ECS X58B-A Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: June 26, 2009
The Intel Core i7 has been out on the market since November of last year with just about every manufacturer having boards ready to go at launch time, with ECS being one of them. In fact, ECS was the first manufacturer to support both ATI's Crossfire and nNidia's SLI technologies. Fast forward a bit to today and we are looking at the ECS X58B-A, ECS' version of the Nehalem platform. The X58B-A comes with a host of features that look to make it stand out in the crowded X58 market with all solid capacitors, support for up to 24GB of DDR3 memory, VRD 11.1 compliance and its Qooltech II technology to offer a cooler operating environment for the operating parts and electrical components. While ECS has been known as a supplier of solid performing boards at an attractive price, shaking the OEM stereotype is something the company is looking to get away from with the X58B-A. I have no doubt that the X58B-A will offer performance that is similar to that of boards that cost much more, the key is just how well ECS is breaking the mold.
The ECS X58B-A features a lot of flash on the front and back panels of the packaging, bringing the excitement level up a notch or two from the last ECS board I looked at, which was mainly white with little information. Prominently displayed on the front panel is the fact that ECS was the first to offer support for both SLI and Crossfire when it was first introduced. Features listed include all solid capacitors, CrossfireX , SLI, VRD11.1, triple channel memory and more. The rear panel goes into detail about the most important features like the Qooltech II cooling technology and M.I.B.(Motherboard intelligent BIOS).
The packaging does not open like your traditional motherboard box where you may have a front flip out panel or just an outer sleeve. ECS has made opening the package a bit exciting. The box opens up like a book with the X58B-A on the right and the accessory bundle on the left in a box held in with Velcro. In the opening between the the two sides, the artwork mirrors the Dragon theme.
With all the work done on the imagery and packaging the board has to be a bit special!
ECS has provided a bundle with the X58B-A that is sufficient, allowing you the ability to utilize just about all of the onboard connectivity. Documentation is limited to the driver disc and the manual. Other items include SATA cables, the I/O shield, USB 2.0/1394a expansion bracket and one item not always seen with a bundle, an eSATA cable.
The I/O shield is an improvement over the part used on the last ECS board I looked at with the outside painted black with each port clearly marked. Connectivity options include an eSATA cable to take advantage of the eSATA ports on the I/O panel. An included eSATA cable is something no other X58 based board I have looked at has included. THe X58B-A comes with five SATA cables that feature one 90 degree fitting on each cable, making wire management that much easier. The USB/1394a bracket adds additional connectivity and still leaves two onboard USB headers for use with the front panel connections.
While the bundle is slim, it works for what is needed.
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.
The BIOS used by ECS on the X58B-A is by AMI or American Megatrends and uses a 16MB SPI ROM. The original version of the BIOS had severe issues with a 64-bit Windows Vista. Low performance and taking upwards of six to eight minutes from POST to the OS logon screen. At the time of my testing the latest BIOS, 09/03/23 released on 4/14/09, fixed the performance issues with Vista Ultimate 64-bit. ECS has released another updated BIOS on 6/19/09 but was not used in this testing but the board will be flashed at a later date and this review updated. I will go through the sections of the BIOS briefly and concentrate more on the MIB section as this is where the enthusiast will spend the majority of his time.
Standard CMOS Setup:
There is not much under this tab. The date and time, list of the recognized optical and hard drives and whether IDE bus mastering is on.
This section is where you set the energy saving parameters of the CPU with EIST, CIE and the thermal management sections. CPU technologies can be turned on and off. The boot order and drive selection are also set here.
Advanced Chipset Setup:
The only thing in this section is the ability to turn the high performance event timer on and off.
This section allows you to manage the functionality of the onboard devices such as turning the sound and LAN ports on or off.
Setting the power profile and suspend state can be accomplished under this section.
Once again, this section is pretty slim with only one option, the ability to choose which port is initialized first during POST when looking for a graphics adapter. Choices are PCI or PCI-E.
