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The layout
Black and blood-red are the colors of choice for the Fatal1ty line, which makes for a distinctly aggressive look. A couple of turquoise components throw things off a little, though.

Like most PCI Express platforms, the Fatal1ty AN8 has a 24-pin primary power connector. The board is backward-compatible with 20-pin power, so it doesn't require a PSU upgrade. Abit could have done a better job with the primary power connector's placement, though. The connector sits about halfway down the board, creating unnecssary cable clutter around the DIMM slots. Fortunately, the four-pin ATX12V connector's placement is perfect. The plug sits right on the top (right in the picture) edge of the board, eliminating cable clutter around the CPU socket.

Abit does a reasonably good job of keeping the rest of the CPU socket area clear of obstructions. The proximity of the OTES shroud and DIMM slots may conflict with extremely large aftermarket coolers, but the low-profile chipset cooler is tucked neatly out of the way, and there's plenty of room for standard or even mildly-oversized heat sinks.

Unlike some nForce4 boards, the Fatal1ty AN8's chipset cooler won't conflict with longer PCI Express graphics cards. I'm not crazy about the design, though. Although the cooler's fan is temperature-controlled, the low-profile heat sink doesn't have much surface area. There's certainly room for a taller heat sink that should at the very least be comfortable with lower, quieter chipset fan speeds.

The only detriment of a taller chipset cooler would be the potential for conflict with longer PCI Express x1 cards. Not that there are many of those around. Heck, it's hard enough to find PCI-E x1 cards, let alone ones long enough to create a clearance problem.

Considering the dearth of PCI-E x1 peripherals, it's a good thing the Fatal1ty AN8 can accommodate three standard PCI cards. Double-wide graphics card coolers will obscure one of the board's PCI slots, though.

Around the other corner of the board, the Fatal1ty AN8 features fancy edge-facing IDE ports. It's probably only a matter of time before Abit moves the Serial ATA ports over to the edge of the board as well. Iwill and Tyan's latest dual Opteron boards do just that.

A pair of OTES exhaust fans dominates the Fatal1ty AN8's port cluster, leaving no room for serial or parallel ports. Abit keeps PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports around, having learned their legacy-free lesson with the well-intentioned AT7-MAX.

Instead of crowding limited port cluster real estate with audio, Abit relies on an AudioMAX riser card. In addition to housing a full array of analog and digital input and output ports, the riser also moves the codec chip off the motherboard, potentially improving audio quality by reducing the impact of board-level interference.