ECS P55H-A Reviewtacohunter52 - October 21, 2009
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I know talking about packaging and accessories is fun, but let's take a minute to look at the actual motherboard. The ECS P55H-A is part of ECS's "Black Series." For this reason, I'm assuming, the motherboards PCB is black. Actually the color scheme was surprisingly pleasing. For some strange reason the black, yellow, and orange colors reminded me of Halloween. Halloween is just around the corner, so these colors seem oddly appropriate for this time of year. Looking at the board as a whole I noticed a few problems with the layout. However, we'll get to those a little bit later. The back of the motherboard is completely black, and...What's this? Is that metal plate made by Foxconn? Why yes, yes it is.
The P55H-A includes a total of six SATA ports. This is a good amount, but it is a bit less then I'd like to see on a motherboard. The good news is that all six of the ports are angled. This means easier wire management, which is always a plus. The reverse end of the board contains the rear ports. Looking at the P55H-A from this angle, in my opinion, makes it seem rather empty. I'm not sure why, because there's actually quite a lot there. There are eight USB ports, an eSATA port, standard audio ports, a digital audio port, two PS/2 ports, and a clear CMOS button. This appearance of empty space must mean that ECS is extremely good at spatial management, unlike some other companies. The side of the motherboard closest to the DIMM slots again appears to be empty. What I'm referring to is the lack of the auxiliary power port. In other words ECS stuck the auxiliary power port in the center of the motherboard. This is a huge NO NO when it comes to a good layout. The remaining side of the motherboard contains the connectors. These include the front header connectors, the USB connectors, and the audio connector. Also located in this area is the misplaced IDE connector. Instead of being located in the logical spot, next to the 24-Pin connector, ECS decided to place it even farther away from where your IDE drive might be located. Thanks ECS!
The P55H-A's DIMM slots are your standard DDR3 slots. The slots are colored yellow and orange, and the primary slots alternate. So if you're only using two DIMM's you'll get a little breathing room between them. The P55H-A also comes with a decent selection of PCI slots. Users looking to SLI will be delighted to see that there are two PCIe x 16 slots. There are also two standard PCI slots, a PCIe x 1 slot, and a PCIe x 4 slot.
Let's move on to the topic of how the P55H-A is powered. The main power connector is your standard 24-Pin connector. For some strange reason there's a 3-Pin fan connector located right next to it. This isn't particularly a bad thing, but I've never seen this on a motherboard before so I thought it was odd. The auxiliary power connector is horribly located next to the PCI slots. Again there's a 3-Pin fan connector.., am I missing something here? You'll also notice that there's a Molex connector in this same area. So here's where it gets a bit confusing. The Molex connector is for the "Graphics Interface." Right now some of you just thought, "that's odd, why does the onboard video need extra power?" Well, that doesn't matter, because there is no onboard video. This Molex connector is actually an auxiliary power connector for your graphics cards. The only thing is the GPU's most users with this board will be using require power from the PSU anyway. If you purchase the P55H-A I suggest you do what I did, and pretend the Molex connector isn't even there.
The P55H-A comes included with an "Easy Debug" LED. It's supposed to help you easily diagnose a problem when one occurs. Only, I'm not to sure how well it will work. When booting up the LED showed what appeared to be random numbers and letters, and when completely powered on it showed more random numbers and letters. This is great and all, but I couldn't find anything that says what these numbers mean in the included materials. If you encounter a problem and want to use the debugger you'll have to consult with the internet in order to find a solution. Located next to the debugger is the onboard speaker. As most of us know this will make loud beeping noises if a problem is encountered.
The P55H-A offers you two ways to clear the CMOS without entering the BIOS. The easiest of which is a button located on the rear panel. The second, and more traditional way, is by using the CMOS jumper located near the DIMM slots. ECS also gives you an easy way to power on, and reset your system on the fly. The buttons are a little unusual, and they remind me of little pieces of candy. The P55H-A's BIOS is stored right next to the IDE connector.
The front panel connector is located next to the three USB connectors. All for of these connectors are, surprisingly, the exact same size. Located next to the USB connectors is the IDE connector. On the other side of the IDE connector is even more headers! You'll have your standard S/PDIF connector. As well as a front panel audio connector, CD_in, and COM connector.
We've seen some pretty interesting cooler designs on these P55 motherboards. The P55H-A's chipset heatspreader is slightly less intricate then it could be, but that doesn't mean it's boring. It actually looks kinda cool. It's a dark colored slab of metal, with the words "Black Series" located at its' center. The LGA 1156 is exactly the same as we've seen on other motherboards. You might again notice that the black protective cap was manufactured by Foxconn. This isn't a bad thing, I just think it's funny that ECS is using parts from a competitor.
Now let's get this puppy installed!