Asus M3N78 Pro: Geforce 8300 & HybridPower Explored

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A board's layout is important in several regards. The positioning of components affects compatibility with other products (third party heatsinks mainly) as well as ease of installation. Poorly placed power connectors can impede airflow and make the system more thermally challenging.

The board.

Overall clearance around the socket is excellent, but the retention frame is positioned in such a way that the fans on many tower heatsinks will point upwards toward the power supply. This is not uncommon for AM2 boards. A row of capacitors sit right next to the CPU socket but they are of the solid-state variety, and they are short and unintrusive. The IDE and SATA ports are well-situated near the edge of the board. The IDE port lays on its side, helping the cumbersome IDE cable be just a little bit less obtrusive.

Bird's eye view.

The most glaring problem is the 24-pin ATX power connector sitting next to the back panel — very poor positioning. The cable connected to it would have to be positioned under the heatsink, or behind it, blocking airflow in either scenario. The floppy connector is at the far bottom left, making it difficult to access. In the age where a $5 USB key holds as much data as hundreds of floppy discs, we wouldn't mind if they got rid of floppy support altogether. Across the CPU socket, Asus has placed a giant sticker touting 140W CPU support — does AMD even have any 140W processors in production?

As with most motherboards, the front panel connectors are at the very bottom, making them difficult to access. This is mitigated by the Q-Connector kit that Asus now ships with all their motherboards — it makes inserting leads into those tiny pins less painful.

Chipset heatsink.

In the center of the board sits a large chipset heatsink held down by plastic spring-loaded push-pins. Its fins are thick and broad, making heat dissipation less than optimal. nVidia has a reputation for producing hot running desktop chipsets, so this is a bit worrisome. The cooler is approximately 32mm tall.

Back panel connectors.

The back panel connectors are almost legacy-free with only one PS/2 connector (keyboard). The main video output is HDMI, with an adapter for DVI. VGA output can be enabled using a separate internal header and peripheral panel connector

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