To start us off, we have a 790FX motherboard from ASUS, the M4A79T Deluxe, clad in the company's familiar board color scheme. As expected from one of the top motherboard manufacturers around, ASUS hardly gets anything wrong with the layout. The onboard connectors and ports are pushed to the edges of the board to maximize the PCB space.
However, there were a few niggling details that were less than ideal, especially coming from ASUS. For one, of the five onboard SATA ports (the remaining SATA was the eSATA at the rear I/O), three are oriented facing upwards. This arrangement means that it is possible that a longer graphics card may interfere with these SATA ports.
Another thing that we noted is the fact that the ASUS M4A79T Deluxe seems to fall slightly short when it comes to sheer quantity of features. It's not that this board missed any of the important ones. After all, there are up to 12 USB 2.0 ports, six SATA/eSATA ports, two FireWire ports, optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs for its Realtek-based HD audio CODEC and support for 16GB of DDR3 memory in a four DIMM slots configuration. Quad CrossFireX is present, though the proximity of the two slots closest to the board's edge, four dual-slot GPUs would be impossible.
Rather it is the number of SATA ports for instance, or the one less expansion slots available. Or that its two rivals here from Gigabyte and MSI have two Gigabit LAN instead of one. Of course, one could argue that one doesn't have to compete on numbers but on quality. In which case, the ASUS M4A79T Deluxe could well be a lean, optimized board in the eyes of these users.
Other typical ASUS features like its Linux based Express Gate operating system, cool and quiet solutions like its Stack Cool 2 and heat-pipe assisted chipset heatsinks and its phased power design are present on this board, so it's not like you'll be missing the ASUS 'experience' here. Of course, unlike the Rampage series, you won't find any of those extreme overclocking features here. Even the Clear CMOS switch was done through the old-fashioned jumper switch and not with a button at the rear I/O panel or an onboard button.
Finally, we encountered a slight issue when trying to remove our ZEROtherm CPU heatsink after testing. It seems that for our heatsink, the CPU socket was a tad too close to the chipset heatsink. Together with the elevated passive heatsink on the motherboard, the ZEROtherm CPU heatsink may have limited space to maneuver when uninstalling, which meant that we spent slightly more time on it.