ECS A890GXM-A2 Motherboard Reviewajmatson - February 24, 2011
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With the inception of the Black Series, ECS has been using a slick color scheme, in my opinion. I am all about the "bling" for my computer and ECS chose a really good contrast of color with the black and gray design for its Black Series boards. The layout of the A890GXM-A2 is clean and no one area is too crowded, especially where the CPU mount is, which will make for installing water cooling and large heat sinks a breeze. The A890GXM-A2 is based on the AMD 890GX chipset, which is paired with the SB850 Southbridge for a powerful kick that your system needs, coupled with the stability that you require. ECS has thrown in a few goodies under the hood as well with some of the company's unique features. For the contacts on the CPU socket and memory slots, ECS has used 15μ gold. This offers three times extra anti-oxidation, temperature resistance, and scrape protection to ensure the board has the longest lifespan, better reliability, and excellent contact with the parts. There are also several other perks and applications that we will be taking a good look at in the remainder of this review that are designed to make your overall experience with the A890GXM-A2 a good one.
On the back panel of the board, ECS has left no stone unturned. ECS starts out strong with the number of video out options you have available for use — a standard VGA port, a DVI port, HDMI out , and even a DisplayPort. Two video sources may be used at the same time for a multi-display setup. Then there are six USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0 SuperSpeed, an eSATA port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, an optical S/PDIF Out connector, and the standard audio ports. You may have also noticed the red button right under the DisplayPort. This is the Clear CMOS button, which if you have ever overclocked you will realize how much of a life saver this is. With a press of this little button, it will wipe out your saved BIOS settings allowing you to quickly recover from a failed overclock without having to open the case and pull out the CMOS battery. I for one think this should be a standard feature on every motherboard.
Below the back panel are the expansion slots. The A890GXM-A2 supports CrossfireX with its three PCI Express x16 slots. The top two gray slots run at full x16 speeds for a powerful dual CrossFireX GPU setup, while the bottom black slot runs at x4 speeds. There is also a PCI Express x1 slot for additional expansion, such as for an audio or additional network card, as well as one legacy PCI slot for older devices.
The ECS A890GXM-A2 supports AMD socket AM3 processors including the Athlon II and Phenom II series up to 140 watts. The board also has support for the latest AMD Phenom II X6 Hexa-Core processors, including the latest 1100T. As with other AM3 boards, this one also supports HyperTransport 3.0 for up to 5200 mega-transfers per second. When it comes to memory, you can run up to four DIMMs of DDR3 memory with a maximum speed of 1800MHz when overclocked. The board physically supports up to 32GB of memory, but since there are currently only 4GB-sized modules max, it has been tested with 16GB. The memory DIMMS are color coded by channel. The two dark gray ones on the left are channel two and the lighter two slots are channel one. For best performance, ECS recommends filling the two light gray slots first, then the inner two last.
Just as with the back panel, ECS has included a number of header and internal connectors for you to use based on your need. Starting from the bottom left, there is a front panel audio header, a S/PDIF audio header, and four USB 2.0 headers that can be used to provide expansion to the back of the case or to front case connections, as needed. To the right of the USB headers, there are two onboard switches. These switches allow you to power on or off the system and reset it while working in the case. This eliminates the need for connecting the case leads when testing or making changes in the case itself. To the right of the onboard switches are the front case panel headers and the BIOS speaker header. On the right of the board are five SATA 6Gb/s ports for maximum speed. However, there are no IDE ports on the board so you will need to have a SATA DVD drive for operation.
The A890GXM-A2 has built-in video for the chipset. The 890GX Northbridge integrates AMD Radeon HD 4290 graphics, providing full DirectX 10.1 support. This allows you to use the integrated graphics for full HD video and light gaming without the need for a dedicated card. To help boost the performance, ECS has used a dedicated memory for the IGP called SidePort Memory. This is a 128MB DDR3 1333MHz chip soldered onto the board, which gives the graphics chip a 15% boost over just using the shared memory alone.
To cool the chipset and board, ECS uses a pipe and fin design. This allows for maximum heat dispersion using the natural airflow from the case. ECS calls this CoolTech III and employs a dual copper pipe to evenly transfer the heat across the heat sink for dissipation. Connected to the heat pipes are two heat sinks, one attached to the Northbridge chip and one to the voltage area for the CPU. To cool the Southbridge, ECS has included a fin-style heat sink.
Now that we have seen the glory of the board, we can get it installed and take a look at the software side.