The Basics (continued):
Next we'll take a look around the top of the board. The CPU socket area is wide open, with all capacitors and voltage regulation features located outside of the stock heatsink retention mechanism. As we will see later, even upgrading to an aftermarket cooler with a bolt-through design shouldn't be a problem thanks to all that empty space. Four DDR2 memory slots are found right next to the CPU socket, and this board features the same oddity that I noted on the A780GM-A Black Series board. Pairs of memory to be used in dual channel mode must be installed right next to each other, as in two sticks in the orange slots and/or two sticks in the yellow slots. This could create problems for those with elaborate coolers installed on their memory, as some are just too large to be installed side-by-side.
A single IDE connection and the 24-pin power connection are located on the near edge of the board, as seen in the above right image. Other features in this area include a 4-pin 12V power connection located between the CPU socket and the top edge of the board, and two 3-pin fan headers. A header for the CPU fan is located by the first DDR2 slot (partially obscured in the above right image), and a header labeled for use with a power supply fan is located between the CPU socket and the PCI Express x16 slot. All in all, ECS does well with this board in terms of fan headers, as there is a total of four for you to use.
The below left image is dominated by the low profile, passive chipset cooler tagged with a Black Series logo. Along the edge of the board in this area we find two more fan headers, the front panel connections, three USB 2.0 headers, and five SATA ports (the sixth is being used for eSATA). The most interesting, and by far the most surprising features in this area are shown close up in the below right image. What we have here is an integrated power button and reset button. These can come in very handy during initial configuration and testing, especially in a review setting where the motherboard might not ever make it into a case with more traditional buttons. Very nice!
The below left image covers the rest of the board, which features the expansions slots and a few more headers. There is a single x16 PCI Express slot, two x1 PCI Express slots, and three PCI slots. You're obviously not going to run a traditional SLI setup on this motherboard, but GeForce Boost could be setup with the proper discrete graphics solution. Other features in this area include a floppy connection and headers for SPDIF, front audio, CD audio in, and a COM port.
One thing just above the x16 PCI Express slot caught my eye as looking a bit precarious. The above right image shows a particularly tall capacitor standing all by itself about a half an inch from the slot. It has a bit of a lean to it, which makes me think it has already been bumped into, and I just see this as being a potential problem as I am installing cards, coolers, and cables.