PC Health Status:
This section has to do with monitoring the critical temperatures of the components onboard that are measured including the processor. Setting the fan management profiles can be done in this section. I leave this disabled and run the fan at 100% but some like the quiet and the fan noise is my white noise.
The MIB section is where all of the performance enhancements are really done so I will take a deeper look into this section!
M.I.B. II Motherboard Intelligent BIOS:
The MIB section of the BIOS is where you can improve the performance of the system by adjusting the clock speeds of the processor, memory, and motherboard through a series of adjustments including memory sub timings and voltages.
The first option is performance level. This can be set to Standard, Enhanced and Ultra. By increasing the performance level you are changing the base settings the board works with and will ultimately limit the memory divider that can be used. The memory dividers that can be used range from 800MHz to 1600MHz. When Ultra performance level is used, 800MHz was the highest divider I could use.
Configure DRAM timing by SPD allows the board to use the pre programmed timings on the memory's serial presence detect chip. Setting them manually will usually give better performance. There are only five settings to adjust, which means you really will not spend a whole lot of time tweaking in the BIOS on the X58B-A Uncore Ratio can be set to auto or manually set. The most stable setting is when this setting is exactly twice the memory speed. DRAM command rate can be set to auto or use the 1t/2t options.
Enabling the CPU overclocking function allows the CPU frequency to be adjusted manually. The same is true of the PCI-E overclocking function. The best setting for most users will be 100MHz but can be adjusted to try and maximize your overclock. Maximum frequency adjustment for the CPU is 502, with the maximum of 200 for the PCI-E overclocking. The bclock adjustment is totally unrealistic but it can be set. Maybe in the near future...
Enable or disable unused DIMM clock turns off the sockets that are not populated. QPI frequency auto detect can be enabled or disabled to manually set the QPI to between the 4.800GT default for the 920 up to 6.400GT. Spread Spectrum is either disabled or enabled.
The last part of the page is the voltage settings. Here you can manually set your voltages to get the most from your hardware. Adjustment is available on the CPU, the IMC VTT (Integrated Memory Controller), the IOH (X58 Chipset), the DIMM, or memory, voltage and the SB voltage. Each of these can be tweaked to optimize the performance of your installed hardware. The voltages all go well into what would be considered the death zone for most users but for the hardcore bencher they are just a start. Shown below are the possible settings. At the bottom of the MIB section is a synopsis of the current voltages and settings.
Now it's finally time to see just what the ECS X58B-A has to offer for its $209 price tag.
One area I was disappointed in was the driver disc. Usually this part of the process is pretty simple. Put in the disc, let the auto run spool up the disc and install the drivers and utilities. Unfortunately, the driver disk software is not 64-bit OS ready so I had to explore the disc and manually dig for the drivers I needed to install. As more people move to a 64-bit OS, this could present problems for the average user. One saving grace is that Vista picked up the drivers and I just needed to download later versions to get the most from the X58B-A.
There is just not a whole lot to show in this section this time around.
