ECS A785GM-AD3 Motherboard Review
Reviewed by: jlqrb
Reviewed on: February 1, 2010
AMD's 785G chipset has become the standard for budget conscious users looking to get the best price to performance ratio, while building an AM2+ or AM3 system. Luckily this is easily done, as a 785G motherboard and AMD Phenom II Quad-Core processor combo can be purchased for under $300 and an Athlon II or Sempron can be had for even cheaper, making the price to performance ratio better than almost anything on the market today. Continuing in this trend of performance and affordability, ECS is releasing the A785GM-AD3 motherboard, which comes with the 785G/SB710 chipset combination. Even though the 785G arrives at an affordable price, its support for AM3 processors, DDR3 memory and the integrated HD4200 graphics processor, it is anything but 'cheap'. In fact, the ECS A785GM-AD3 has most of the features you would find on other motherboards with the same chipset such as ATI hybrid graphics, Hypertransport 3.0 and PCI Express 2.0. But ECS has gone a step further and added their "15μ Gold Contact" technology. With this technology ECS has effectively added three times the standard amount of gold plating to the contacts of both the CPU and memory areas. This should help ensure the motherboard has a longer life span, better reliability and makes excellent physical contact. With the added life span of this motherboard comes added value, as it could potentially be in use for a long period of time. This is a feature that was on display during the 2010 CES convention and will become available across multiple Intel and AMD platforms. In the last few years ECS has really upped their game with their Black Series motherboards and I am really looking forward to seeing if they can continue this trend.
The ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard comes packed in a black box with a fierce fiery battle going on between a dragon and knight. Next to this battle, the box lists supported hardware and some of the features that come with the motherboard. The front of the box also indicates that this motherboard is part of the Black Series of boards, which is ECS's more high-end product, geared toward gamers and enthusiasts. The back of the packing is very detailed and lists the specifications and also gives a more in-depth look at some of the features.
With the box open you can see the motherboard comes securely packaged and has an extra layer of cardboard on the top for added protection. Under the cardboard is the motherboard, which is wrapped in an anti-static bag and lying on a thin layer of foam padding. The accessories that come with the board are found under the cardboard insert and consist of four 90-degree SATA cables, one IDE cable, the I/O shield, manual, installation guide and the driver CD.
With the everything out of the packaging we can move on and take a more detailed look at the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard.
The ECS A785GM-AD3 comes with a similar look and color scheme of other Black Series motherboards. This includes the use of red, yellow and black throughout the motherboard, as well a Northbridge heatsink that is labeled with the Black Series logo. The motherboard itself is ATX form factor and ECS lists the measurements at 305x220mm, which makes it the same length as most ATX boards, but a little less wide. The layout of the board is standard and should come with enough expansion slots for the average and multimedia user. On the CPU and memory areas, you see that ECS has added stickers explaining the "15μ Gold Contact" and its benefits. These stickers come off easily and must be removed prior to CPU and memory installation. Looking around the board you can see that ECS has used solid Japanese capacitors only around the CPU area and a more standard capacitor for the rest of the board. This is standard for a budget board, but it would have been nice to see all solid caps in addition to the extra gold plating. The CPU and memory areas are at the top with the 785G Northbridge directly below the CPU area and the expansion slots are directly below that. To the right of the expansion slots is the SB710 Southbridge and five SATA 2.0 ports that are facing outward. In all, it looks like a good design and you shouldn't run into any major issues, but the only thing that may be a concern is that the outward facing SATA ports could potentially be blocked by larger dual-slot graphics cards. Turning the board over, you see a nice looking black PCB and the CPU heatsink retention bracket, which reduces the strain on the motherboard when a heatsink is secured onto the processor.
