The board layout is similar to the ASUS Maximus VI and MSI Z87M Gaming except for a few missing features but the fan headers are spread around the outer edges, the PCIE slots are spaced in a standard way with the 16x,8x to operate in Sandwich mode (i.e without a slot gap). There are 6 SATA ports, MemOK and DirectKey buttons and 3 headers for thermal sensor probes (included in the armor kit).
One thing you notice straight away is the additional holes in the board - these are for fitting the armor if you choose to buy it. There is also a 3 pin header specifically for the 40mm fan in the armor kit so it doesn't take up one of the system or chassis fan headers.
Image courtesy of ASUS
The battery is located above the PCIE x16 slot but it would be difficult to remove the battery without having to also remove the graphics card. It's a moot point though as there is a Clear CMOS button on the bottom edge of the motherboard that is easy to get to as well as the USB BIOS Flashback feature that allows you to flash the BIOS without POSTing.
The DirectKey button allows you to boot straight into BIOS from a powered down state - great after an overclocking misadventure or if you have fastboot turned on and just want to tweak quickly without having going into windows to trigger a restart into BIOS.
As with the ASUS Maximus VI Gene and MSI Z86M Gaming, when running SLI or Crossfire, the graphics cards are sandwiched close together which means that they will run hotter and louder than on a full sized board where there is usually a slot gap between the PCIe 16/8x slots. The other issue that this spacing presents is the difficulty in accessing the PCIe clip to release the cards. This is not a criticism of this motherboard but just something to be aware of if you intend to use dual graphics cards on a micro-ATX board. The upside is that all of the IO connections along the bottom edge of the motherboard are accessible when using 2 dual slot graphics cards. This also means that you can extend the gaming life of the board/CPU platform by adding second graphics card for SLI or Crossfire down the track rather than undertaking a full upgrade.
Rear IO Panel
The read IO panel looks sparse - this is due to a 3 key factors. The Armor kit uses a 40mm fan to draw in air from above the DVI port so ASUS had to leave room for the air to pass through. The USB and SATA ports are as per the Z87 specification in that ASUS did not include any additional USB 3 or SATA controllers so there are no extra eSATA ports or USB connectors on the back.
4x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, 1x DVI, 1x HDMI, 1x Optical Audio, 6 3.5mm jacks and an RJ45 LAN adaptor should be ample for most people. We liked to see the DVI connector implemented here and while it doesn't look as busy as other boards, it has everything we consider essential.
The rear IO shield is black and has a filter to limit the dust intake when using the armor kit.