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Board layout
Although Asus offers several visually-appealing graphics cards and motherboards, the A8V Deluxe's light brown board and black-and-blue hardware are far from aesthetically pleasing—not that looks are everything, especially for motherboards. Still, for a high-end board like the A8V Deluxe, a little style and just a touch of bling wouldn't hurt.

What the A8V Deluxe lacks in style it makes up in layout. Despite being loaded with ports, slots, and peripheral chips, Asus' engineers manage to avoid layout snafus that could make the board difficult to work with.

Starting at the top—or in this case the right—the A8V Deluxe gets high marks for having power connectors near the top edge of the board. Having both primary and auxiliary power connectors near the top of the board simplifies cable routing and reduces unwanted cable clutter around the CPU socket.

Speaking of socket clutter, there isn't any on the A8V Deluxe. That's more AMD's doing than Asus', though. AMD's Athlon 64 heat sink retention bracket all but eliminates the potential for clutter around the CPU socket, ensuring plenty of room for larger heat sinks. The A8V Deluxe's north bridge heat sink is a little close to the CPU socket, but the cooler is a low-profile design, so it shouldn't get in the way.

While we're talking about the north bridge cooler, it's worth noting that Asus uses a passive design that doesn't require a fan. Tiny north bridge fans seem to be more prone to failure and high-pitched whining, especially over time, so passive north bridge cooling is a good thing.

Like the low-profile north bridge cooler, the A8V Deluxe's DIMM slot retention tabs also won't get in the way. There's plenty of clearance between the DIMM and AGP slots, making it easy to swap out memory modules with a graphics card installed. There's even clearance for gargantuan workstation-class AGP cards, although the A8V Deluxe lacks an AGP Pro slot.

The A8V Deluxe serves up four DIMM slots and can support up to 4GB of DDR400 memory. Like all dual-channel designs, memory must be added in pairs for optimal performance.

The A8V Deluxe is loaded with RAID options, but Asus keeps everything neat and tidy by arranging all the storage-related ports along one edge of the board. I do wish that some of the board's IDE ports were cocked at 90 degrees like the floppy port. Having IDE ports facing out from the edge of a board makes ribbon routing that much easier, especially in cramped cases.

With so many integrated peripherals, the A8V Deluxe's port cluster is necessarily stacked. In addition to a standard array of PS/2, parallel, and serial ports, the port cluster has four USB ports, one Firewire port, and one Ethernet jack. The cluster also yields analog center, front, rear, and surround audio outputs, analog mic and line inputs, and both TOS-Link and coaxial digital S/PDIF outputs. The board also comes with headers for an additional four USB ports, one Firewire port, and even a game port. PCI brackets for the game port, extra Firewire port, and two of the auxiliary USB ports are bundled with the board.