The TUF (The Ultimate Force) series have always been very distinghuisable from the other ASUS boards. With their semi military brown/green colour scheme, you can recognise them in a flash. With the P67 Socket 1155 version, ASUS had introduced the Thermal vest, covering the entire motherboard. Allowing improved air circulation over all of the critical parts, if you installed an optional fan. On the X79 version we see a trimmed down version of the Thermal vest, baptised Thermal Armor. Comprising out of thwo parts, with the first part located on the left upper part of the motherboard. With the possibility to install a little 5cm fan (included) for some extra airflow over the PWM heatsink. On the X79 chipset we see a a heatsink with a duct and preinstalled fan. These fans can't be fully shut off, though can be speed adjusted via the bios.
As you can see from the board shot there's more than enough clearance between the upper two PCI-E 16X slots for smooth sailing SLI/Crossfire operation. Supporting 8 dimm slots supporting up to 64Gb of RAM. Alert readers will also directly notice that there's no heatpipe, connecting the PWM heatsink with the bottom X79 chipset heatsink.
Talking about the PWMs, we encounter miltary class certified components for enhanced durability and reliability. Every part get's the TUF treatment ; so we end up with TUF chokes, TUF capacitors, TUF Ferrite inductors. All the previous parts are certified by 3rd party military grading. The entire TUF engine power design features 8 +2 +2 +2 digital phases. ASUS uses their DIGI+ Power Control on their X79 boards, comprising of three digital voltage controller, DRAM controllers for precise voltage control. These setting can all be fine tuned via either the bios or the included AI suite software, but more on the latter later.
Storage wise we already knew that Intel didn't quite deliver with the X79 chipset. The chipset itself only supports up to 4 S-ATA 3GBs and only two S-ATA 6Gbs. The black ports are the 3GB/s ones, the brown ones the 6Gb/s ports steered by the X79 chipset. Raid version 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported. The two white ports on the left are controlled by a Marvell chip (9128) and also operating at 6GB/s. Nice feature that ASUS developped their own SSD caching software. Take note that to use this feature you have to install in RAID mode. An ASMedia (1061) chip is in control of a Power eSATA 6GB/s green port and another red eSATA6GB/s on the I/O panel.
Besides the two previously mentioned eSATA ports, we find an abundance of USB ports on the I/O panel : 6 USB2.0 (black ones) and 4 USB3.0 (blue ones) to be correct. Yes, still a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port, Firewire 1394a, optical S/PDIF out/ A total of 6 audio jacks and just next to the powered red eSATA port, an USB BIOS flash back function key. Just plug in your USB stick with the required bios into the white USB port, press the button and the board "should" flash the bios. A really nice feature to roll back to a working bios.