Board Layout & Design
After my experience recently with another motherboard that had a particularly poor design, the EP-9U1697 is like a breath of fresh air – the layout is simple, unobstrusive, and modest.
 

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The socket area is clear of any major obstructions with the exception of some large green 3300uF Sanyo capacitors. These caps are far enough away from the socket so that you can install large coolers. The waterblock we use in our test bench fit without any issues.
 
Speaking of capacitors, the EP-9U1697 uses Sanyo, Rubycon, and Teapo components.

The ATX and 12V power is a bit close to the socket in my opinion. Though I did not have any issues with it in my installation test (more on this in the next section), I can see that the power cables may need to get bent slightly to accomodate larger heatsinks.

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Just behind the socket toward the rear I/O are two of the three fan headers you will find on the board. One is intended for the PSU, while the other is for the processor.
 
RAM DIMMs are located far enough away from the socket to allow heasink fins to clear.
 
Near the flow-profile chipset heatsink are EPoX’s signature power/reset buttons, and onboard diagnostic LED. These features seem trivial, but really came in handy in my BIOS problems (more on this later in this article). Also grouped in this area are floppy, SATA-II and ATA-133 connections, and front panel pins.
 

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Near the BIOS chip are pins for a thermal probe which can be used to measure case temperatures or even your GPU or HDD. I found it peculiar how EPoX included this feature, but didn’t have a probe included in the box.
 
Turning our attention to the expansion slots we can see two rows of jumpers between the full-length PCI-E slots. These jumpers control the number of lanes used by graphics cards from X16 and X1 to X8 for each.
 

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These jumpers allow you to switch from 16-1 to 8-8 PCI-Express modes.
Keep the jumpers in postitions 2-3 if you want SLI.

Thanks to these jumpers, there is extra space between the video cards which allows for better airflow and larger coolers.
 
A single X1 PCI-E slot is available and three legacy PCI slots for your “old” cards. Seeing how there is a lack of PCI-E devices using X1 slots, I actually prefer having more PCI slots for my soundcards and RAID controllers.
 

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The back I/O has a full complement of current and legacy connections. An important note about audio hook-ups – there is only coax digital output, and the analog connections are jack-sensing. Jack-sensing is a bit of a pain whe you want to use 5.1 speakers and a headset at the same time (you will have to unplug speakers, or attach the front panel audio output).
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