ECS P45T-A Reviewajmatson -
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Now that the ECS P45T-A has been released from its bindings, we can get a better look at the beast in all of its glory. Since the P45T-A is based on the ECS Black Series, it's no surprise that they went with a black PCB; ECS does a great job with the color contrasts on this motherboard, without overdoing it - the mix of colors creates is eye pleasing, without making them too bright and annoying. Since the ECS P45T-A is a full size ATX board, there's a lot of room to work without having to cram cables and components all over the board.
ECS has provided all the necessary expansion ports that you will need on the back panel. Realizing that some people still use PS/2 keyboards and mice, ECS has opted to leave both of the legacy ports on the P45T-A. In addition to the legacy PS/2 ports, ECS also includes the faded Serial COM port, for those of us who still use devices with non-USB connections. For newer devices, there are six USB 2.0 ports on the back as well, and I was pleased to see that ECS included an eSATA port on the back. With newer external drives supporting this connection, it's a pain having to find bridges for boards not equipped with eSATA. Finally, there are the audio ports - the P45T-A supports 7.1 channel High Definition Audio using the Realtek ALC883 codec.
The area around the CPU on the P45T-A is nice and spacious, with nothing crowding the CPU socket that might block some larger heatsinks. This is a Socket 775 motherboard, supporting Intel processors including the dual-core Pentium, Celeron, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, and Core 2 Extreme CPUs, and even those built on the 45nm manufacturing process. The Front Side Bus supports 800, 1066, and 1333MHz for fast data transfer. For improved durability and stability, the P45T-A uses Ferrite Core Chokes and solid capacitors around the CPU power area. Surprisingly though, the P45T-A only uses a 4-pin power plug for the CPU, instead of the newer 8-pin plug that provides better power management. There are four memory banks which support up to 16GB of DDR2 memory, at speeds from 667MHz to 800MHz. The banks also feature dual-channel architecture for improved performance.
On the ECS P45T-A, there are expansion slots a-plenty. Starting from the top, there are two PCI Express x1 slots for expansion cards of the future, and there are also two PCI Express x16 slots (red slots) for blazing fast graphics cards. Each slot uses PCI Express 2.0 architecture, and allows for a CrossFireX setup. The only drawback here is that when there are two cards in the system, the slots operate and x8 speeds electrically.
Just like the expansion ports, ECS has provided a lot of headers for even more versatility. Starting from the bottom left, ECS has placed a front panel audio header, a floppy port, an IDE port, three USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel connections. On the right side of the board by the spine, there's a Power and Reset switch, which makes powering the system up or down while working inside the case a breeze. There are also six SATA 3.0Gb/s ports that support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 via the ICH10R Southbridge. I like how ECS spaced the SATA ports so that none are blocked by a long graphics card - unless it is one with a huge, dual slot cooler.
Finally, there are the heatsinks used by the ECS P45T-A. The Northbridge is covered by a passively cooled, copper colored aluminum heatsink with a tribal design on the top for the Black Series motif. The heatsink is not very large, and might pose a problem with heat especially, when the system is overclocked. The Southbridge also uses an aluminum heatsink with the ECS logo to aid in keeping the system cool. I would recommend great airflow in the case since the heatsinks are rather small.
Now that we have had a good look at the hardware, let's take a look at the BIOS that makes this board tick.