As you take a look at this motherboard, two things immediately stand out as different:
At the top right of the board, we have the 24-pin power connector. We also see the 4-dimm slots, which are able to be used in dual-channel configuration by using either slots 1 and 2, 3 and four, or all four together. You can use a maximum of 8gb of DDR Ram on this board, either ECC or Non-ECC.
Let’s take a look at the south bridge area of the motherboard. First off, we can see on the far edge of the board the two IDE connectors. I personally like the positioning of the IDE connectors in this way, as it makes for nice cable management. We also have four SATA connectors located here. These SATA connectors are controlled by the NV SATAII raid controller, which provides up to 3GB/Sec, multiple raid configurations, as well as native command queuing and native hot plug connections. TO the left of the SATA connecters is our bios chip location. Under and slightly left of the bios chip is the clear CMOS jumper, which many an enthusiast is very intimate with! At the very bottom we see the ever helpful color-coded front panel connections, and next to them is the connector for thos that use the GURU clock or panel to monitor your system functions. Lastly, at the top of this picture, we see the southbridge location and the slim heatsink that is on it. This short little heatsink would make on think that there is not much heat that is generated here, but all the heatsinks as well as the heatpipe were very warm to the touch. Something else that is worth noting is that the heatpipe actually runs under the northbridge instead of through it. ABIT has done something a little different than their competitor ASUS here. As you can see in the following picture, ASUS runs their heatpipe through both heatsinks before going up to the power area of the board. I am not sure why ABIT chose to run the pipe this way, and we did not run into any problems that we were aware of, but still, we thought it was worth noting.
On the bottom left of the board we see that our board is equipped with four PCI Express slots. Two of these are for devices that connect using pcie x1. The other two slots are pcie x16, and are for connecting your PCIe graphics cards. The front panal audio header is located neat the edge of the board, and may be tough to get to if you have two graphic cards installed. There are also twp PCI slots available for other add-on cards that you may have, such as a sound card or TV tuner card. Underneath the bottom PCI slot, we have an auxiliary 12v power connector that is supposed to give increased stability for devices that are added on the PCIe slots. We would think this would be especially needed if you are running in an SLI configuration. Next to the extra 12v connector is the FDD connector. This is an especially annoying location if you are someone who still uses a floppy drive. The location will make it very difficult to reach in many cases. This would have been much better off next to the IDE connectors if possible. up towards the back I/O connectors is the Vitesse PHY controllor chip.
It is worth noting that we had no issues at all installing our video card for this review. As mentioned, the heatsinks are of a low-rise profile and cause no issues. You would have issues water cooling the southbridge if you chose to do so, as any chipset water-block would likely hinder the installation of the graphics cards.
On the top left of the board we have twp more SATA connectors. These are powered by the 3Gbps Sil 3132 PCIE controller, and supports SATA RAID 0/1 and NCQ. Though you canbarely see it in the picture, there is also a 4-pin 12v connector just above the SATA connectors. Many motherboards are coming with 8-pin connectors now. The I/O port includes the typical ps/2 connections for mouse and keyboard, your audio connections, firewire, USB and LAN. Lan is powered by NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet with NV Firewall ActiveArmor. The audio is powered by the Realtek ALC850, which provides on board 7.1 CH Audio and supports auto jack sensing and optical S/PDIF In/Out.