The top part of the ECS A785GM-AD3 houses the CPU and memory areas, as well as the voltage regulating area, rear external I/O ports and power connectors. Taking a look at these from right to left, you first have an ATX 24-pin power connector, which supplies power thoughout the motherboard. Next to the power connector you will find the four colored DIMM slots, which is where your memory will go. These slots can use dual-channel memory architecture that supports speeds of up to DDR3 1600 OC memory with a maximum capacity of 16GB total. To run your memory in dual channel, you need to have two memory modules installed in the same channel, which are color coded per channel. Next to the memory is the CPU area. This area has the standard AM3 heatsink retention bracket and supports all 938 pin AM3 Sempron, Athlon II and Phenom II processors, with a max TDP rated at or below 95w. Even with the 95w limit, there are still plenty of Athlon II and Phenom II processors to choose from, going all the way up to the new revision of the Phenom II 945 Quad-Core processor. It does however, eliminate both the AMD Phenom II 955BE and 965BE Quad-Core processors, which both have a thermal design power rated higher than that supported by the motherboard. Next to the processor area you will find the MOSFETs VRM and phase units. This area controls the current going to the processor and ECS has used a 4-phase design here, with all solid-state capacitors. One thing I would have liked to see here, is the use of a heatsink for more efficient cooling, but as this is a mainstream board - it is not unusual to be lacking cooling here. Above the VRM and phase units, there is an ATX 4-pin 12V CPU power connector which supplies extra voltage to the processor. Finally, on the far left of the motherboard, you will find the rear I/O ports, which we will be taking a look at next.
The rear I/O expansion area on the ECS A785GM-AD3 comes with all of the standard ports that are usually found on a motherboard in this class. From left to right you have the PS/2 mouse and keyboard, VGA port, DVI port, six USB 2.0 ports, e-SATA port, LAN port, optical out and the audio ports. The DVI port on the expansion area supports both DVI and HDMI output, but it would have been nice to get an actual HDMI port or at least an included DVI to HDMI adaptor. Even without an HDMI port or adaptor, there are still plenty of options here and most users should not find the board to be lacking.
Moving down to the bottom portion of the board, you can see the A785GM-AD3 motherboard has a good amount of slots for expandability. From top to bottom there are two PCI-E x1 slots, One PCI-E x16 2.0 slot, and three PCI slots. PCI is the BUS standard for most expansion cards on the market, so with three slots on the board, there should be no shortage of options here. The PCI-E x16 slot is generation 2.0 which supports the latest ATI and Nvidia graphics cards. Below the expansion slots you will find the motherboard headers. From left to right you have the front audio header, CD-in, COM header, three USB headers and the front panel headers. Above the front panel headers ECS has included an on-board power and reset switch, which is extremely useful for users that want to test the board prior to installing the power header cables or are using the board in a test situation that does not have power header cables. To the right of the on-board power and reset button, there are five outward facing SATA II ports. These ports support data rates of up to 3.0Gb/s and are all controlled by the SB710 Southbridge and support RAID0, RAID1 and RAID10 configurations. One nice feature found on the board is the easily accessible clear CMOS button next to the COM header. This button will allow users to easily clear the BIOS, when overclocking has caused a potential instability or if a general reset is needed.
The last part of the board we are going to look at is the 785G/SB710 chipset combination. The 785G is the latest Northbridge release from AMD and includes integrated ATI Radeon HD4200 graphics that supports Microsoft DirectX 10.1 and ATI Hybrid CrossFire. This will enable for both discrete graphics and integrated graphics to render simultaneously, improving the graphics performance of your system. While the HD4200 is limited when not using ATI Hybrid Graphics, it still has very impressive performance for small integrated chip and should have no issues playing games at low resolutions. Other features that come with the AMD 785G are ATI Avivo™ HD, which allows for fast HD playback. ATI SurroundView™, this feature allows for up to four independent monitors to be in use when an add-on ATI Radeon graphics card is installed. Another nice feature of the chipset is the low power draw and with AMD PowerNow 3.0 there is very little power draw at when there is low usage. For cooling, ECS has put a large-finned heatsink on top of the 785G Northbridge and this should be more than enough to keep the temperatures in check. The SB710 Southbridge is located below the Northbridge and also has a finned heatsink to aid in cooling. The SB710 can support up to twelve USB 2.0 devices and up to six SATA II devices, including e-SATA.
Now that we've had a good look at the ECS 785GM-AD3, we can start the installation and see what is included to help in this process.