LGA1366 socket for latest Intel new Core i7 high-end desktop processors
QPI 4.80GT/s to 6.40GT/s
6 Phase Power Design with VRD 11.1 Compliant
Intel® X58 & ICH10R
North Bridge: Intel® X58
South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R
Triple-channel DDR3 memory architecture
6 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 24GB
Support DDR3 OC1600/1333/1066/800 DDR3 SDRAM
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
2 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots
1 x PCI Express x4 slot
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
1 x PCI slot
Support by Intel® ICH10R
6 x Serial ATAII devices
supports RAID0, 1, 5, 0+1
Support by JMicron® JMB362
2 x eSATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
Realtek ALC 888S-VC supports 8-channel HD audio
Support by VIA VT6308P
up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports
(1 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a brackets connected to the internal IEEE 1394a headers)
1 x ECS QoolTechII Heat Pipe
Dual Giga LAN
Dual Realtek 8111C PCIe GigaLAN Controllers
REAR PANEL I/O
1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
6 x USB ports
1 x Clear_CMOS button
2 x e-SATA ports
1 x IEEE 1394 port
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port (1Line in, 4x Line out, 1 Optical SPDIF Out)
INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply Connector & 8-pin 12V Connector
6 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors
3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
1 x Clear CMOS header
1 x Front panel header
1 x Front panel audio header
1 x 1394a header
1 x CD in header
1 x 7S-LED Display
1 x Buzzer
4 x FAN Connectors (CPU_FAN/SYS_FAN/NB_FAN/PWR_FAN)
1 x SPDIF out header
1 x 4-pin power connector for VGA card
1X Power on LED (Green light)
1 x PWR button/ 1 x RST button
1X Stand by LED (Red Light)
1 x COM header
AMI BIOS with 16Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specification
ECS M.I.B Support Over-Clocking:
CPU Voltage : Adjustable CPU voltage from 0.5V to1.6V
NB (IOH )Voltage: Adjustable NB (IOH) voltage from 0.011V to 0.693V
CPU VTT Voltage: Adjustable CPU VTT voltage from 0.013V to 0.481V
SB(ICH10R) Voltage: Adjustable SB (ICH10R) voltage from 0.05V to 0.15V
VDIMM : DRAM voltage control from 0.015V to 0.945V
Support PCI-E over-clocking function
Support CPU over-clocking function: Adjustable CPU Clock Multiplier
ATX Size, 305mm*244mm
- Corei7 Processor: The latest four-core processor is built on Intel® 45nm micro architecture with 8MB L3 Cache CPU and TDP rating of 130W.It also uses the brand new QPI (Quick Path Interconnect) runs up to 6.4 GT/S enabling significant performance boost over the FSB technology.
- LGA 1366 Socket: LGA 1366 CPU-socket interface is designed to accept Intel® CoreTM i7 processors and will supersede LGA775 in the high-end and performance desktop segments. It contains nearly 600 extra pins for QPI links which offer faster data transfer and three 64-bit DDR3 memory channels will provide the best gaming experience.
- eSATA: 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.
- RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5: Supports RAID 0(Striped disk array), RAID 1(Mirroring disk array), RAID 0+1(A mirror of stripes), RAID 5(Block Interleaved Distributed Parity). Provides users the performance and protection.
- SATAII 3.0Gb/s: Doubles the transfer speed of SATA, running at speed up to 3.0Gb/s, and fully compatible with the soon-to-be-released SATA HDD, CD-ROM and other cutting-edge devices with NCQ function support.
- 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.
- IEEE 1394: IEEE 1394 interface supports transfer rates up to 400Mb/s to provide high speed digital interface for audio / video appliances such as digital television, digital video camcorders, storage peripherals and other PC portable devices.
- USB 2.0: The latest connectivity standard which delivers transfer speeds up to 480Mb/s for easy connectivity and ultra-fast data transfers.
- 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.
- 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.
- Qooltech™ II: The unique silent cooler adopts a copper tube with a special design providing an excellent heat transfer capacity and efficiently reduced the temperature of computer system.
- M.I.B: Motherboard Intelligent BIOS, integrated all the overclocking functions into one page. It provides the most intelligent and convenient way to adjust the clock/ voltage settings of CPU and memory. Users can easily get the extra performance with this innovative utility
- Over-Clocking: Maximizes your system performance by selecting from these overclocking options:
(1) Flexible voltage adjustments
(2) Adjustable ratio and Freq
- Certified For Windows Vista: The latest generation Microsoft O.S., delivers better personal productivity and digital entertainment on your PC through its improved reliability, security, and performance.
- 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.
All information courtesy of ECS@ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Products/ProductsDetail.aspx?detailid=947&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=139&LanID=0
To see just what kind of performance the ECS X58B-A is capable of, I will run it through the OverclockersClub benchmarking suite. This contains synthetic and gaming benchmarks to show how it performs. I will compare the ECS X58B-A against many of its contemporaries varying in price point and feature set. All of the stock testing is run with the factory default settings in the BIOS, save for manually setting the memory clock speeds, voltage and processor voltage. Turbo mode has been disabled to eliminate any variables due to changing clock speeds during single and multi threaded benchmarks. SMT was enabled during testing as well. To overclock the X58B-A I will push the limits and try to show results that should be easily duplicated based on the capabilities of your CPU and system memory.
Testing Setup I7:
- Processor: Intel Core I7 965 133x24
- Motherboard: ECS X58B-A
- Memory: Mushkin 3x2GB DDR3 12800 MHz 9-9-9-24 1.55v
- Video Card(s): nVidia GTX 260
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Opticals: LG DVD-RW
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 185x20
- Sytem Memory: Mushkin XP3 12800 3x2GB 740MHz 9-8-7-20 1t
When overclocking, having a known commodity is helpful when working with a new piece of hardware. The Core i7 920 used in this review is capable of 4.1GHz Prime stable, so what better chip to use than one already capable of a 222 bclock in several other boards. Overclocking the ECS X58B-A started out pretty well with a boot at 200x20 but I could not gain any stability at 200, 195, 190MHz bclock speeds. Every board I have used has been capable of at least a 200MHz bclock. I went back and started from scratch and inched up 5MHz at a time to see just where the cutoff point for stability was. I kept the memory divider low to eliminate that as a concern and concentrated strictly on the CPU to see just where the top bclock would be. After playing with the QPI and Vcore voltages I was able to reach 185MHz using a 20 multiplier. One more MHz resulted in Prime 95 failing in less than a minute, 186 = fail in one minute, 185 = 24 hour prime stability. One thing I noticed while trying for 4GHz with the ECS X58B-A was that instability of the Vcore. While trying for a higher clock speed I could set the voltages to what have been the voltages required to get this chip to perform on other boards 1.41 on the CPU and 1.4 on the uncore voltage and the voltage droop from the set voltage in BIOS versus the voltage read in Windows were under load were startlingly different. The CPU voltage would droop as low as 1.35 volts, causing the CPU to fail at speeds it has been proven to run at. If anything, I feel that this point alone causes the board to lose tremendous overclocking potential. My final clock speed on the ECS is 3.7GHz reached by running a combination of bclock and multiplier of 185x20. Not bad but not great either as there was 400MHz worth of lost potential left on the table. When you get down to it though, a 1.1GHz overclock is nothing to sneeze at.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Far Cry 2
- Company of Heros-Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing regimen 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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
The performance delivered in Apophysis by the ECS X58B-A is pretty much equal to that of the rest of the comparison boards. Much like when I reviewed the P35 based boards a few years back, there is very little to distinguish one board from the other. Where the ECS does shine in this series of tests is the 500MB Zip and RAR testing where it delivered an equal to or better performance than the comparison suite. When overclocked, render time in Apophysis was reduced by five minutes and compression time in the WinRAR testing was reduced on the 100MB and 500MB file tests.
Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance. Since the E8400 is a Dual core CPU results will only be shown in the 2 thread test.
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
PcMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
The ECS X58B-A compares favorably with all of the other X58 based boards in this comparison of SpecView results. In PC Mark Vantage the ECS scored markedly lower than all of the boards save the MSI X58 Platinum. When overclocked the results showed improvement to all of the scores.
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 areas of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The ECS X58B-A performed much the same as each of the other X58 boards tested. The differences shown here are not really large enough to show any real advantage.
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
Sciencemark results show the X58B-A at the lower end of the performance ladder with only the X58 Platinum and EVGA offering scoring lower. The HD tune results are on the higher end of the scale. In Cinebench the ECS fared quite well in both the single threaded and multi threaded test.
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 version of the 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."
- Direct X 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
At the stock settings there is not a lot to distinguish one board over the other. The ECS delivers comparable performance to the rest of the boards.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line 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.
- 2x Anti Aliasing
At the 1280x1024 resolution the ECS fell down lower than the comparison boards but delivered almost identical performance at the higher resolutions. Overclocking did not show any real increase in delivered frame rates.
BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
In Bioshock we see much of the same, almost identical performance at identical clock speeds. The differential between the lowest and highest performing board is 5 FPS at 2560x1600.
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
The ECS X58B-A delivers comparable performance against some of pricier boards. The performance gap between the ECS and the top performer at 1280x01024 is 4 FPS, something few people will notice in game.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.
- All in-game settings to maximum
The performance of the ECS falls between the high and low scores delivered by the rest of the X58 boards.
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.
- 4x Anti Aliasing
- 15x Anisotropic Filtering
- All other in-game settings to maximum
The X58B-A keeps up with some much higher priced hardware in this test.
Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the 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 zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival! Below are several screenshots to show some in-game action.
- 16x AF
- All other in game settings to maximum
Overclocking the X58B-A shows real benefits when playing Left 4 Dead. The gains were higher than those seen recently with the Eclipse Plus.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 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 ECS held its own as expected. When overclocked the ECS posted higher scores. Not anywhere close to the best I have achieved on the platform but easily respectable for the hardware.
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
While the results here are not spectacular they are comparable and deliver what is expected. Overclocking helps to increase the benchmark scores but not substantially as the higher tests in Vantage are more about the GPU.
The ECS X58B-A delivers a little of the good, the bad and not so much on the ugly. The board is a full featured board that at stock speeds delivers performance on par with some hardware that costs as much as $180 more than the X58B-A. The onboard debug LED is useful for diagnosing no boot conditions and just in case you go too far the CMOS reset button is within easy reach on the I/O panel. The onboard power and reset buttons are easy to use and come in handy on a tech bench when you don't want to spend the time to hook up the front panel connections. Overclocking the ECS X58B-A was a challenge. All of the boards I have looked at were able to hit at least a 200+ MHz bclock without any drama. The ECS was just not going to play nice at this level. No amount of tweaking would get me there, voltages, timings, nada! That's not to say that the ECS X58B-A can't overclock, indeed it can taking my little CO stepping i7 920 up to 3.7GHz running at 185x20. This means that the overclock is just over 1GHz from the ECS X58 solution. The one thing I feel holding it back is that there is a serious drop in voltage to the CPU when loading it heavily. When the CPU core voltage is set to 1.425 in the BIOS, under load I saw as little as 1.35 volts during some serious Prime 95 load testing. The CPU I used in this review runs Prime stable at 4.1GHz with 1.4125 volts. Overclocking recovery was less than stellar with the CMOS reset seemingly the only route to go once you go too far. A positive is that the cooling seems to be fairly efficient staying cooler than some of the boards I have worked with. A little airflow goes a long way.
When I first received this board it had problems running a 64-bit OS with six or four gigabytes of memory. The system would take almost six minutes to get to the Windows logon screen. So the board sat for a while until ECS finally had a new BIOS. Once the new BIOS was available, the X58B-A was an entirely different animal taking less than forty seconds to go from POST to the OS. At that point it performed flawlessly. Speaking of the BIOS, it is a little slim for the serious tweaker, especially when it came to the memory timings. There just was not enough there to play with.
While this sounds like mostly the bad and the ugly, the good is that the board can overclock and offers performance on par with the big boys for a great price point. Currently available for just over $200 from many e-tailers, the ECS X58B-A is a solid deal for those not looking for the upper edge in overclocking but solid results for not a lot of money.
- Challenging to OC to the limits of the board
- CMOS reset button
- Onboard power and reset switches
- Onboard debug LED
- Chipset cooling
- Stock performance
- Plenty of features
- Too few tweaking options in BIOS
- Voltage droop
- No IDE for backwards compatibility
- Lost potential
- Initial BIOS has problems with 64-bit OS and 6GB of memory