The board layout clearly has areas where it could be improved: most obviously the IDE port that's angled into the board and low down on the PCB that will make getting a cable neatly to the optical drives almost impossible.
Then there are the five SATA ports that are just lumped together, despite the fact there's enough space to stick them at 90 degrees along the board edge. Finally there's the 4-pin power connector right at the top of the board nestled by the heatsinks. Outside of a case this is easy to use, but when in a built system it will sit right under the PSU or case roof, proving it almost impossible to unclip.
With these negatives out the way, the rest of the design deserves credit: the headers for front panel audio and USB sit at the bottom of the board and are easy to identify; the DDR3 slots are well above the PCI-Express slot and those heatsinks look mighty funky. While we've complained about the SATA placement, they do sit above the PCI-Express graphics slot so won't be obscured if you fit a large graphics card.
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Other features include a single power phase for the memory and 785G northbridge, and a virtual 10+2 phase (it's actually 1 driver per four MOSFETs and two chokes) for the CPU.
Asus also includes three PCI slots - those with older add-in cards will be very happy to see that, but there are still x16, x4 and x1 slots available for PCI-Express cards. The x4 slot is a full length one, and unlike the Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT-UD2H
board we looked at previously, Asus does not hinder the upper most x1 slot so it can also be used with long cards.
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In addition to all this there is a single Gigabit Ethernet socket, a few Firewire ports and a change from the usual Realtek audio to VIA instead. Asus claims VIA provides a better quality, but as far as onboard audio goes we've kind of reached a plateau for a while.
The rear I/O panel is packed out with tons of connectors: there are six USB 2.0, one eSATA, one 6-pin Firewire, a RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet socket, PS2 keyboard, optical S/PDIF out, HDMI, DVI, d-sub, and six 3.5mm audio jacks providing the 7.1 channel surround sound as well as microphone and line inputs. While there's certainly enough for most of us, be aware of the 785G chipset limitation that you cannot use both DVI and HDMI digital outputs simultaneously. This is not Asus specific.