ECS A890GXM-A 890GX Review
Reviewed by: jlqrb
Reviewed on: March 3, 2010
Price: $120 to $150
The Black Series of motherboards from ECS is a line of products that are designed to break this already well established company into the enthusiast market. This series of motherboards comes with features such as all solid capacitors and heatpipe cooling solutions for the excessively hot areas of the motherboard. These features are standard for the high-end market and are used on almost all expensive boards, regardless of which company produces it. So, to take their design beyond what others offer, ECS has introduced "15μ of gold contacts to the motherboards. This gold plating is found on the CPU and memory areas, making them more durable to corrosion and wear. This use of "15μ gold contacts has been used on a few other boards released from ECS and it has now found its way onto their newest board, based on AMD's 890GX chipset. The 890GX is the latest from the engineers over at AMD and it comes paired with the SB850 Southbridge. The use of this new chipset finally gives AMD users support for SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0. One of these technologies will enhance your system speed and the other will transfer data at much higher rates making for a more enjoyable computing experience. This offering from ECS looks to have a lot of potential. When paired with the new 890GX/SB850 chipset it could be a board well suited for the high-end market.
The ECS A890GXM-A comes in a black box with an image of a dragon standing next to a women that is wielding an axe. The dragon on the front of the packing is as familiar to the Black Series as the name is, and all the products from this Series that I have reviewed have came with a dragon on the front. Other than the images, you also get a list of supported processors, technology support, and some included programs. Below these are three of the features that ECS wanted to stand out. The first is Dual Gigabit LAN with Teaming, the second is the "15μ gold contacts, and the third is eJIFFY. The back of the packaging has more details about the features listed on the front, as well as a list of support and specifications. The back panel also has an image of the motherboard, with it being rotated so most of it is visible including the rear I/O panel.
With the box open, you find the manual, drivers disk, and installation guide sitting on top of a cardboard insert. Below this you will find the motherboard wrapped in an antistatic bag and the rest of the accessories, which are four SATA cables and the rear I/O shield.
With the board out of the box, we can start to get a closer look at what the new AMD 890GX/SB750 chipset is really about.
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.
The included drivers disk that comes with the ECS A890GXM-A motherboard comes with a host of options from installation of the drivers to included software such as eJiffy. The first screen, when inserting the disk, is the mainboard setup utility. From here, you have three options to choose from, the first is Drivers, the second is Utilities, and the third is Information. The Drivers tab will let you either do an auto install of the drivers needed for the motherboard or just can also choose Browse CD to manually search the disk for the drivers you need. The Utilities tab will let you install Adobe Reader, eBLU and eJiffy. eJiffy is a simple version of Linux that you can access in place of Windows and eBLU is BIOS live update utility. The last option, Information, simply gives you info about the chipset, sound, and LAN devices.
The installation of the drivers is extremely easy and as long as you did not choose to manually install the drivers, ECS will do most of the work for you. All you need to do is make a simple selection of which drivers are needed and, for the most part, the rest is taken card of. While installing, little rectangular boxes pop up, letting you know which driver is being installed. After all the installation process is finished, you will need to restart your system. Once rebooted, everything is set-up and ready for use.
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 motherboard's 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 programs did load very fast and is definitely a nice feature for users who need to get Internet access quickly.
With the drivers all installed, we're almost ready to get to the benchmarking, but first let's take a good look at the BIOS used by the ECS 890GXM-A.
The BIOS used in the ECS A890GXM-A 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 & Quiet 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 & Integrated Peripherals:
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 management 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 gets too hot, as well change settings to the SMART Fan Controller.
M.I.B. III (Motherboard Intelligent BIOS III):
The last page of the BIOS is the M.I.B. III, which stands for Motherboard Intelligent BIOS III. This is where all of the overclocking options for the ECS A890GXM-A motherboard will be done. From here you can change settings such as the frequencies, multipliers, and voltages. To overclock the CPU, you can 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 III 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 the option to raise the SIDEPORT voltage going to the IGP to raise the overclocking potential. The overclocking options in the AMI BIOS is well set-up and even a novice user would have no issue navigating their way around the menu.
Coming up next is the part you have all been waiting for: the benchmarking!
