ECS GF8200A Reviewajmatson -
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The ECS GF8200A follows the same design format as other Black Series boards. ECS uses a black PCB with yellow, red, black, and orange color coded ports and slots on the board, to give it a contrasting, gaming inspired look. One thing you might notice about the GF8200A is the single heatsink on the board. That is because the GeForce 8200 series boards use a single chipset design, which is the MCP78S that has the GeForce 8200 mGPU on the same chip. Also, all of the ports go through this one chip design, eliminating the need for a separate Southbridge chip. The board has a very spacious layout, which should keep any components from interfering with the operation of the motherboard. The back of the board has a retention bracket backplate, which reduces stress on the board from the heatsink, and prevents damage or cracking.
Flipping the board on its side brings us to the ever important back panel. I don't care how well a board performs, if it does not have the correct connections, then you might as well toss it to the side. The ECS GF8200A provides what is needed to get the most out of your board. Starting from the top, we see the two legacy PS/2 connectors for older keyboards and mice, a VGA port, an HDMI port that supports high definition video formats including 720p and 1080p for the ultimate HTPC, six USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port for expanded external storage, one Gigabit LAN port, and six audio ports. I was surprised to not see a DVI port, or at least a DVI connector included with the package, since most LCD monitors use this connection. I was also shocked not to see a digital audio connection, since most gamers and HTPC users would use this for their setup, although an audio expansion card could be added if needed.
Like I mentioned above, the ECS GeForce 8200A is designed for AMD processors, up to and including the Phenom series CPUs. The GF8200A only supports processors with a max TDP of 95w according to the ECS website; however, I had no trouble testing the board with the AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Box which has a max TDP of 125w at stock speeds. This does not mean it will work for future generation CPUs, or for everyone, so take that into consideration. The area around the CPU is clean and uncluttered, which will make adding an aftermarket heatsink no problem at all. The GF8200A uses a 4-pin CPU power connector, and a four phase voltage regulator, which has me worried that the board's overclocking headroom might not be that high. To the right of the CPU area, are the four DIMM slots which support up to 32GB of dual-channel DDR2 1066MHz memory. Yes, you read that right - 32GB maximum! However, since the highest capacity DIMM is currently 2GB, you are limited to 8GB of memory for now. Behind the memory slots are the 24-pin ATX power supply port and the single IDE port.
Sliding down to the expansion slots, you will see that ECS has given you enough to expand to your hearts' content. There is a single red PCI Express x16 2.0 slot for you to add a dGPU for increased performance, additional monitors, a Hybrid SLI setup to save power, or boost your mGPU. There are also two PCI Express x1 slots for additional network or audio cards, and three PCI slots for legacy expansion cards that you still might use.
On the bottom of the ECS GF8200A, you will find the headers needed to hook up external ports and plugs. Again, ECS has tried to anticipate everything that you might need for your system. Starting from the bottom left, there's the front panel audio header, CD-in header, floppy port, COM port header, three USB 2.0 headers, and a fan header. Turning to the right spine, the headers continue with the front panel header, Power and Reset buttons, five SATA ports, another fan header, and the speaker header. The SATA ports are SATA II 3.0GB/s ports, and support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5
Now that we have had a close look at the board, let's start her up and see what the BIOS is packing.