Board Layout

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This is an extremely good looing board. Asus may call this a mainstream board but the blue and black style is at home in even the coolest builds. I know for a fact that the LanOC office has a similar board in a custom painted and watercooled rig and it looks amazing. 

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Asus has included the one latch ram hold downs on this board. It takes a while to get used to installing ram in them, but try once having to install ram in a tight spot and you will be very thankful for them. In this photo we can see a few other things including the 24 pin power connection, an internal USB 3.0 header, and Asus's EPU and TPU switches. Next to the switches is a small button for the MemOK functionality, this comes in handy when you install ran and have compatability issues. This will test and turn down your ram to help you get everything booted up. 

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You have a total of two PCIe x1 slots, two legacy PCI slots, and three PCIe X16 form factor slots. Just like almost every other Sandy Bridge board, they were limited for PCI lanes so we actually end up with a x16/8, x8, and a x4. 

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I love that Asus included a back lit power button, I may not have to use it much with my case closed up but when the side panel is off and I am working in side it comes in handy. 

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I hate front-panel switches.  I hate wiring them.  Almost always I will mess-up the polarity on one of them (though I am better now that I have been).  What I really do like about this board is that it comes with an adapter that the cables can plug into first (so you can see what you are doing), and then you mount the adapter and cables to the board, making this is relatively painless install. Here you can also see three internal USB 2.0 connections for your front panel use as well as other uses. 

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For SATA connections you have a total of 6 with four being SATA 2 and two SATA 3. This is a standard Z68 configuration meaning we only have SATA connections using the chipsets SATA controller, no additional controller needed. 

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The I/O Panel really is full of options here.  If you use the onboard graphics (which are pretty good on this board/CPU), you can connect via VGA or DVI.  There is also an HDMI out.  Optical audio out and multi-channel out are also present. You will notice Asus has packed in bluetooth right into the board. This is great for sharing files with your phone and hooking up your bluetooth devices directly to your PC, just like you would with your laptop. 

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If we are going to pick some nits, I would also like to see more USB 3.0 ports, but for this mainstream board it really probably is not necessary.  Heck, I do not really have that many USB 3.0 devices. Asus avoided using an additional controller to add additional USB 3.0 ports. But we still have a total of eight USB ports on the back of the board on top of front panel connections. 

As always Asus is showing the value you get when you are buying their boards. Including an Intel NIC may cost them more money for each board they manufacture, but its details like this that make their boards one of the most popular in the market. 

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