ECS A890GXM-A 890GX Reviewjlqrb - March 3, 2010
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With the ECS motherboard unwrapped, you can see it comes with the usual Black Series yellow, red, and black color scheme and has the logo on the heatsink. These are all standard for ECS, but they have managed to add some extras to the board that will help make it stand out. The first one of these features is one that is actually not visible, but it can help increase the lifespan of the motherboard. This feature is an ECS signature technology which adds "15μ gold plating to the CPU and memory contacts. Besides increasing the life of the product, this extra plating will also helps the processor and memory make better a better connection with the pins, which could increase the system's overall stability. The use of the gold plating is also complemented by all solid capacitors found throughout the board. These will prevent any leakage from occurring and can be used for a much longer period of time than standard capacitors. Both of these technologies should make the board more durable, when it comes to overclocking and using your system for demanding applications over long periods of time. To keep the board cool, ECS uses a new heatpipe cooling solution that has the same heatpipe running though the cooler in a looping manner, acting as a a dual pipe cooler. Below this heatsink is the 890GX Northbridge, a 5+1 phase unit, high quality VRMs, as wells as some of the all solid caps mentioned earlier. The 890GX chipset is found under the portion of the cooler with the Black Series logo and with the use of the dual style heatpipe, should be cooled well. The 890GX comes paired with the SB850 Southbridge and offers new AMD Technologies as well as support for other technologies such as USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0. This new Northbridge also has a integrated graphics unit incorporated into it. This new IGP is the ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics processor, which comes clocked at 700Mhz and offers features and performance that are beyond that of older AMD integrated chips.
The top portion of the motherboard is where the CPU, Northbrige, memory and I/O ports are found. Looking at the CPU area, you can see that bracket is yellow in color and sits in a low location compared to other AM3 motherboards. With support for AM3 processors, the ECS A890GXM-A support a full line-up of AMD processors from Semprons to Phenom II processors, and even has support for the upcoming six core processors. Next to the CPU area is are four DIMM slots, which can hold up to 32GB of DDR3 memory rated at DDR3 OC1600(OC)/1333/1066/800. The voltage supplied to the DIMMs is set at 1.5V by default, but with 1.5V kits still not entirely being the standard, you will most likely have to adjust your voltage manually to ensure the memory will run stable at advertised speeds.
ECS has really supplied the goods when it comes to the rear expansion area. With four video options to choose from it is easy to see why. From top to bottom, you have a VGA port, DVI port, HDMI 1.3 port, Display port, easy Clear CMOS button, eSATA port, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, dual LAN ports, and 7.1 rear audio ports. With the use of four video ports, there will be more flexibility when it comes to display options and any type of user should be taken care of here. The USB 3.0, which is new to AMD boards with the release of the 890GX chipset, is much faster than the older USB 2.0 ports, giving you around 10x the performance. The rear LAN ports use a technology called teaming to make multiple connections act as one, which will increase the bandwidth to improve performance. It can also work as a back-up in case one of the LAN ports goes down, so you don't have to worry about down time. The included Clear CMOS button, which is found between the HDMI and eSATA port, is a extremely useful tool when overclocking and it should come in handy if a BIOS setting is corrupted, making the system unstable. With the button being on the rear panel, it is very easy to access.
The internal expansion area comes with three PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI x1 slots, and one PCI slot, which should be more than enough for most users. The three PCI-E slots come with two being red and one being orange. The two red PCI-E slots work at x16, but will be reduced to x8/x8 when setup in CrossFireX. The third PCI-E x16 slot runs at x4, but does comply with version 2.0 standards. Moving over to the right, you will find five SATA 3.0 connectors, with four being angled 90 degrees. The angle of the connectors will allow the port to still be used even when large dual slot graphics cards are covering them over. These five connectors are all run straight though the new SB850 Southbridge, have double the speed of SATA 2.0 and support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
To add expansion to the board, the ECS A890GXM-A has front audio header, S/PDIF header, four USB 2.0 headers, power button, reset button, a case intrusion detector, and the front panel headers. This is a lot of expansion options and, with them all being run along the bottom of the board, it will be easy to run cables to the area without things getting overly cluttered. The power and reset buttons on the review board are brown in color and don't look to appealing, but the finally version of the board will have nice looking covers on placed here with power and reset icons on them.
Looking at the new Black Series Qooltech III cooler, you can see that it is rather large and is split into two sections that are connected by a looping heatpipe. The lower half where the Black Series icon is found and is the cooling area for the HD 4290 integrated graphics processor. The area above of that takes care of the heat that is generated by the MOSFETs. Most motherboards have the 890GX chipset placed directly under the CPU area, but ECS has moved the Northbridge over, placing it under the MOSFETs instead. This move will help prevent the heat that is produced from the NB from rising and heating the processors as well. Also, with it now being situated closer to the rear of the case, the back case fan should be able to remove the hot air faster. The location and cooling here is well thought out and it should cool the area well. To cool the SB850, ECS uses a small metal heatsink with fins that stand off the base. AMD's Southbridges don't tend to be overly hot so this should be more than enough to keep it cool.
Now that we have seen the ECS A890GXM-A up close, we can start to look at what comes included with the board.