The overall layout of the A8V Deluxe is quite good, and ASUS seems to have gone to great lengths in toning up the board design. The CPU and DDR sockets are positioned quite well, and there is ample room to install a processor and heatsink-fan. The DDR sockets are positioned well above the AGP slot, with absolutely no access issues. The ATX power connector location is also quite good, with the primary ATX cable linking to the top-right of the board (next to the two Parallel ATA connectors), while the secondary ATX connector is over on the top-left. This allows easy access to each component, and there is no need to snake the ATX cables over or around the CPU or memory.
The bottom part of the A8V Deluxe motherboard is also well designed, and the four Serial ATA ports are positioned nicely and easily differentiated. The majority of the components, connectors and jumpers are all arranged quite well, and ASUS continues to provide color-coded ATX front panel pin-outs for easy installation. This is also a full-sized ATX model, so you won't have to deal with potential board overhang or flex issues during installation.
The ATX backplate also deserves attention, as ASUS has provided a wide range of connectivity solutions, including PS/2, IEEE 1394/Firewire, LAN, USB 2.0, and Serial COM. The big surprise is the wealth of audio connectors such as Center, Rear and Side speaker outputs, Line-in, Mic, and S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial ports. This is one of the first motherboards we've seen that could handle the majority of multimedia connectivity requirements without the use of brackets or adapter cards.
Of course, there are a few design and layout issues, but with the A8V Deluxe, these are quite nominal. The floppy drive is situated down on the lower half of the board, laying flat to the PCB, and although we did not have any issues, this extra distance might become a cabling issue with larger tower cases. The Promise Parallel ATA connector is located right between the SATA ports, and is parallel to the PCI slots, and could be an issue for larger PCI cards in slot 2 or 3. Otherwise, this is a superbly designed motherboard, and the layout allows for easy installation and is a dream to upgrade later on.
The A8V Deluxe installation was surprisingly easy, and both the hardware and software sides came off without a hitch. This motherboard is very user friendly, and its layout and design offer a lot of real estate and ease-of-use when adding or removing hardware. The common AGP-DDR contention is not an issue, attaching the ATX power cables is seamless, and even the color-coded ATX front panel pins make things run a bit faster. As expected, the Windows XP OS load and subsequent application, benchmark and driver installs all completed without issue.
The ASUS A8V Deluxe has scored incredibly high until now, and while the System BIOS format and features are definitely top-end, there are still a few niggling issues to deal with. For starters, this is another AMI design, and although it is functional, we find the Award format a bit more intuitive, easier to use, and includes menus with less nesting. But that's a design call, and in terms of features and options, the A8V Deluxe certainly delivers. The BIOS controls are quite powerful, and the overclocking features are definitely targeted at the enthusiast market. These include full CPU, DDR, AGP and chipset voltage controls, 1 MHz front-side bus overclocking, and even some user-friendly and safety-oriented features in the AI Overclocking group.
We did have a few problems on our initial boot-up, with the BIOS' safety features stopping our boot up, and forcing us to do an impromptu flash of a newer version to get up and running. We also saw the very important AGP/CPI Bus Lock feature appear and disappear through various BIOS revisions, and currently this does not look to be available yet (although ASUS has stated it will be) in public release BIOS revisions.