Free charged and neutral Ag-n clusters were produced by a laser vaporization cluster source and deposited onto SiO2 substrates resulting in cluster films. These films were characterized by atomic force microscopy, X-ray diffraction and resistivity measurements to determine film topography, grain sizes, dimensions of the coherent scattering regions perpendicular to the film plane, and the mean free path length of the conduction electrons. An Ag film grown by molecular beam deposition was investigated using the same characterization techniques. The results show that the deposited clusters keep at least part of their shape upon impact on the substrate, giving rise to growth patterns and film properties distinctly different from those of conventionally grown films. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.