The concept of this layout is promising, but the position of the ports isn't the best. This sideways approach to IDE devices has been used before and it isn't a bad concept. The biggest problem I had was in the case of a good sized enclosure, it was difficult to get cables long enough to reach from the very bottom portion of the board to the upper optical devices.
The floppy connector uses the older upright mounting technique and sits toward the top edge of the motherboard. Maybe if the FDD and the second IDE connectors were to switch places things would work out better.
Tucked in behind the IDE ports are the two SATA ports. Each port can be used to connect a single drive to the system and they also allow support of a RAID setup.
Also pictured above is a diagnostic LED that has become a mainstay for ABIT's line of performance boards. If an error occurs during boot up, you can use the manual to help you locate the cause of the problem.
Though having only a single RJ-45 jack, the layout is similar to that of the MSI board tested. Four USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire, 6-channel sound output and all the standard ports are present. Also included is a backplate for use in your enclosure, so there are no worries there either.
With regards to that RJ-45 jack mentioned above, you will have GigABIT Ethernet included with this board also. This seems to be a growing trend, and while it may not have a lot of use for your broadband connection, it does make a difference if you create a small home network. Your Internet connection will always be limited by your ISP, but if you have two computers connected with GigABIT Ethernet, you'll see a huge increase in data transfer rates.
Look familiar? It should since it is the very same chipset that controls the Firewire capabilities on the MSI board. At least it doesn't look quite so out of place since the rest of the chipset is based on a VIA solution.
As far as Firewire capabilities go, you have three IEEE1394 ports at your disposal. One mounted on the back of the board and two ports on the board itself to hook up externally accessible cards or devices.
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