ECS P35T-A Motherboard

ccokeman - 2007-08-14 19:51:07 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 26, 2007
EliteGroup
EliteGroup
Price: $99.99 USD

Introduction:

You finally have had enough. You can't squeeze anymore performance out of the aging platform that you are on. Newer games just can't be played the way you want. I guess that means it is upgrade time on the Ponderosa. After searching high and low for a way to get the performance you want, you settle on an Intel solution in the form of a Core2Duo processor. You found that high speed memory and a new 1333 FSB processor, and now you need a board. Wow are they expensive! Well not this one! The ECS P35T-A can be had for a mere $99, so you don't have to trade your first born to get a system board. The ECS P35T-A features the Intel P35 Express northbridge chipset, as well as the ICH9DH southbridge. With support for the latest 1333 Front Side Bus processors, certification for use with Vista, dual 16x PCI-E slots, dual channel DDR2-800 support, and an eight channel sound solution, can you go wrong with this one? Let's find out by delving into this board to see what kind of performance we can achieve.

EliteGroup Computer Systems, more commonly known as ECS, has been engineering, designing and producing motherboards since it opened its doors in 1987. In 1994 it was the first Taiwan based motherboard manufacturer listed on the Taiwan stock exchange. Headquartered in Taiwan, it has manufacturing facilities and offices located in 60 countries across the globe.

Closer Look:

The box that the P35T-A came in features the company name, icons of the main features, and an exploding cube that takes me back to the 80s when the Rubik's Cube was one of the had-to-have items. The rear of the package explains in more detail the features of the board in several different languages.

 

 

Upon opening the box, you can see the bundle of parts and accessories on top of the cardboard support structure for the motherboard. Hidden underneath that structure is the motherboard, nicely protected from damage. The box is small enough to keep the board tightly in place during travel.

 

 

The accessory pack included with the board is just enough to get you started. The items sent with this board include a single IDE cable, one SATA cable, one I/O shield, a manual, a quick start guide, and the driver disc for the board.

Closer Look:

The P35T-A is a full size ATX motherboard that features the Intel P-35 Express chipset. Among other things in this view, you will note the purple color of the motherboard PCB. Something to distinguish this ECS product from many of the other motherboards on the market. While most of the P35 motherboards on the market feature some type of heatpipe cooling for the chipsets and power management circuit, this board does not.

 

 

 

 

Looking at the I/O section of the board you can see that it includes connectivity for standard PS/2 ports, E-SATA, six USB ports, one Gigabit LAN port, as well as something I have not seen on a motherboard I/O panel in a while, a serial com port. The onboard 8.1 sound solution is by Realtek and is touted as a High Definition product. This board features plenty of room for your expansion card needs with two 16x PCI-E slots (the orange one runs at 16x while the blue slot runs at 4x), one 1x PCI-E slot and three standard PCI slots.

 

 

Power is supplied to this board via three different connectors on the board. While this is becoming pretty much standard practice, the difference on this board is that instead of an 8-pin 12v auxiliary power connector, it uses a 4-pin Molex connector for the auxiliary 12v needs. Does this mean the board does not have the capability to provide the power needs of a quad core CPU? The available connections are the 24-pin ATX, 4-pin auxilliary 12v, and a 4-pin Molex located next to the top PCI-E slot.

 

 

All three of the motherboard's hot spots are covered with passive cooling solutions. The power regulation and P35 chipset are covered with aluminum heatsinks that are a little smallish in size, which brings up the question of how effective they are. The ICH9DH southbridge is covered by just an aluminum plate to dissipate any heat generated by the chip.

 

Closer Look:

Additional connectivity on this board comes in the form of headers on the board. On the bottom left hand side there are the headers for the front panel Azailia audio and sound input from a CD or DVD drive. The bottom right hand side of the board features the rest of the connections. From left to right you can see the lone IDE slot, front panel connections, three USB headers for an additional 6 devices, 6 SATA ports (RAID is not an option with this board), SPI-ROM, InfraRed, JLPC 1, and a LPT 1 printer port.

 

 

 

 

The motherboard can support up to two gigabytes of system memory per slot for a total capacity of eight gigabytes of system memory. As with most of the newer socket 775 motherboards out today, there is plenty of room around the socket for a larger than stock cooling solution.

