The P6N SLI Platinum does not look crowded even with a three heatsink/heatpipe system in place. The board looks well-balanced and not cramped, which should help remedy potential problems with installation of components due to tight quarters.
The rear I/O panel displays PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard, eSATA port, parallel port for supporting SPP, EPP, and ECP mode, an IEEE 1394 port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, LAN jack, 5 audio jacks, and Optical SPDIF-out and Coaxial SPDIF-out ports.
With two slots between the 16x PCI-e SLI slots sufficient room is created for most any SLI configuration. The first PCI-e slot (PCI_E2) is capable of supporting one graphics card at x16 with the scalable link interface (SLI) switch card installed with the non-SLI side golden fingers inserted. Running a single card in the first slot at x16 supports a transfer rate up to 4 GB/s.
PCI-E SLI, PCI, and PCI-E x1 Slots
If running SLI mode, the switch card must be switched to the SLI side golden fingers. The second card running SLI is installed in the second full-length PCI-e slot (PCI_E4) which is only for SLI and is only capable of x8 PCI-e interface supporting up to 2 GB/s transfer rates. With the switch card inserted for SLI mode the first full-length PCI-e slot drops to x8 to match the PCI-e interface of the second card. The provided SLI Bridge Card connects to the golden fingers of both cards to enable SLI mode.
Front panel pinheaders are located on the right side of the board versus in the bottom corner which has been taken over by floppy (FDD1) port.
Front Panel Headers JFP1 and JFP2
In this view of the right bottom corner of the board you can see the USB 2.0 pinheaders flanking the FDD port. JUSB1 is located on bottom-edge of the board next to the FDD port and JUSB2 just to the top right of the FDD port. This arrangement, with relation to the front panel pinheaders, appears well thought out and is acceptable making for a nice tidy arrangement for making these connections. The additional USB 2.0 pinheaders located on the board with the four ports in the rear I/O panel bring the total USB 2.0 capability to eight.
USB 2.0 JUSB1 and JUSB2 Pinheaders
MSI stayed with positioning the DIMM slots, storage, and 24-pin power connector that we have become familiar with. Nothing wrong with that as it provides ample room on the DIMM side of the CPU socket for installing third-party cooling solutions for the CPU. The positioning of the IDE slots and 24-pin power connector at the edge of the board is the best for keeping connecting cables out of the way.
DIMM Slots, IDE Slots, and 24-pin Power Connection
The CPU socket area appears to be clear from any obstructions that would hinder installation of some of the largest cooling solutions for the CPU. In the package I received the optional fan was included for the NB heatsink. I will be using a AC Freezer 7 Pro HSF and while not as large as many of the cooling solutions for the Intel Core2 Duo processors it is much larger than the stock Intel HSF so there is potential of interference when I install the NB fan.
CPU 775 Socket Area
In the photo above you can see the white 8-pin auxiliary power connection in the upper right and the 24-pin main power connection in the lower left. Being picky, I would prefer the auxiliary (or CPU) power connector be located at the top edge of the board like the ASUS P5N-E SLI. However, the P6N SLI Platinum does provide the 8-pin where the Asus board only provides the 4-pin power connection. If your PSU does not have an 8-pin connector there is no need to worry as this board will accept the 4-pin. It comes with 4 of the female pin connections blocked off and the lip positioned properly for securing a 4-pin power connector plug's clip, thus making for an easy secure solution.