ECS A790GXM-A Reviewajmatson - November 16, 2008
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The ECS A790GXM-A follows the tradition of the Black Series board with its sleek black PC Board and vibrant colors for the slots and ports. This board is a full size ATX form factor and has a lot of space to work with. The Layout of the board gives you the best access to each part without any major obstructions. The back of the motherboard has a black retention bracket used to secure the heatsink bracket in place and to lessen any damage caused by the CPU heatsinks when they are attached.
The back panel has enough connections to get you set up with your system in no time. ECS has included on the A790GXM-A two legacy PS/2 ports, a VGA port, a COM port, an HDMI port, six USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit LAN ports, a SPDIF out port, and the 8-Channel analog audio ports. There is no DVI port or even a DVI adapter included and I was shocked to see no eSATA port onboard since most ECS Black Series boards I have tested had one.
Moving on down to the expansion slots since this is a 790GX based board there are two PCI Express x16 slots available for a CrossFire setup. For a single GPU setup the top slot will run at x16 speeds however if two cards are placed in CrossFire each slot will only run at x8 speeds. The slots are PCI Express 2.0 however so with the bandwidth increase the difference is negligable. In addition there are two PCI Express x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots for older hardware. This board also supports Hybrid graphics via the onboard graphics and certian discrete cards such as an HD 3450 to increase performance.
The headers on the board allow you to expand the back panel by using expansion brackets or external connections. Starting from the left of the board there is a front panel audio header, a piezzo speaker header, three USB 2.0 headers, the front panel headers, six SATA 3.0Gbs ports, an IDE port, one floppy port, and the power and reset buttons which are colored red and yellow. I am at a loss as to why ECS has opted to not include the Firewire headers since there is space for them and the chipset supports it.
The CPU area is quite cramped but I had no problem installing both a stock heatsink as well as an OCZ Vendetta II and a Thermaltake DuOrb CPU cooler so you should be able to mount any one you desire. All of the capacators around the CPU and memory are solid for better stability and overclocking performance. The CPU socket accepts all AM2 and AM2+ processors including the latest 140w CPU's. There are four DIMM slots which can run up to 32GB of DDR2 1066MHz memory depending on the CPU used.
The cooling of the motherboard is up to the three heatsinks on the board. There is a black aluminum one that covers the voltage section, a big copper one covering the Northbridge, and a small black aluminum heatsink on the Southbridge. These heatsinks help keep the board stable by pulling away heat and expelling it into the air.
Now that we have seen the hardware let's install the board and get into the BIOS.