SoundMAX 1988B audio is supplied on a daughterboard that plugs in above the rest of the expansion card. It supports the usual eight channel high-definition sound, as well as S/PDIF on the rear I/O and DTS connect for DTS interactive and DTS NEO:PC for on the fly re-encoding of stereo sound into a multichannel experience.
Click for large image
The heatpipes look great and don't get in the way of installed cards or heatsinks. There are two pipes connecting the northbridge to the power regulation components around the CPU area to provide additional cooling. Strangely though, only half of the eight phase power components are cooled: there is no heatsink at the very top of the board. Obviously you're limited by the weakest component when it comes to overclocking, so it doesn't really matter if half of your power components aren't overheating. Asus has used all solid state capacitors throughout the entire design, and the CPU area is capacitor-less as well.
There is plenty of space around the memory slots, enough to be able to install a graphics card and still be able to pop DIMM's in and out. There's also a reasonable area of space around the CPU slot, despite the quite tall heatpipes and heatsinks.
IEEE1394a Firewire is included, with two ports: one of the rear I/O and one through pin outs on the board. Ten USB 2.0 ports are available from the southbridge, of which four are on the rear I/O and six are available through pin outs.