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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [04.14.08]
Manufactured by: Universal Abit


Motherboard Layout

Universal Abit have been very impressive with their board layouts lately. Everything is placed perfectly, usually without exception. That's even harder to do with a high-end board, with more onboard components. So the AX78 should have absolutely the best layout ever seen.

Some people may think that we spend too much time scrutinizing motherboard layouts, but really, aside from overclocking and a few other things, there just isn't much to set a board apart from the pack. Let's see if the AX78 pulls ahead:

As usual, there is plenty of room below the main graphics slot. The X1 slot is tucked away above it, rarely being used. Note that if you intend to use the second X4 slot, you will lose one PCI slot. But with plenty of PCI slots on board, that shouldn't be a problem.

All of the USB and Audio headers are nicely lined along the bottom of the board, which is just what I like to see.

The single IDE header and all four SATA ports are horizontally aligned, the latter of which seems to be a trend with motherboards lately. I'm definitely not a big fan of SATA ports being laid out this way, as I find it makes installation a bit tricky if you can't see the orientation of the ports.

Finally, we see that the front panel headers are colour-coded and clearly labeled, and the floppy port is tucked out of the way, where it will rarely be used. A 2 digit diagnostic LED is installed, which is a pleasant surprise on a lower-priced board.

Although the AX78 sports a nice 4-phase PWM with fanless heatsinks, all capacitors are liquid elecrolyte based. No, you won't often find solid state caps on a $90 motherboard. However, the caps are all high-quality Sanyo products, made in Japan.

The area around the CPU is well laid-out, with plenty of space to accommodate large heatsinks. The CPU fan header is placed below the CPU socket, right next to an AUX fan connector. This makes installation a bit tricky when a CPU, heatsink, and video card are installed. It's a tight squeeze to be sure.

Thankfully, the layout of just about everything else is perfect. The DIMM slots are out of the way, as are the ATX 24 and 8-pin headers.

This is pretty much the emptiest rear panel that I have ever seen. Having no printer port is fine, but why not put something in its place? The chipset supports up to 10 USB ports, but only 4 can be found on the rear panel. The other 6 are on the board, but require those PCI brackets to be used. This is okay, but having them on the rear panel are definitely preferred. To make matters worse, Abit doesn't include a single USB header in the box! Yup, budget board.

Thankfully, we do get a full 6 port audio panel with discrete Mic and Line-In ports. The single Ethernet connector is PCI-E based, and an external CMOS reset switch is definitely handy.

Only one digital audio connection is present, even though the audio chipset supports both input and output. Again, another cost-cutting measure to keep the AX78 affordable.

Overall, the AX78 has a great layout, with some things missing due to the low cost of the board. Aside from the awkwardly placed fan headers, everything is pretty much perfect.

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