The dual theme is continued with the networking. There are two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one built into the chipset and a second added via a Marvell Yukon controller. The latter doesn’t use the PCI Express bus however, which could limit performance were you ever to stress the networking sub-system.
Audio is provided via a Realtek ALC850 codec. It provides 8-channel sound and also sports both optical and coaxial digital outputs, which is comprehensive. There are also connectors for front mounted AC97 audio.
The back I/O connectors also offer four USB 2.0 ports and a 6-pin Firewire connector, the latter of which is gratifying to see. There’s also a header on the on the motherboard enabling you to connect a second Firewire port with the supplied bracket. Alternatively, you could use it for front mounted Firewire, if your case supports it.
You’ll also find a header on the board for connecting a bracket with two USB ports and another with two further ports and a Midi/game connector. This brings the total USB 2.0 port count to eight. A Com port header can also be connected to the supplied bracket if you have need for this legacy connection.
An intriguing inclusion is a bracket containing two SATA ports and a molex power connector. This could be useful for connecting an internal drive, without having to open up the machine. The last bit of hardware included is the SLI bridge connector for attaching to the two SLI cards that you have no doubt bought along with the motherboard.
Cable wise, Asus has included a full set of eight SATA cables, though not the posh ones with clips. There are two EIDE cables and one floppy connector.
All in all it’s an extremely comprehensive feature set and accessory bundle. The only thing missing I could think of was integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Layout wise, there’s really very little to complain about with components all sensibly placed. In between the PCI Express slots for graphics is a single x1 slot and a x4 slot. The x1 slot is very close to the top graphics slot but when SLI is enabled the x1 slot would be disabled so you wouldn’t place a card there anyway. The only issue is that it would have been better to have a touch more clearance space between the memory slots and the x16 graphics chip as things are a bit tight when you have longer boards fitted.