Installing the drivers that come with the ECS 785GM-AD3 is about as easy as it gets. The drivers come on a disc that once in the drive, auto-loads and does a self-check of your system to find what components and operating system are being used. Once the self-check has recognized your hardware and software, an ECS Black Series install window will pop-up. Once the install program is running there are a few options that you can choose from which come in the form of three tabs at the top and a sub menu at the bottom of the window. The three tabs are drivers, utilities and information. The sub menu for the drivers tab gives you a few options such as auto-run setup or manual install, the utilites tab has a list of programs that you can install such as e-JIFFY and Abobe reader. The Information tab has no other use than to give basic info about the chipset, sound and LAN on the board.
When using the auto setup feature, the first window you will see gives you the option to select either chipset or devices to install from a menu on the left. The driver tab includes all of the ATI Catalyst drivers needed to properly make your chipset and integrated graphics work. The device tab has a sub-menu that lets you choose to install LAN and sound drivers for the board. It is nice that ECS does not just lump the sound and LAN drivers into the chipset drivers, as many people use add-on cards for both of these devices in place of the on-board ones. Once you have made your selection, you will need to hit 'next' and that is about it. The drivers for the most part are auto-installed and only stop at the ATI Catalyst and audio drivers to for you to make a few selections before resuming installation. Once all drivers are installed, you are prompted to shut down the system and after that selection is made, you are done.
eJiffy is a streamlined version of a Linux operation system that ECS has included on the drivers disc. The operating system can be used to for simple computing and can quickly access the Internet or even look at photos. The real benefit to eJiffy though, is the quick boot time and ECS states that you can be up in running in eJiffy in as little as ten seconds from the time you start your system. eJiffy is found under the utilities tab on the drivers disc and is easily installed. During the installation you will be need to select your language and keyboard type, but other than that, the rest of the install is automatic. To be able to run eJiffy though, you must first enable it in the advanced setup portion of the motherboards BIOS. Once that is done, the next time you start your system you load into an eJiffy screen, which gives the option to load either Windows or eJiffy. Once loaded you can see that it is very simple and all of the tools that can be used are found on a menu at the bottom of the screen. I have to say that the program did load very fast and is definitely a nice feature for users who need to get Internet access quickly.
Now that we have the motherboard set up and have the drivers installed, we can start to get to testing and see how the ECS A785GM-AD3 stacks up against the competition.
The BIOS used in the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard is extremely user friendly and is a version of American Megatrends, Inc or AMI. The AMI BIOS can make simple changes such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time. But it can also make more complicated changes, such as altering a processors clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.
Standard CMOS Setup:
The first screen you will see when entering the BIOS is the main menu screen. Here you will find a list of menus that when selected will bring you to a new screen and give you a host of options to choose from. The first one of these is Standard CMOS Setup, which is is where you will adjust the date and time and get drive information.
The Advanced Setup page lets you change some of the more advanced options of the system such as AMD Cool & Quite and C1E. Here you can also change your boot devices and for those that are using the eJIFFY utility, this is the area of the BIOS that will need to be accessed to enable eJIFFY before use.
Advanced Chipset Setup:
The Advanced Chipset Setup page is where you choose whether PCI or PCI-E will be displayed first. You can also enable Memory Hole Remapping and set the memory to ganged or unganged mode.
The Integrated Peripheral screen is where you can set parameters to peripherals connected to the system. Here you have access to the IDE and SATA controllers as well as Audio, LAN and Legacy USB features.
The Power Management page is where changes to the power managment operations are made. Here you can change the ACPI Suspend Type and choose which device can resume your system operations.
PCI/PnP Setup / PC Health Status:
The PCI/PnP page is where you can make changes to the to devices that are installed on the PCI bus. There is only one option found here, which lets you allocate the IRQ or interrupt request line to the PCI VGA card. The PC Health Status is where you can monitor system voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. Here you can also set a shut-down temperature in case the CPU, Northbridge or System get too hot, as well change settings to the SMART Fan Controller.
