ECS X58B-A Reviewccokeman -
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The ECS X58B-A is an ATX form factor motherboard built using the X58 and ICH10R chipsets designed for socket 1366 Intel Core i7 processors. The X58B-A supports up to 24GB of DDR3 system memory in a tri channel configuration with speeds up to DDR3 1600MHz. The X58B-A was the first X58 motherboard to support both Crossfire and SLI technologies when it was first released and features just two x16 PCI-E 2.0 slots for video cards. The PCB on the X58B-A is black with color coded connections that looks much like a board of Gigabyte origin. The cooling solution that ECS has employed is based on its Qooltech II technology and uses a large heatsink on the X58 chipset that is interconnected via a heatpipe to the ICH10R heatsink as well as that of the PWM sink.
The I/O panel is pretty packed with plenty of standard features that include the PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse, two Jmicron controlled eSATA ports, a CMOS clear button that is a welcome sight, dual Gigabit RJ45 LAN ports, one IEEE 1394a port, six USB 2.0 ports and the eight channel Realtek sound. Expansion slots include two PCI-E x16 slots in red, one x4 PCI-E slot, two PCI-E x1 slots and a lone PCI slot. WIth the two x16 slots you can run either ATI or nVidia cards in multi GPU mode. If you use a GPU with a dual slot cooling solution, the CMOS battery is directly up under the heatsink assembly. While that does not present an issue for most people but when you push hard enough you will need to resort to removing the battery to recover. This is not an exclusive feature as many of the current crop of X58 boards have it located in this area.
Most of the connectivity for the accessories is located along the bottom edge of the X58B-A. From left to right you have the audio in from a disc drive, front panel audio header, the digital S/PDIF, one of the four fan headers, com port, IEEE 1394a header for a total of two, three USB 2.0 headers to bring the total available to twelve, the clear CMOS jumper and front panel header. Moving around the corner you have the onboard diagnostic LED to help diagnose post problems, six SATA 3.0Gb/s connections and the onboard reset and power buttons. The onboard switches are a great addition for those who use a tech bench or are just really to lazy to hook up the front panel headers. Coupled with the clear CMOS button on the I/O panel, this is a step toward the big leagues.
Further up the right side of the board you get to the six DDR3 memory slots that support up to 24GB of 800/1066/1333/1600 (OC) system memory in Tri-channel mode. The CPU socket area is actually pretty clean and houses the LGA 1366 socket surrounded by the chokes and solid capcitors used in the six phase power supply circuit that is VRD 11.1 compliant. Large heatsinks and water blocks should pose no problems if chosen as your means of cooling the i7. One thing that was conspicuously absent is, you guessed it, the IDE port. Unfortunately, if you own PATA drives they cannot be used unless you resort to an adapter or step up to new drives.
ECS uses Qooltech II technology to cool the X58, ICH10R and PWM MOSFETs. What this includes is a series of heatsinks that are connected via heatpipes to effectively wick the heat away from the hard mounted components. The heat sinks over the two chipsets are made of aluminum, while the PWM sink appears to be the only one that is made from copper. The X58 heatsink carries the Black Series logo that identifies the X58B-A as a member of this series.
Power is distributed through three onboard connections, the 24-pin ATX power supply, the 8-pin auxillary 12v by the CPU socket and the third is located just north of the x4 PCI-E slot much like many ABIT and DFI motherboards.
If just looks alone were enough to make a sucessful product, ECS has a board that looks good but I'll hold full judgment until I see just how it compares performance wise.