ECS A780GM-A Reviewajmatson -
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Once you remove the ECS A780GM-A board from the packaging, you immediately notice that the "Black Series" theme continues. ECS opted to go for a black PC Board for the A780GM-A to give it that extraordinary look. You can also see that they went with a colorful scheme for the slots and CPU heatsink retention bracket so people with windows on their computer cases will have an aesthetically pleasing board to view. Lastly, you will notice the backplate that holds the cooling fan retention bracket in place.
Swinging around to the I/O panel, you'll see the abundance of connections. Starting from the left, there are PS/2 ports for keyboards and mice, a VGA D-Sub for the integrated ATI 3200 graphics, an HDMI-Out for high definition video output, six USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the 8-channel audio connections. I was kind of disappointed to see that there was no DVI port available on the board.
Starting from the top left, there are the voltage regulators, capacitors, and the CPU socket and heatsink retention bracket. This is a socket AM2+ 940-pin socket supporting AM2 Semprons, Athlons 64's Athlon 64 Dual Cores, and Phenom processors. To the right of that are the four DDR2 DIMM slots that support Dual Channel RAM up to 1066MHz with a max capacity of 32GB. There is also the 24-pin main power connector as well as one IDE and one Floppy connection. One thing to note, in order to run two sticks of memory in Dual Channel mode, ECS advises you to place them in banks three and four, which are the two yellow slots.
Moving on down, there is the 780G Northbridge heatsink with a copper colored aluminum, and the SB700 Southbridge with the black aluminum heatsink. Also on the Northbridge chip is the ATI HD3200 integrated graphics that powers the onboard VGA and HDMI graphics. This is also where the Hybrid CrossfireX magic takes place.
Continuing on down the board are the expansion slots. This ECS A780GM-A starts off with two 1x PCI-Express slots for future upgrades as they become available, a full 16x PCI-Express 2.0 slot for the latest in graphics card technology, and finishes it off with three PCI slots for sound, extra networking, sound cards or any other PCI expansion card your heart desires.
Further on down from the left are some of the headers for add-on features. This board has audio out, SPDIF out, CD in, a COM port header, three USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel header. Also on the same side of the board are the five SATA ports, which support RAID modes 0,1,10. Also by the SATA ports is the AMIBIOS BIOS chip, which is unfortunately soldered to the board so it cannot be changed in the event of un-repairable disaster, the BIOS battery, and the BIOS reset header with the red jumper on it.
Now that we have taken a look at the hardware side of the ECS A780GM-A "Black Edition" motherboard, let's go see the software that makes it tick.