ECS A890GXM-A2 Motherboard Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: February 24, 2011
Elitegroup Computer Systems, better known as ECS, has been in the motherboard arena for a long time. We have seen a number of boards that date back to the Pentium era and beyond. ECS has always been known as the budget board designer, but things have been changing. The company has been putting more time, effort and research into its mainboards and it is beginning to really show. ECS brought its Black Series to us some time ago, which we have seen mature into a formidable opponent in the motherboard industry. With each change and improvement, the company is no longer taken lightly. I for one have been impressed with its mainboard offerings lately and was very excited when I had this particular board come across my desk. The Black Series boards are taking on a whole new shape with each release and I was eager to do this review. Today we are bringing a new competitor to the AMD arena with the ECS A890GXM-A2 mainboard.
The A890GXM-A2 is built around the strong, tried and true AMD 890GX chipset, which includes the AMD SB850 Southbridge. Not only does this pairing provide stability, but they also have the speed and features we need to stay ahead of the game. With features such as 140 watt CPU support, HyperTransport 3.0, and the ability to run DDR3 memory in dual channel up to 1800MHz when overclocked, you will not be held back when you are running this board in your computer. Take those base features and add in USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports for up to 5Gb/s and SATA III for hard drive speeds up to 6.0Gb/s, and you might need some extra plugs for your thinning hair (editors note, lol!). If you are as excited as I am, then let's stop the yapping and take a dive into the review so we can get a firsthand look at the latest in the AMD ECS Black Series.
ECS boards have been evolving to suit the gamer/enthusiast market and with those changes came the Black Series. The Black Series showed what ECS was capable of in its designs and in its stability. To show off this new series, ECS changed the color scheme not just with the board, but with the packaging as well. While keeping the same greenish design, the front of the A890GXM-A2 box contains all the product logos that went into this motherboard including AMD CPU support, ATI CrossfireX capabilities and the unique abilities of the system, such as eJiffy instant boot. On the back of the box, the support logos continue along with an image of the board itself and several of the top end features that are offered by the ECS A890GXM-A2. If you flip open the front cover, you may be surprised to find a glimpse of the actual board through a window, accompanied with a few of the power features, such as CPU O.C. and USB SuperSpeed support.
Removing the inner packaging from the box shows you the care that went into protecting your investment. On the top layer of the box is the motherboard itself, surrounded in a hard plastic shell. Underneath is a compartment that houses the accessories and documentation. Included with the motherboard is the I/O shield, video connection protectors for the back of the board, four SATA cables, an eSATA bracket, the driver CD, and the user guides.
Now that we have everything out of the box, we can take a better look at the layout of the motherboard.
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.
To assist users in getting the most out of their experience, ECS has included several utilities. These utilities are designed to make your computing life easier and without wasting time. We are going to be looking at what each one is and how it will help you out with your ECS A890GXM-A2 system.
ECS Easy BIOS Live Update:
The ECS BIOS Live Update program allows you to update your BIOS quickly and painlessly without having to download a file and boot your computer using a floppy drive, which is a pain since who has a floppy these days, right? The utility will download the update and install it for you, should you need one.
ECS Easy Driver Live Update:
The ECS Driver Live Update utility will scan your computer and let you know what board you have installed. It will then provide you with the Internet page for you to download any driver updates that you may need.
ECS Easy Green Saver:
ECS Easy Green Saver lets you manually or automatically throttle down your system to save on power and energy waste. You can adjust your speed and create a custom setting to allow you to save all the "Green" you can.
ECS Easy Overclock:
The ECS Easy Overclock utility allows everyone from novice to expert to get the most out of their system. With this utility, you have the controls to adjust the reference clock as well as the voltages of system it impacts. Not only can you overclock with it, but you can monitor your system as well. There is a utility called Easy Smart Fan that works in conjunction to control your fan speeds and allows you to silence your PC or provide maximum cooling.
ECS eJiffy is an instant-start OS that provides you the ability to quickly boot your system into this stripped down OS and perform tasks such as web browsing and instant messaging without having to wait for your full Windows or Linux OS to load. This allows you to get online and check mail or update a contact quicker when you need to be on the run.
Now that we have seen the utilities, we can take a look at the BIOS.