AMD Phenom™ II/Athlon II/Sempron processors (Socket AM3 support)
High-performance HyperTransport 3.0 CPU Interface
Support "Hyper Threading" CPU
NB: AMD 890GX SB: SB850
Integrated DirectX10.1 graphics processor
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 32GB*
Support DDR3 OC1600(OC)/1333/1066/800 SDRAM
2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot
1 x PCI Express x4 slots (The blue PCI Express x16 is bandeidth of x4)
2 x PCI Express x 1 slots
Support by AMD® SB850 Express Chipset
5 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s Host Controllers
Supports RAID0,1,5 and 10 configuration
Dual Realtek 8111DL PCIE GigaLan Controller
Rear I/O Panel
1 x VGA port
1 x DVI port
1 x ESATA port
1 x HDMI port
1 x Display port
6 x USB ports
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port ( Line in, microphone in, line out, and optical SPDIF out)
Internal I/O Connectors and Headers
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply Connector & ATX49 connector & ATX 8P connector
5 x SATA connectors
4 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 8 USB prots
1 x Front Panel header
1 x Chassis Intrusion Detect header
1 x SPDIF out header
1 x Front panel audio header
1 x Speaker header
1 x Reset button
1 x Power button
AMI BIOS with 8Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specifications
ATX Size, 305mm*244mm
This Motherboard uses a socket AM3 that carries the following features:
- Accommodates AMD Phenom II/Athlon II/ Sempron processors (Socket AM3)
- Supports HyperTransport (HT) 3.0 interface speeds
Hypertransport technology is a point-to-point link between two devices, it enables integrated circuits to exchange information at much higher speeds than currently available interconnect technologies.
The AMD 890GX Northbridge (NB) and SB850 Southbridge (SB) chipsets are based on the innovative and scalable architecture with proven reliability and performance.
One x4 A-link Express III interface for connection to the AMD SouthBridge. The A-Link Express III is a proprietary interface developed by AMD basing on the PCI Express technology, with additional Northbridge-Southbridge messaging functionality. It supports the PCI- Gen 2.0 transfer rate of 5 GT/s. and is backward compatible with the A-Link Express Gate II interface.
Supports Two x16 PCI-Express Gen2 Graphics cards link
Fully supports ACIP states SI,S3.S4 and S5
Supports ATI HyperMemory
Supports 16-bit up/down HyperTransport (HT) 3.0 interface up to 4.8 GT/s
Compliant with the PCI 2, 3 specifications at 33 MHz
Two Lane PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 interface supporting up to two general purpose devices. Supported configuration includes 1x2 2x1
Supports five Serial ATA devices with speeds up to 6Gb/s
Integrated USB 2.0 Host controller supporting up to fourteen USB 2.0 ports
Supports integrated RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 functionality across all 5 ports (RAID 10 requires use of 4 or more SATA ports)
- Supports DD3 1600 (OC)/1333/1066/800 DDR3 SDRAM with Dual-Channel architure
- Accommodates four unbuffed DIMMs
- Up to 8GB per DIMM with a max memory size up to 32GB
- 7.1 + 2 Channel High Definition Audio Codec
- Meets Microsoft WLP3.x (Windows Logo Program) audio requirements
- All DACs support 44.0k/48k/96k/192kHz sample rates
- Software selectable 2.5V/3.2V/4.0V VREFOUT
- Direct Sound Digital 3.3V: Analog 5.0V
- Supports PCI Express 2.0
- Integrated 10/100/1000 transceiver
- Wake-on LAN and remote Wake-up support
- Two PIC Express x16 slots for graphics interface
- One PCI Express x4 slot (the PCI-e x16 slot with blue color)
- Wake-on-LAN and remote wake-up support
- Two PCI Express x16 slots for Graphics interface
- One PCI Exress x4 slot(the PCI-e x16 slot with the blue color)
- Two PCI Express x1 slots
- One 32-bit PCI v2.3 compliant slot
- Five 7-pin SATA connectors
- One VGA port
- One DVI port
- One ESATA port
- One HDMI port
- One Display port
- Six USB ports
- Two Lan ports
- One optical SPDIFO port
- Audio jacks for microphone, line-in and 8-ch line-out
- Power management
- Wake-up alarms
- CPU parameters
- CPU and memory timings
All information courtesy of ECS
To test the performance of the ECS A890GXM-A, I will be running a testbed of benchmarks and games, whichwill show the real-life performance as well as gaming performance for the new 890GX chipset. Some of the programs used such as WinRAR, Office 2007, and Cinebench 2.0. These are used to simulate tasks that computer users might use on a day to day basis, where the in game testing is designed to get accurate FPS averages for games. The benchmarks are more controlled and give a score in terms of performance that can be used to understand your systems performance. Running both types of tests will give us an accurate idea of the performance of the new chipset and how it will perform outside of our workstations. We also compare the test boards to others on the market so you can get a good idea of how its performance may or may not be better than similar products.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.20GHz
- Motherboard: ECS 890GXM-A 890GX
- 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
Unfortunately, when it came to overclocking there is nothing to report. I tried overclocking on two different BIOS versions and both yielded the same results of a instant system crash when the processor clock or multiplier was raised from the default level the motherboard has it set at. This is the second ECS board that would not overclock my AMD 955BE and it might be due to the high voltage requirement of the CPU, but I have overclocked it on many boards successfully, just not any ECS offerings, as of yet. The 890GX chipset is not fully registered by CPU-Z and is shows up as 785GX/SB750 in the Mainboard page.
- 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 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds; the lower the better.
In Apophysis, the ECS A890GXM motherboard took 30 seconds to complete the render, which was tied with the fastest AMD results. In the WinRAR test, the ECS board did very well when it came to Zip compression, but the RAR compression tests had it running equal to the other boards.