 

 

One of the unique things on this motherboard is the location and orientation of the CMOS battery. It sits upright on the lower edge of the motherboard. As long as it's functional, it's no problem. It was just odd to see it there.

 

 

Now that the board has been inspected, let's get it installed so we can see how it fares against a few other boards of its class.

Installation:

Installing the motherboard into the chassis is a straightforward process. Attention to detail will make the process flow smoothly to eliminate any gremlins from rearing their ugly heads. I will be installing this board into a full size ATX case.

The first thing to do after preparing the case is to install the standoffs that came with the case into the proper holes needed for the board. Some boards use nine hold down screws, some use more, so knowing what you will need is one of the keys to a successful installation. After the standoffs are secured, install the I/O shield and snap it into place.

 

 

Install the CPU into the socket by opening the retaining mechanism and placing the processor into the socket, making sure it is indexed properly. Close and lock the retaining mechanism, apply your choice of thermal paste (Arctic Silver 5 was used for this build), mount your heatsink and the board is ready for installation into the chassis.

 

 

Install the board into the chassis, secure it to the standoffs, connect all of your wiring, install your graphics card and system memory, and any other expansion cards and you are just a couple of steps away from testing out the new board.

 

 

 

After installing all of the items you will need into the chassis, all that is left is to button it up and enjoy!

Closer Look:

The BIOS on this board is provided by American Megatrends and is the latest version available for download at ECS's website. The BIOS is dated 6/12/2007. OverclockersClub.com is an enthusiast community, so I will focus on the items in the BIOS relevant to the enthusiast community.

The first item of note was the message across the screen upon first booting up the system. One of the features of this board is the support for the latest processors, including the Quads, as well as the 1333 FSB Core2Duos. The message is a warning that a 1333 FSB processor is installed and it may not operate properly. This warning was given with both the E6700 and E6750 that we installed. This warning ended up meaning nothing as the board booted at the correct frequency and clock multiplier for the E6700 (266x10), as well as the E6750 processor we used (333x8).

 

 

The main BIOS page shows links to the sub-menus, so you can adjust the parameters of the board to your tastes.The Standard Setup page allows you to adjust the date and time, check hard drive specs, and ensure that all of your drives are present and properly configured.

 

 

Under the Advanced Setup menu, you can set or disable the thermal options you want to use (whether you want to throttle your processor back if it gets to hot). You can set or disable several of the power saving options and features of your CPU, as well as define the boot order of your drives.

 

 

Advanced Chipset Setup is the location that contains the system memory options. Only two possible configurations are available for setting the memory frequency: 667 FSB and 800 FSB. The four biggies are all that are available when it comes to memory timings. This will obviously limit the more adventurous of the enthusiast community. If the board is only used for stock speeds, it's a moot point. But who does that?

 

 

The Integrated Peripherals page allows configuration of all of the onboard devices. The Power Management tab allows for your power management scheme. PCI/PNP allows for choosing your type of video card (PCI or PCI-E). The Health and Staus tab allows for monitoring of the parameters that the board is capable of measuring.

 

 

 

Last, but certainly not least, is the Frequency and Voltages tab. This enables us to enable or disable overclocking and to set the frequency and voltages needed for our CPUs to perform. The Frequency setting is adjustable up to 500 FSB and no higher. The voltage options are really not enthusiast friendly. They seem designed more to prevent a non enthusiast from seriously overvolting the CPU and system memory. CPU voltage is limited to 1.5 volts and memory a woeful 2.0 volts. This may be a serious handicap when it comes to overclocking the memory and CPU.

 

Configuration:

One thing you will need to do every time you install a new motherboard and operating system is to install the correct drivers for the motherboard. Board manufacturers include a driver and utility disk with each new motherboard so you don't have to go download the drivers on another computer. The driver and utility disk is an Autoplay disk that leads straight to the installation GUI. You can either use the GUI or a manual install, the choice is up to the end user.

 

 

 

 

Once the install path is chosen, the auto install takes over and gives a few choices along the way. The first choice includes the INF or Intel chipset utility that installs the chipset drivers. The second item chosen is the device category that includes the drivers for the LAN, audio, and RAID controller.

 

 

Each device or driver will install in turn, and upon completion, you will need to restart.

 

 

 

If the manual install is chosen, the individual drivers can be installed.