The BIOS is a very essential part of any motherboard. No matter how much design went into the hardware, the BIOS can be the downfall if it is too weak. There are several types of BIOSs available, including one from American Megatrends Inc., which ECS has chosen for the A890GXM-A2 board. Some BIOS structures are very complex, but ECS has kept that complexity to a minimum. There are several menu systems that are not too confusing and a special area that adds a bit more functionality for the enthusiast types that like to tweak around a bit. I am going to break this up into two sections. First is "General", which will encompass all the basic menus and then there will be a section dedicated to the special area, called the "M.I.B. III" section.
The first several sections of the BIOS are where the general tasks take place. These tasks include setting up the system time and resources, controlling power states and functions such as AMD Cool & Quiet and C1E halting for memory, IRQ configurations, and more. You can also adjust onboard chips including how SATA ports run as (IDE compatibility mode or AHCI), USB legacy support, system temperatures, and the speeds at which the fans run.
M.I.B. III, or Motherboard Intelligent BIOS III as it is better known as, is the section where all the overclocking magic happens. While the BIOS on the A890GXM-A2 is compact, don't let that fool you — there are plenty of options available to squeeze the most out of your hardware. There are detailed controls that allow you to increase your processor multiplier if you are so lucky to have a Black Edition CPU, as well as your reference clock speed. You can independently adjust your memory speed, timings and voltages, as well as your SidePort memory. Voltage is controlled by adding in mV to the stock voltage, so be careful here. ECS has included warnings to help you if you are unsure.
Now that we have seen the BIOS, we can move on to the testing phase.
Socket AM3 socket for AMD Phenom™ II processors
Support 125W Phenom™ II X6 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 140W TDP only; you can refer to AMD website to check your CPU.
AMD® 890GX & AMD® SB850
North Bridge: AMD® 890GX
South Bridge: AMD® SB850
On Chip (AMD 890GX-based with ATI™ Radeon HD4290 graphics )
Integrated DirectX10.1 graphics processor
Share Memory: Maximum up to 512MB
AMD SidePort Memory : DDR3-1333 (64Mx16=128MB)
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 32 GB
Support DDR3 up to 1800(OC)/1600(OC)/1333/1066 DDR3 SDRAM
*(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size we have tested is 16GB)
*(Due to AMD CPU spec limitation, please refer to Memory QVL for more information)
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows 32-bit OS.
For Windows 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
3 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
1 x PCI slot
*The second PCIEx16 only support bandwidth x4
Support by AMD® SB850
• 5 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s devices
• 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
• RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID 10 configuration
Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
Compliant with HD audio specification
Dual Realtek 8111DL 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet Controller
Rear Panel I/O:
1 x D-sub(VGA)
1 x HDMI Port
1 x DVI Port
1 x Display port
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
1 x Clear_CMOS button
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
2 x USB 3.0 ports compatible to both USB 3.0/2.0 devices (blue)
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
Internal I/O Connectors & Headers:
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
1 x 4-pin CPU_FAN connectors
1 x 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
1 x Power on button
1 x Reset button
1 x Speaker header
1 x Front panel switch/LED header
1 x Front panel audio header
1 x SPDIF out header
1 x Clear CMOS header
1 x Power on LED (Green light)
1 x Stand by LED (Red Light)
5 x Serial ATA 6Gb/s connectors
4 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 8 USB ports
1 x Chassis intrusion header
AMI BIOS with 8Mb SPI Flash ROM
Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Supports ACPI & DMI
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
F11 hot key for boot up devices option
Support Page Up clear CMOS Hotkey
Support ECS M.I.B III Utility
CPU voltage adjustable
Memory voltage adjustable
• NB Chipset Voltage Adjustable
• HT Voltage Adjustable
• External Clock Adjustable
• Multiple Frequency Adjustable
ATX Size 305mm*244mm
- M.I.B. III
M.I.B. III brings the same convenience interface of overclocking as M.I.B. II, it also comes with advance range of frequency tuning for CPU/MEMORY/PCI-E bus speed to take the system performance to superior level. Icon please access the following address.
- 4most Display
Features complete onboard HDMI, DVI, D-Sub and Display port for more flexible, complete and convenient multi-media plug-in options for excellent visual performance.
- 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.
- Qooltech III
An excellent and unique silent cooler with dual copper pipe to boost super heat dissipation by providing dual heat conduction, an efficient design to calm down system temperature.
- ECS "Unlock" Technology
ECS "Unlock ” technology provides stable unlocking of hidden cores within the AMD Phenom II and even Sempron 140 processors It offers instant benefit of additional CPU cores without additional cost for improved performance in multithreaded applications. Users can enable/turn-off this feature by BIOS at will for added flexibility to suit the application needs.
