Asus M3A78 Pro: An ATX 780G Motherboard

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

Bird's eye view.

At first glance, the layout appears to be rather pedestrian. Clearance around the CPU socket is a bit tight due to the close proximity of the DIMM slots. A large CPU heatsink may make the yellow slots inaccessible. The chipset heatsink is also close by though is probably not tall enough to cause problems. Most of the power regulation circuitry is neatly lined up in a row near the back panel and both power connectors are out of the way. Fan headers are strategically placed at the top, rear and front of the board.

Viewed from the side.

From the side the board appears stream-lined due to the use of short, solid-state capacitors. The IDE port lies on its side, helping the cumbersome IDE cable be just a little bit less obtrusive. The SATA ports are further away from the edge than we'd like. Ideally they'd be on their sides as well next to the IDE connector. The floppy connector is in the worst place imaginable, at the very bottom buried under the last PCI slot and next to the USB headers. The USB headers and system panel are easily accessed using Asus' Q-Connector kit, but installing a floppy cable would be troublesome if expansion cards are present.

Chipset heatsinks.

In the center of the board sits a large northbridge heatsink held down by plastic spring-loaded push-pins. Its fins are thick and broad, making heat dissipation less than optimal. At 32mm high measured from the surface of the PCB, it should not pose a problem for the majority of third party heatsinks. The ASUS nameplate top the chipset heatsink is not likely to be helpful; such cosmetics have been known to impede cooling. Next to the SATA ports, a smaller cooler is also present on the southbridge. It's a typical low-profile heatsink commonly found on Asus boards.

Back panel connectors.

The back panel allows for various forms of connectivity. Along with the typical analog audio, USB, and ethernet ports, Asus provides video via VGA and HDMI, and S/PDIF via coaxial. DVI is provided via an adapter that plugs into the HDMI port.

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