If you're looking for the perfect partner to a Socket 754 (AMD Athlon 64) chip, then this is the board. You won't be able to use the new, more expensive, dual core chips now on the market, as these require a Socket 939, but for those of us looking for a system capable of running Half Life 2 at high resolution and high speed, which is also a damn solid workstation at a reasonable cost, then this is a fabulous upgrade.
I have to confess to being a bit of a VIA fan. A lot of people think they are a bad chipset manufacturer, and I will admit that their Intel chipsets are far from perfect. However, their AMD boards have always been excellent, and in the 6 months+ I've owned this board, the KT800 chipset has never caused me a single problem.
I respect the speed of the Nforce chipsets but I don't think they are well established enough to offer the stability and compatibility of VIA, whose Windows drivers are the best around, and who continually improve their product. The actual percentage increase in speed you get by going for the Nforce boards is minimal, and you sacrifice a lot of usability and stability in my opinion.
The board itself offers everything you need in a PC, practically every function is catered for on board.
We have no less then eight full speed USB 2 connectors, 2 firewire, an array of audio connections for the built in surround sound unit including optical digital and coax digital outputs, to connect to modern amplifiers or speakers, as well as the standard headphone socket type.
The onboard ethernet is gigabit, which is 10 times faster than the usual 100mbit on most machines. You still get the legacy serial and parallel ports, which can be extremely useful.
3x DDR 400 (3200) RAM slots allow a maximum of 3gb of memory to be installed, and you have the option to run in Dual Channel mode, although you can only use 2 slots if you want to do this, limiting you to 2gb.
There's not one but two SATA RAID controllers, allowing a maximum of 4 SATA hard drives.
Unlike many performance boards in this class, there's no fan on the board itself. This is thanks to ASUS' nifty northbridge design that can run with a passive heatsink. Great for noise freaks like me. I run this board with only 2 fans, the CPU and PSU. So far the temperature warning beeper has never gone off, thanks to Cool N Quiet, another fantastic feature which can slow down or even turn off the CPU fan when the CPU is not being taxed too much. I don't run much that taxes my system, so my CPU fan is rarely on unless I'm running a game, which cuts down noise even more.
A cute little feature is the talking BIOS, which can be set to tell you everything is ok, and the system is starting when you turn on your machine. A bit of a gimmick but useful as it acutally tells you what is wrong if it fails to boot. "The RAM may be unplugged", "Graphics adapter not present" etc. The BIOS screen in general is excellent, providing access to everything in a nicely layed out menu.
On top of all this you have the legendary Asus brand name at the heart of your computer. Widely regarded by those in the know as the market leaders, Asus are responsible for much of the top end kit available today.
This is by no means the quickest board out there, but again we're talking margins of a few percent at the most. If you're not into overclocking, and want a 100% reliable system that still runs as near as makes no difference as fast as the top end boy racer machines, you need this board.