Motherboard Intelligent BIOS II:
The last page of the BIOS is the M.I.B. II, which stands for Motherboard Intelligent BIOS II. This is where all of the overclocking options for the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard will be done. From here you can change settings such as the frequencies, multipliers and voltages. To overclock the CPU, the M.I.B II allows you to raise the CPU Frequency, change the multiplier, adjust the HT frequency and raise the voltages. Overclocking the memory can also be done, but it is done in a different screen called the Memory configuration menu, which is the first option in the M.I.B II screen. This menu allows you to change the DRAM Frequency, set the memory timings as well as make changes to the bank and channel interleaving. The M.I.B II also includes Advanced Clock Calibration, which can aid in unlocking some processor's extra cores that were disabled by AMD. The overclocking options on the ECS A785GM-AD3 is well set-up and even a novice would have no issue navigating their way around this menu.
Now that we have had a look at the BIOS of the ECS A785G-AD3, we can get to the benchmarks.
Socket AM3 socket for AMD Phenom™ II processors
High-performance HyperTransport 3.0 CPU Interface
Support transfer rate up to 5200 mega-transfers per second
Note: This board supports CPU up to 95W TDP only; you can refer to AMD website to check your CPU.
AMD® 785G & AMD® SB710
North Bridge: AMD® 785G
South Bridge: AMD® SB710
Integrated DirectX10.1 graphics processor
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
1 x PCI Express x16 slot
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
3 x PCI slot
Support by AMD® SB710
2 x Ultra DMA 133/100/66 devices
5 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices
RAID0, RAID1, RAID10 configuration
1 x eSATA
Realtek ALC 888 8-channel HD audio codec
Realtek ALC 662 6-channel HD audio codec (optional)
Compliant with HD audio specification
Realtek 8111DL Gigabit Fast Ethernet NIC
Rear I/O Panel
1 x PS/2 Keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
1 x D-sub(VGA)
1 x DVI connector
1 x RJ45 LAN connector
1 x Audio port (1x Line in, 4x Line out, Mic_in)
1 x External SATA port
6 x USB ports
Internal I/O Connectors and Headers
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply Connector
AMI BIOS with 8Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3)/STD(S4), Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Supports ACPI & DMI
Support CPU FSB adjustment, increase of 1MHz
-Supports PCI interrupt selection
-Memory voltage adjustable
-Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
-F11 Hotkey for boot up devices option
-Support for over-clocking
-Support page up clear CMOS Hotkey
-Support ECS M.I.B II Utility
-CPU voltage adjustable
-Memory voltage adjustable
NB Chipset Voltage Adjustable SB Chipset Voltage Adjustable
External Clock Adjustable
Multiple Frequency Adjustable
ATX Size, 305mm*220mm
- AMD Phenom II
With the state-of-the-art technology, AMD’s next generation processor, AMD Phenom II, enables the power of platform solutions for gaming, multitasking, and digital entertainment with outstanding performance and energy efficiency
- Socket AM3
The latest socket AM3 supports AMD’s AM3 processors which have featured the integrated memory controller for DDR3 memory that provides much higher bandwidth to enhance the overall system performance.
- ATI Hybrid Graphics Technology
To provide better gaming performance than a single graphics card, the innovative design of ATIª Hybrid Graphics Technology is capable to bring additional performance increase up to 1.75X by enabling the power of both integrated graphics core and the add-on graphics card simultaneously.
- EuP Certified
ECS Motherboards have been certified by EuP. EuP certification verifies that ECS motherboards comply with European Union stander to decrease the environmental effects and promote sustainable environment. Save energy and keep healthy environment by choosing ECS motherboards.
- EuP Certified
The highly scalable Hyper Transport 3.0 is capable to provide incredible bandwidth of the system bus up to 20.8GB/s which would dramatically elevate the efficiency of computing performance.
- Dual DDR3 1600 OC
Overclocking memory to achieve 1600MHz instead of origin memory speed for doubling the bandwidth of your system memory up to 25.6 GB/s.
- 15μ Gold Contact
ECS 15μ gold technique contains 15μ gold contact on CPU socket and Memory slot pins. It offers 3 times extra anti-oxidation, temperature resistant and scrape protection to ensure motherboards longest lifespan, better reliability and excellent contact.