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 A890GXM-A motherboard came out ahead in the Big Number Crunch and POV Ray tests, but the performance was still similar to the other boards. In PCMark Vantage, the ECS board managed to beat the other models by almost 1000 points.
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
Sandra 2009 had the ECS A890GXM-A motherboard right in line with the with the other boards across many of the tests. The biggest difference was the memory tests, but these were effected by my slower memory timings more than anything to do with the motherboard.
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 A890GXM-A motherboard came in right in the middle with performance that was close to the other boards; the CineBench score came in the same manner with the 890GX showing performance right in line with the comparison models. The last test dealing with the hard drive performance of the Mainboard was a bit mixed. The ECS board had good burst speeds, read times and CPU utilization, but it also had slower access times.
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 890GX board managed to produce the best FPS out of all the motherboards, even with the reduced memory speeds.
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
The ECS A890GXM-A put up a good fight in Crysis Warhead and managed to stay at the same level as all the other boards. The reason all boards have the same frames here is because Crysis is an extremely demanding game and most of the work is done by the GPU.
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 A890GXM did well and it was about 1 FPS ahead of the competition.
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
Again, the ECS A890GXM-A motherboard was a few frames faster than the other boards, even at the highest 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
In Left 4 Dead it was a six way tie, with the ECS 890GX right at the same level as the other boards.
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 A890GXM-A was behind some of the other boards, but the difference is very small and, as seen in the gaming tests, this board can match or beat the 785G chipset in most games.
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
Unlike 3DMark06, the ECS board was the fastest board in Vantage throughout all performance tests.
The ECS A890GXM-A arrived with a lot of potential and in many ways it did not disappoint. The new Qooltech III heatpipe cooler worked very well, keeping the Northbridge efficiently cooled, which also helped decrease the CPU temperature due to there being little rising heat coming from the chipset. The new implementation of the 890GX/SB850 was great, with the SATA 3.0 connectors working perfectly, as well as adding support for AMD's upcoming six core processors. The use of gold contacts and solid capacitors throughout the board seem as if to make it more durable and stable even during extremely demanding situations. Additionally The easy to reach Clear CMOS switch on the rear I/O panel could come in real handy while overclocking. All of these were great and, initially, the board was on track to be a great mid-level board, but when it came to overclocking, the ECS A890GXM-A would just not play nice and I could not manage even a small 100MHz overclock. This is the second ECS offering that would not clock my AMD 955BE processor, but I have had luck with other CPU's and ECS boards, so it might just be the parts I am using. Another issue I had with the board was that even though it had strong gaming performance, the real life benchmarks were very similar to the older AMD chipsets, with the ECS 890GX board sometimes coming out ahead, sometimes behind, but most of the time is was right at the same level as the older models. This is not really an issue as the performance was great and, like I said before, the gaming performance was top notch, I would of just liked to see this board outpace the older 785GM models.
This is not to say the board is at a loss though and, in fact, it offers many great features that in some cases are a step beyond its competition. The A890GXM-A motherboard comes with all of the great aspects I listed in the first segment (leaving out the overclocking) and also some others that help the board stand-out. It somehow manages to squeeze four video ports on the rear I/O panel, which makes this a very flexible motherboard, giving the user any number of connection options. These video ports are VGA, DVI, HDMI 1.3 and a Display port, which is impressive as most high-end boards with an integrated chip don't include four display options. The board also has dual Gigabit LAN ports with teaming, which will let the two ports work as one when each is occupied with a Ethernet connection. This will increase the bandwidth and, if one port goes down, the other will keep working without disconnecting you from the network. Also, thanks to the 890GX chipset, you will get the new HD Radeon 4290 integrated graphics processor that comes clocked at 700MHz, has a Memory Side-Port, and supports features that will enhance HD content and general computing. This IGP isn't meant for gaming, but it is very strong when it comes to mainstream games and full 1080p HD playback. Another cool feature you will get is a streamlined version of Linux that ECS includes on the installation disk. Once installed, it can be used to quickly boot into instead of Windows. This OS works very well for accessing the internet and looking at photos, however, it is not meant to be a replacement for Windows, but rather an enhancement to your computing lifestyle.
When taking a look at the ECS A890GXM-A as a whole, you can see that it really does have a lot going for it. It is oozing with features and expandability, and even though I was not able to overclock this board it still had some very decent gaming performance. The 890GXM-A might not perform quite as well as some of the other 890GX offerings, but small performance decreases in benchmarks rarely translate into a noticeably slower PC . So, I would say that this board is a good choice for mainstream users that just want a stable product and not much else.
- 890GX/SB850 chipset
- Six core processor support
- Good gaming performance
- Clear CMOS button on rear I/O panel
- Has HDMI,DVI,VGA and Display ports
- 15u Gold contacts
- Qooltech III cooler
- Dual Gigabyte LAN with Teaming
- No overclocking (with my setup)
- Non-gaming performance similar to older AMD chipsets
- CrossFire runs at x8/x8