- 10X Transfer Speed (Rapid 333)
Support latest generation USB 3.0, SATA 3.0(6Gbps)and eSATA 3.0(6Gbps)high-speed interface technologies that meet the high-capacity and high-speed needs of multi-media publishing and PC gaming.
- 6 Cores CPU Support
Supports Intel® latest generation 6 cores 32nm processor with fast and intelligent multi-core technology that offer timely dynamic processing power and brings 3D to life for ultimate gaming experience.
- 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.
- Supports 140W CPU
Mainbords support 140W CPU processors
- ATI CrossFire X
The technology not only combines multi-GPU and motherboard power that soars into a new dimension of graphics capability, but also delivers the highest image quality and screen resolutions, even with the most demanding 3D titles.
- 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.
- Side Port Memory
Delivering performance increase up to 15%, Side Port Memory provides exceptional acceleration for the onboard graphics core. With the innovative technology, unprecedented graphics performance is now available.
- Dual DDR3 1800 OC
Dual DDR3 1800 O.C. is able to raise processor and RAM clock up to 1800mHz throguh capable RAM in overclock mode. It assists system to obtain optimal performance to meet the O.C. enthusiast needs.
- 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.
- SATA 6Gb/s
Doubles the transfer speed of SATA 3G, running at speed up to 6.0Gb/s, and can connect with any other SATA 3.0Gb/s and 1.5Gb/s devices for backward compatibility.
- RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports RAID 0(Striped disk array), RAID 1(Mirroring disk array), RAID 5(Block Interleaved Distributed Parity), RAID 10 (A Stripe of Mirrors). Provides users the performance and protection.
- Content Protection for Blu-Ray
Features Realtek ALC 892 HD Audio Codec with loss-less content protection technology that allows full-rate audio and quality performance for Blu-ray Discs.
- 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.
- Dual Gigabit LAN
The dual Gigabit LAN design allows a computer managing network traffic between two separate networks and ensures rapid data transfer from WAN to LAN without any latency.
- USB 3.0
The latest generation Super Speed USB 3.0 Card is able to transfer data 10 times faster than USB 2.0. An innovative power management system provide better energy saving and carry more power to recharge more USB rechargeable devices. USB 3.0 Card is compatible with USB 2.0 to add more convenience and excellent performance.
The interface supports existing high-definition video formats(720p, 1080i, and even 1080p), plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. Combination with HDCP, provides a secure audio/video interface that meets the security requirements of content providers and systems operators.
A specification developed by Intel Corporation to protect digital entertainment content across the DVI/HDMI interface. HDCP encrypts transmission of digital content between HDCP-compliant devices that it allows users to enjoy HD content through HDCP-compliant playback software.
- eSATA 3Gb/s
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.
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.
- eBLU - BIOS Live Update Utility
ECS eBLU utility makes updating BIOS fast and easy. eBLU saves time and hassle of searching for BIOS online and avoid complicated flashing steps. With simple and easy steps it checks for new BIOS version on-line and safely guides the user to flash the system BIOS.
- eOC - Easy Over Clock Utility
Easy Over Clock Utility is a easy and simply overclocking tools that provides user-friendly windows operation interface for novices and overclockers, with clicking on your mouse only you can get much higher performance of CPU quickly. It is available for download and updated online to get the latest version. Combine with ECS MIB III technology to challenge undiscovered extreme overclocking than ever before.
- eDLU - Drivers Live Update Utility
ECS eDLU utility makes updating Drivers fast and easy. eDLU Saves time and hassle of searching for Drivers online and avoid complicated steps. With simple and easy steps it checks for new Drivers version on-line and let the user to update the Drivers.
- Norton™ Internet Security
Simple, Easy-to-Use Interface, delivers fast and comprehensive online threat protection, guarding your PC, network, without slowing you down. Giving you greater insight into downloaded applications, whether they can be trusted, and how they may impact your PC’s resources and performance Offering users a safer and more convenient environment than ever.ECS recommends the immediate installation of Norton Internet Security of your computer.
- 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.
- 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.
Choose an environment-friendly, fully RoHS-compliant ECS product as the foundation for keeping harmful substances out of our ecosystem.