Specifications:

 

CPU

LGA socket 775 for lates tIntel Core2 Extreme/Core2Quad/Core2Duo

Pentium DualCore inside( E21XXSeries) Celeron(4XX)series processor

Chipset
-Intel P35 & ICH 9
-Northbridge Intel P35

-SouthBridge Intel ICH9DH

Memory
-Dual Channel DDR2 memory architecture
- 4x240-pin DIMM socket support up to 8GB
Expansion Slot
-1 x PCI Express x16 slot(Orange)

-1 xPCI Express x16 slot (Blue @ x4 Bandwidth)

-1 x PCI Express x1 slot
-3 PCI slots
Storage
Support by Intel ICH9DH
- 6x Serial ATAII 3.0 GB/s devices
Support By JMicron JMB361
- 2x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices
- 1x External SATA 3.0 GB/s port
Audio
Realtek ALC 883 8 Channel audio codec( Co-Lay AlC888)
LAN
Intel 82566DC GigaLan controller
Rear Panel I/O
-1x PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors
-1x External SATA port
-1x Serial port (COM 1)
- 1x RJ45 LAN connector
-1x Audio Port

Internal I/O connectors and headers

-1x 24 pin ATX Power Supply connector
-1x 4pin ATX12V connector
-1x IDE connector
-1x FDDconnector supports 2 360k~2.88MB FDDs
-6x SATA connectors
-3x USB2.0 headerssupport additional 6 USB ports
- 1xClear CMOS header
- 1x SPDIF Header
-1x Front Panel Audio Header
-1x Front panel Header
- CD in Header
- 1x IrDA Header for SIR header
- 1x JPLC header
- 1x LPT1 header
-1x Speaker header
- CPU FAN/SYS FAN connectors
System BIOS
-AMI Bios with 16mb SPI ROM
-Supports Plug and Play1.0a,APM,1.2,Multi Boot ,DMI
-Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specification
Form Factor
ATX Size 305mm x 244 mm

 

Features:

Testing:

Here at OverclockersClub.com, we have put together a series of benchmarks to show real world performance, as well as gaming performance on the items we are reviewing. Today we will be looking into the performance that the ECS P35T-A motherboard has to offer. We will show performance at both default settings and at overclocked settings to show the performance gain for those who choose that road. For comparison, we will pit it against another P35 express chipset board, the Abit IP35E, as well as the lite version of the 680i chipset, represented here by the DFI 680i LT. All clock speeds and memory timings will be the same on each of the boards to eliminate any variables. All video card settings were left at setup defaults, also to eliminate any variables.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison System:

 

The system tests we will be using are listed below:

Lets 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:

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.

 

 

 

 

Testing:

Specview is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

At stock speeds, none of the boards really stand out from one another. Parity in the benchmark scores are the results I expected.

Testing:

PcMark05 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

The ECS performs similarly to the Abit IP35-E in these tests at stock speeds.

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

The P35T-A seems to be the winner in the memory benchmarks.

Testing:

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

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Performance across the system suite of benchmarks is comparable, with the ECS shining in the Sandra memory performance benchmarks. Moving on, we can see how well it does in the gaming benches.

Testing:

Now that the system benchmarks are complete, we will move on to the video benchmarking portion of the review. I will be using an EVGA 8800GTS 640MB as the video card of choice for today's test. We will be using an assortment of games to test performance across manufacturer's boards to look for any performance advantages.

 

The game tests that we use are as follows:

 

First up we have Far Cry. This game makes extensive use of pixel shaders and features Polybump normal mapping technology to increase character details.

 

We will be using the Hardware OC Benchmarking Utility version 1.8 with the following settings.

 

 

 

Testing:

F.E.A.R. is a newer game that includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark the game. This game introduces a new AI model that emulates real squad behavior. It has the ability to counteract the moves you make rather than having a predictable routine.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

The ECS board displays comparable performance to the IP35-E.

Testing:

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the newest edition of the popular flight simulator. For testing, I will fly the same route through each resolution. Testing will start at a resolution of 1024X768, since this is the lowest resolution available.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

Flight Simulator X is the newest installment of the series and proves to be a severe test for even high-end systems when the graphics settings are cranked up. The ECS board shines on this benchmark in the lower resolutions where system performance is key, but in the upper ranges, the video card limits performance.

Testing:

Call of Duty 2 is a WWII first-person shooter game that is dated, but still maintains a tremendous online following. This test will consist of a timed run on the Stalingrad multi-player map, measured by Average FPS (frames per second).