- AMD Overdrive
The AMD OverDrive™ utility provides advanced system monitoring and amazing overclocking control options which allow users to directly tune the system performance in real-time under windows operation system.
The signal quality and the Max cable length is 2x longer than the conventional one. It also supports external HDD hot plug and keyed connector end for fool-proof.
- SATAII 3.0Gb/s
Doubles the transfer speed of SATA, running at speed up to 3.0Gb/s, and fully compatible with the soon-to-be-released SATA HDD, CD-ROM and other cutting-edge devices with NCQ function support.
- Giga LAN
Delivers transfer speed ten times faster than conventional 10 / 100 Ethernet connections, supporting a high transfer rate up to Gigabit/s. Gigabit LAN is the networking standards for the future and is ideal for handing large amount of data such as video, audio, and voice.
- 8 Channel High Definition Audio
Integrated 8-channel HD Audio CODEC delivering advanced multi-channel audio and bringing you the experience of home theater-quality sound.
- DVI Output
A video interface standard designed to maximize the visual quality of digital display devices such as flat panel LCD computer displays and digital projectors. DVI transmits a digital signal from a digital location in the graphics card to a digital location on the display screen. So you get the full clarity and stability of liquid crystal technology — with sharp, clear pixels.
- USB 2.0
USB2.0 is the latest connectivity standard which delivers transfer speeds up to 480Mb/s for easy connectivity and ultra-fast data transfers.
- PCI EXPRESS 2.0
The exceptionally increased interconnect bit rate from 2.5GT/s up to 5.0GT/s would effectively eliminates the bottle neck of the system performance and brings the most terrific computing experience from the present to the future.
Maximizes your system performance by selecting from these overclocking options: (1) Flexible voltage adjustments (2) Adjustable ratio and Freq
- M.I.B II
ECS’s exclusive BIOS tweaking utility, M.I.B. II (Motherboard Intelligent BIOS II), which has gathered all options of overclocking in a single page, provides higher voltage capability for helping users to achieve better overclocking results.
The latest generation Microsoft O.S., delivers better personal productivity and digital entertainment on your PC through its improved reliability, security, and performance.
- Certified For Windows Vista
One eSATA port provides almost over 2 times transferring speed than USB 2.0 high-speed port. 6 USB 2.0 high-speed ports on rear panel makes users more convenient to connect more PC peripherals.
ECS eJIFFY is a Linux based interface for a fast boot application which is compressed in a CD to install on the hard drive.Within 8 seconds after the computer boots up, eJIFFY is ready to provide users the total enjoyment for web browsing, photo reviewing and on-line chat. Instead of waiting for the regular OS to start up, eJIFFY serves a convenient center to have quick fun or a glance at the hot news in today’s fast pace world where nothing can be too quick.
- Certified For Windows® 7
Windows® 7 platform introduces a number of manageability improvements that can reduce total cost of ownership by helping to increase automation, improve user productivity, and provide flexible administrative control to meet compliance requirements. It is more user-friendly and has been optimized to consume less system resources with Windows® 7 as well. Furthermore, the VT technology is enhanced to support real-time multimedia application including video playback and 3D games.
All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Products/ProductsDetail.aspx?DetailID=1084&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=145&LanID=0
To test the performance of the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard, I will be pushing it to the max by putting it though the Overclockersclub benchmarking programs. Some of these benchmarks such as Apophysis and WinRAR actively test the processing power of the system by crunching raw data, while we use the latest games out to test the gaming performance. All of the benchmarks will be run with the system settings at the default value of the motherboard, except for the memory, which I will set to the suggested factory timings. Once these benchmarks have concluded, we should have a good understanding of the performance level of the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard and how well it holds up to other boards on the market.
DDR3 Testing Setup:
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.20GHz
- Motherboard: ECS A785GM-AD3
- Memory: 4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 @ 9-9-9-27
- Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260 (216)
- Power Supply: ZALMAN ZM750-HP 750W
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 750GB SATA w/ 32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
When it came to overclocking, the ECS A785GM-AD3 would unfortunately have none of it when I had my AMD 955BE installed. The culprit here is most likely that I am using a 125w processor in a motherboard that only supports a max TDP of 95w. I am using runs at a stock speed of 3.2GHz and since it is a Black Edition, the easiest way to overclock the processor is by simply raising the multiplier and leaving all other options at their preset levels. This should ensure that there would be no lost stability in any other component while overclocking the processor. I first tried to raise the multiplier from x16 to x18, which would have set the CPU at 3.4GHz, but at that speed, I could not post. Next I tried 3.3GHz, but still I could not post. After trying all of the tricks in the book, I called it a day and decided these two components were just not going to play nice together. After some frustration, I decided to switch the processor out for an AMD Sempron 140 processor with a TDP of 65w. With the new processor in I was glad to see new results and I was able to get the Sempron 140 easily to 3.24GHz at stock voltage. I am not sure though what results you may run into with a AMD processor that is rated at 95w, such as the AMD 945 Quad-Core processor. If the AMD 955BE was too much for the board to overclock, then you might not have much overclocking headroom with other AMD processors rated around the 95w range.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty: World at War
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.
Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds; the lower the better.
In Apophysis, the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard fell behind and at 31 seconds it was the slowest out of all of the test boards. It did, however, do exceptionally well during the WinRAR tests and managed to put up the best numbers in three of the four runs.
Excel 2007 Big Number Crunch: This benchmark uses mathematics to perform complex calculations in Excel 2007, which puts a heavy load on the processor. The measurement is in seconds that it takes to complete the task. The benchmark is performed three times and then averaged for the final score.
Lower is better
POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge the performance of each individual motherboard to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
The ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard didn't fair well in the Excel test and just managed to tie for last place with the Gigabyte MA785GMT. I shortly found out this was not a trend though and in the next benchmark, which is POV Ray 3.7 the ECS board was ahead of all but one of the comparison boards. For PCMark Vantage, the ECS A785GM-AD3 put up the biggest numbers, beating all of the other motherboards.
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The ECS A785GM-AD3 results were a little mixed when it came to Sandra 2009. In some cases the board fell behind in performance, but in most cases the results were very similar - not really giving an edge to any chipset of any brand.
ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.
Higher is Better
CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
In ScienceMark, the ECS 785GM-AD3 was a top contender and almost managed to achieve a score of two thousand Sciencemarks. For Cinebench, the board again fell behind and scored the lowest of all the comparison boards in both instances. HD Tune was another story all together though and the ECS board managed to reach great numbers in both the burst and average speed tests. CPU utilization was high here, but with 5% being used, there is still plenty of processor to go around.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
In Far Cry 2 the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard had very similar performance to the other comparison boards and tied for the top spot in FPS at the highest resolution.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- DirectX 10
Once again, the ECS A785GM-AD3 has very similar numbers as the other boards and once again, we had a tie for first at the highest resolution.
Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in-game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
In Call of Duty, the ECS A785GM-AD3 had the lowest score at low resolutions, but tied with most of the other boards at the highest resolutions.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter you are born in, is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.
- All other in-game settings to maximum
The ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard was last at the lowest resolution and again tied at the higest resolution.
Left 4 Dead from Valve leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!
- Vsync Off
- All other settings to maximum
The ECS A785GM-AD3 tied with the fastest motherboard at the lowest resolution and even though it was never in last place by itself, the board tied with the slowest competitors at the highest resolutions.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how these boards fare. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
During the 3DMark06 testing the ECS AD785GM-AD3 board came dead last in both in the lower resolutions, but managed to come alive during the 1920x1200 run, which helped it jump into third place.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry: 1024x768
- Performance: 1280x1024
- High: 1680x1050
- Extreme: 1920x1200
Again, the ECS A785GM-AD3 did not start to achieve the top scores until running the benchmark in a more demanding higher resolution, allowing it to beat all of the other boards in the extreme test.
The ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard, though not a big overclocker or head turner, managed to be stable, fast and include a few features that are an ECS exclusive. The first of these features is the "15μ Gold Contacts" and the other being eJIFFY. The eJIFFY program that comes with the motherboard is a very simple version of a Linux operating system that will allow you to easily surf the net and and do other simple tasks. Best of all is that eJIFFY can be booted into, in as little as ten seconds, so you don't have to wait for wait for Windows to load when you need quick access to the Internet. The other feature is the gold plating, which will hopefully reduce oxidation to improve the life-span of the board, give better reliability and the added gold should also increase the contact made with the CPU and memory. I say 'hopefully', because it would be impossible for me make any real conclusion on how well this feature performs during the course of this review, when the whole point is to add durability to the motherboard, in hopes that it will work for years to come. This is a nice feature that adds a sense of value, in that the money you invested in the motherboard won't be wasted. It however, is not the contacts on the motherboard I am worried about, but rather the lack of solid capacitors throughout most of the motherboard and MOSFETs that have no heatsink attached for better cooling. These could be much bigger issues in regards to the life-span of the motherboard, especially when overclocking is added to the equation. Another issue I ran into was the lack of support for any processor over 95w TDP. This is not a huge issue and there are plenty of AM3 processors that are rated at or below 95w, especially with the new Athlon II and Phenom II processors line being launched. This eliminates AMD's top Quad-Core Phenom II processors from consideration. During the review I was using an AMD 955BE Phenom II processor and managed to get by without any issues, but there is no guarantee that this board could handle the load over long periods of time and if unsupported hardware is used, it could decrease the life-span of the motherboard. Also, there was no overclocking headroom when the AMD 955BE was paired with this board. I assume it has something to do with the TDP ratings, as I could not get the system to post even a very minimal 100MHz overclock. It is not fair to blame the motherboard entirely for this though, as I was using an unsupported processor in the first place. Once I switched the AMD 955BE out for an AMD Sempron 140, overclocking was a breeze and I was able to boot into windows at 3.23GHz up from 2.7Ghz at stock voltage. One very useful feature I found during my failed overclocking attempts with the 955BE, was the 'Clear CMOS' button that is located at the bottom of the motherboard. This button was easily accessible and being able to clear the CMOS with the simple touch of a button saved me a lot of time over the more conventional three-pin system.
When it came to performance, I could not argue with the numbers of the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard, which put up decent scores across most of the benchmarks. It was the gaming benchmarks where the ECS motherboard stood out. It seemed that time and time again, it put up a good fight in the lower resolutions showing the gaming performance of the AM3 platform, but it was in the higher resolutions that the ECS A785GM-AD3 really started to shine. This was the case in half of the game benchmarks, with the ECS board placing as one of the top contenders at the highest resolution of 1920x1200. With stellar gaming performance and features that can add enhanced gaming performance to ATI graphics cards, such as Hybrid Graphics, this board could be a good choice for mainstream or budget gamers. Another group of people that could benefit from this motherboard are those that don't game often and don't intend to purchase a graphics card, but at times do enjoy a run around a virtual world and aren't bothered by low resolutions. For this group the impressive ATI HD4200 Integrated graphics found in the 785G chipset would be more than enough gaming power for them to get their 'low-res' game on.
Unfortunately, there is not much here for high-end gamers, as CrossFire is not supported by the A785GM-AD3 and graphics cards with large dual slot coolers will block the top two SATA ports, leaving only the three bottom ports available. Let's face it though - this board is not a high-end model and if issues like these bother you, I am sure you are willing to shell out the extra cash necessary to avoid them. In the end, the ECS A785GM-AD3 did exactly what is supposed to do. It was stable, performed well and had many great features due to the 785G/SB710 chipset combination. During the course of the review, I was not able to find the price that ECS is going to launch the board at, but if it comes in where I think it will (which is good amount under $100), it could be a real bargain. So, If you are someone who is not looking to break the bank and at the same time get the biggest return possible, the ECS A785GM-AD3 motherboard could be a good choice for you.
- 15μ gold contacts
- Integrated ATI HD4200 graphics
- Easily accessible 'clear CMOS' button
- Good overclocking with low wattage CPUs
- Max 95w TDP
- Top SATA ports blocked by large graphics cards
- No MOSFET heatsink
- Not all solid capacitors
- Little overclocking headroom with high wattage CPUs