All Information courtsey of ECS @ http://www.ecsusa.com/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1152&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=19&LanID=9
Now we get to what we have all been waiting for and that is the testing. The ECS A890GXM-A2 has certainly peaked my interest and I am really eager to see how she performs. I have lined up a battery of tests to throw at the board designed to gauge on how well it performs and if it can handle the pressure. These tests include scientific benchmarks that will test the logic of the platform, as well as video tests to show how it runs as a whole. I will be comparing it to another well known board based on the same AMD 890GX/SB850 chipset to see how it stands up against competition. To keep the testing fair, all hardware will be run at the same speeds, voltages and latencies unless specified, such as in the overclocking.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965
- Motherboard: ECS A890GXM-A2
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE
- Memory: Mushkin 996744 DDR3 1600MHz 8-8-8-24
- Video Card: XFX HD 5870
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800W Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG Supermulti DVD-R/W
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- CPU Overclock: 232 x 17.5 = 4060MHz
Since this is a Black Edition processor with an unlocked multiplier, I figured I would start there for my overclocking. That didn't happen though because everytime I tried to raise the CPU multiplier even by 1x, the system would not boot. I then tried to boost it by 0.5x and I was finally able to boot. I was baffled and could not understand why it would not boot even when throwing a lot of voltage at it. I then went on to Plan B — the reference clock. Surprisingly I was able to get the system to boot with a reference clock of 229MHz, but no more. I booted into the OS and figured I would give the ECS eOC program a shot to fine tune even further. I was able to use the utility to squeeze a few more MHz out of the system and still pass the benchmarks and stability tests. The final stable OC I was able to achieve was 4060MHz, which is a big improvement over past ECS boards I have tested. I was quite happy with this number for the overclocked tests.
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Each CPU has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using Prime95. To gauge the maximum stability level, each processor had to be able to perform at least a one hour torture test without any errors.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- Cinebench 11.5
- HD Tune 3.50
- Far Cry 2
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- 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: 2750 x 2048
- 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 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built-in benchmark as a comparison.
Lower is Better
Lower is Better
The scores were close and went back and forth during these benchmarks. It was hard to see a clear winner so we will have to move on and see what happens.
Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.
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 Multi-Processing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.
In the Office Big Number Crunch, the ECS board was only a hair slower than the ASUS board. However, in the POV Ray and PCMark Vantange tests, the tide turned with the ECS board being the fastest.
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 CPUs.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
Once again it was back and forth between the two boards throughout the Sandra tests.
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
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
In the Sciencemark test at stock, the ECS was the slowest, but it took back the lead when overclocked. For the Cinebench tests and HD Tune, the ECS A890GXM-A2 once again proved itself in battle.
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 high
- Vsync Off
The ECS board was a bit behind in the Far Cry 2 benchmark.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking.
- 4x AA
- 4x AF
- Maximum in-game
The tides switched in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, with the ECS board being slightly faster.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.
- Global settings to High
- V-Sync: Off
Again, the ECS board had a slight lead in Batman.
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 this setup fares. 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
The trend continues with the ECS board being much faster in the 3DMark 06 tests.
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: 1024 x 768
- Performance: 1280 x 1024
- High: 1680 x 1050
- Extreme: 1920 x 1200
The trend still continues with the ECS board being the top performer.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised by not only the stock performance, but the overclocked performance as well. This board has definitely shown the true power of ECS and its Black Series motherboards. When compared head to head, the ECS board was able to hold its own and even come out on top numerous times. When overclocking, even with the inability to change the CPU multiplier, I was surprised by how much of an overclock I was actually able to achieve. Being able to break the 4GHz barrier shows the improvements and design research that went into the making of this board. There were several features that I really liked about the A890GXM-A2. First, I am a sucker for dual Ethernet ports. The ability to have multiple connections shows that ECS cares not only about the gamers and enthusiasts, but for use in the working world as well. In addition to the LAN ports, ECS has included both USB 3.0 SuperSpeed as well as SATA 6.0Gb/s ports, so you are not held back by slower peripherials. Pair those with the onboard power, reset and magnificient Clear CMOS button on the rear panel and you have an ambidextrous board to die for.
ECS has really done its homework and inproved on an already great chipset. The A890GXM-A2 board delivers the performance and features that enthusiasts and gamers desire. The solid build and amazing performance are exactly what is needed to push your next system or upgrade to the next level. If you have been uneasy about taking a plunge on an ECS mainboard, I encourage you to consider this one in your next buy. You will be as amazed as I was when testing it and will not regret your decision.
- Great performance
- Decent overclocking headroom
- USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports
- SATA III 6.0Gb/s ports
- Onboard switches
- Multiple video ports including HDMI and Display Port
- Solid build design
- Not able to overclock using CPU multiplier