 

The settings used are listed below:

 

 

 

 

At stock, the ECS board out-performed the ABIT and DFI boards in the 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions.

Testing:

Quake 4 is next up for testing. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 Benchmark Utility version 1.5 to complete the testing with this game. You will need to update to the most current version for the latest time demo and bug fixes. Average FPS (frames per second) will be the measure used.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

The ECS loses out in Quake 4 by around nine frames per second at 1024x768 and one frame at 1600x1200.

Testing:

Need For Speed: Most Wanted. For this test, we will time each race and record the average FPS (Frames Per Second) achieved.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up during a bragging contest. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Lets see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

The ECS board performs withing a margin of error in comparison to the Abit board and hands the DFI a loss here. The overclocked results are a little surprising as they did not out-perform the stock speeds on any of the tests.

Testing:

RyderMark is a new benchmark developed by Candella Software. The benchmark illustrates a speed boat race through the famed canals of Venice, Italy. There are many options that can be changed in the benchmark, the settings we have settled on to complete this benchmark are listed below. Please check back for a full review on this new benchmark.

 

 

 

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ECS does better than the DFI in this benchmark.

Extras:

Overclocking

Overclocking on this board is as simple as it gets to a point. You have very few options in the BIOS with which to get out of bounds or to tweak to get to the next level. The voltage options are terrible if this board is going to be overclocked. 1.5 volts to the CPU is barely enough to get started with when you take into account the voltage droop apparent in every socket 775 motherboard on the market. If you have high performance memory, you are out of luck if you need more than 2.0 volts for it to perform at its best. If you have components that perform well at low voltage settings or prefer to not take things to the limit, this board would be the one for you. It does well enough at default settings that the average person would not mind the lack of voltage options.

Memory timings leave a bit to be desired for the enthusiast. The only timings available are CAS latency, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Precharge and TRAS. Just like with the voltage options, there is enough adjustability to keep you from going way out of bounds.

The gist of this is that while you are able to overclock this board, it will not get you to the highest clock speeds your hardware is capable of. But it will get you part of the way there. If you are using stock cooling and don't want to go hog wild but just want to get a little extra performance from your hardware, this board will suit you just fine. The main limiting factors for extreme performance are the inability to adjust the CPU clock multiplier up or down to maximize the achievable front side bus speed. The memory speed is automatically adjusted upwards while adjusting the front side bus speed. But with the lack of voltage support, you can get your memory up to speeds it cannot handle real quick. With a FSB of 342 on the CPU, the memory was set to a 2:3 divider and was running at 510 FSB. At this speed, the memory needs more voltage to keep running without errors, and subsequently failed prime 95 on a memory related test. At 335 FSB on the CPU, the memory sits at 502 FSB.

 

 

This board was tested with 2 different processors, an E6700 and an E6750. Without being able to adjust the multiplier, the maximum front side bus speed acheived was 342x 10 on the E6700 and 397x 8 on the E6750. Both of these speeds were limited by the memory speeds and dividers the board sets and the inadequate voltage for high performance memory. The E6700 used is capable of 3600MHz (400x9) prime stable, and the max FSB it can achieve is 490 FSB. The E6750 is capable of 3962 MHz prime stable and 4100Mhz bench stable with a FSB of 498 and 513 for each mark. Prime 95 stability is my test for real world everyday usage. There is nothing like being two hours into that all night fragfest and having blue screens start popping up to ruin your night.

Conclusion:

Performance is something that sells itself. The product really does not matter. If you combine performance and price into the equation, somewhere down the road you will be presented with an opportunity to purchase your level of performance at a price point that is right for you. On the other hand, the top of the line performer always comes with a premium price tag with high line performance guaranteed. The difference here is what level of performance is desired vs. the reality of your checkbook. If price is a determining factor in your next build and the feature set is right for you, I would give this board a shot. With support for the latest processors from Intel, it would be a good choice for a stock or mildly overclocked system. Now, on the other side of the coin, if top line performance is what you are after, this board won't give it to you. It performs flawlessly at stock speeds and even wins out in the memory testing in Sandra, but it won't play nice when the envelope is pushed. It just does not have the weapons it needs to do this. This could be something that is fixed in a BIOS revision. Would I recommend this board to a friend? Sure, as long as the overclocking envelope was not pushed. It's a wonderful board and does all that is expected of it.

Pros:

Cons: