ECS A785GM-M Motherboard Reviewajmatson -
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Once I had the board out of the box and anti-static wrapper, I noticed the traditional design and color scheme of the ECS Black series motherboards with the brown colored PC board and the yellow/orange/red colors of the memory and expansion slots. The ECS A785GM-M motherboard is designed in the mATX form factor measuring 244mm by 244mm, which makes it perfect for home theater PCs or small form workstations. The A785GM-M uses the 785G/SB710 chipset for rich integrated DirectX 10.1 graphics and fast transfer speeds designed to make your system scream. It also supports AM3 processors including the Phenom II and Athlon II series for a bleeding edge experience. On the back side, there is the heatsink retention bracket which offloads the stress of the CPU heatsink from straining a small area of the board and causing damage. In addition, the ECS A785GM-M uses completely solid Japanese capacitors which increases the life of the components.
On the left side of the ECS A785GM-M motherboard, there are the back panel connectors. ECS has always done a good job in this area and here they also provide a lot of connections for your needs. The first thing I want to point out which may or may not matter to most, but was a big issue with me, is that there is no PS/2 port. Most of the time this will not be an issue, however, with a geek like myself, who keeps all of my computer hardware in case there is a day when I might use it, I still have plenty of PS/2 keyboards around for my servers and secondary computers. In particular on my testing setup I have a USB mouse but a PS/2 keyboard and with the lack of a PS/2 port I had to swap constantly my only USB keyboard between computers during the review. This was a big hassle on a board supposed to simplify my life. Moving on, the connections on the back panel are the VGA port, the DVI port, the HDMI port, six USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, two eSATA ports, one LAN port supporting Gigabit Ethernet, and optical S/PDIF out port, and the analog audio ports.
Down below the back panel connectors are the expansion slots. Since this is an mATX style motherboard, there is only so much room to place slots on the board and ECS did a great job on their selection and placement. There are two PCI Express x1 slots, and one PCI Express x16 slot for both dedicated video cards and certain models that will run in tandem with the integrated GPU as Hybrid CrossfireX mode for increased performance. There is also one PCI slot supporting legacy cards such as that audio card you have had for years.
As I mentioned above, the ECS A785GM-M motherboard supports AM3 processors including the Phenom II and Athlon II series. The board runs HyperTransport 3.0 for up to 5200 mega-transfers per second. The CPU area, while looking a bit crowded, is actually very spacious. I had no issues installing aftermarket heatsinks or water cooling blocks to the board. The memory supported by the A785GM-M uses the four DIMM slots for a maximum of 32GB of memory with speeds of up to DDR3-1333MHz, natively. The memory, when placed in the like colored slots, will run in dual channel if paired with the same specifications. ECS recommends populating the outer yellow colored slots first when running only two modules for the optimal dual channel configuration.
Moving on down to the bottom of the motherboard, there are the motherboards headers for even more expansion. Starting from the left side of the board, there is the front panel audio header, a S/PDIF header, a FireWire header, three USB 2.0 headers, the front panel control headers, six SATA 3.0Gb/s ports, and one IDE port supporting up to two devices. You can also see that ECS has included two features on the A785GM-M motherboard designed at making your experience even better. These features are the included control buttons for the power, reset, and clear CMOS functions and the debug LED, which I particularly love having on the boards I build systems with.
Finally, we have the cooling of the ECS A785GM-M motherboard. ECS has always given their boards on the Black Series decent cooling and there is not any difference here. They started with a large aluminum heatsink over the voltage area of the board with the Black Series logo on the top. Then, there is a medium sized heatsink over the Northbridge to cool the chip and, finally, there is a smaller aluminum heatsink over the Southbridge to aid in efficiency when pushing your hardware.
Now that we have seen the hardware, let's move on over to the software side of the A785GM-M.