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ECS 945P-A (2.0) — a Motherboard Based on Intel 945P

December 19, 2005



  • Intel 945P chipset (i945P northbridge and ICH7 southbridge)

We got our hands on the second revision of the ECS 945P-A motherboard, which lost some of attractive features of Revision I, thus becoming a budget solution on a modern Intel chipset with potential SLI support. Frankly speaking, such products do not seem expedient. Especially in this case, when i945P differs from cheaper predecessors only in its support for some functions, required in mid and high-end systems. Nevertheless, if you need (or just want) a motherboard on i945 without any excesses, this model will be a very good choice.

As we have already mentioned, ECS 945P-A v2.0 is a simplified modification of the ECS 945P-A v1.1 (100-Mbit network controller instead of a 1000-Mbit one, and 6-channel integrated audio instead of 8-channel HDA). At the same time, ECS manufactures another motherboard on i945P from the top Extreme series: PF5 Extreme. However, speaking of top-class technologies (not just middle end features), this model possesses only a questionable cooling system for a processor and power circuits, as it's based on a similar PCB.




All components are conveniently arranged on the full-sized 945P-A PCB. There are no problems with assemblage, a little fly in the ointment is the location of DIMM slots and an additional peripheral power connector too close to the main PCIEx16 graphics slot — as a result, an installed video card will hamper access to these components. Access to the only jumper is not hampered, even when the motherboard is in a case. A brief description of its functions is provided on the PCB.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two field-effect transistors per channel (the layout actually provides for three field-effect transistors, but this feature is implemented only in the expensive PF5 Extreme) and eleven 1800 uF capacitors. The board also has a memory voltage regulator incorporating five 1000uF capacitors, reinforced with inductive elements. Critical circuits mostly incorporate electrolytic capacitors from OST (we are not very enthusiastic about it). Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Winbond W83627THF, according to BIOS Setup):

  • Processor, chipset, and battery voltages, +5, +12 V and +5 V Standby
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, officially supports all existing top Intel processors (except for Pentium Extreme Edition (840)): Celeron D (351 and even not yet officially announced 355), Pentium 4 (570J and 672), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz));
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-400/533/667 without ECC it supports dual channel mode, so users are recommended to install memory modules symmetrically in pairs)
  • 2 x PCIEx16 (the second slot operates in x4 mode, it's intended for an additional video accelerator in SLI mode or for any other PCIE device)
  • PCIEx1 slot (it's disabled, when an expansion card is installed into the second PCIEx16 slot)
  • 3 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can connect a regular 20-pin connector, but in this case it's not recommended to use powerful up-to-date componentry like top PCIE video cards; what's more - run the motherboard in SLI mode. Otherwise, you have to use an additional power connector to be mentioned below), 4-pin ATX12V for a processor and 4-pin (peripheral) additional connector for a PSU with a 20-pin connector (must be used in SLI mode)
  • 1 x FDD
  • IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices — chipset-based
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for four SATA300 devices — chipset-based
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 3 x fan headers (two of them offer rpm control, CPU fan header allows automatic control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x COM and 1 x LPT
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front).

Package Contents




  • Package: a plain box, standard for budget motherboards
  • Documentation: User's Guide in English
  • Cables: 1 x SATA (with a power converter), 1 x ATA66, and 1 x FDD cable
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and software.

Integrated Controllers

  • AC'97 Realtek ALC655 5.1-channel audio codec with front line-in/out jacks
  • Network, based on the Realtek RTL8100C chip supporting 10/100 Mbit/s Base-T (Fast Ethernet)

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0,15, -0,56
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-76,6
Average
Dynamic range, dB (A):
76.5
Average
THD, %:
0.028
Good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.066
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-77,0
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.150
Average

General performance: Good (Details).

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In BIOS v2.58 from AMI Allows to disable specific CPU functions + Hyper-Threading, Execute Disable Bit, Internal Thermal Control, Enhanced SpeedStep, Enhanced Halt State
Memory timings + RAS# to CAS# Delay, RAS# Precharge, RAS# Activate to Precharge Delay (no CAS# Latency control!)
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 400/533/667 MHz
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = Sync to CPU (increase proportionally to the FSB frequency)
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 266—500 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 1066 MHz FSB and 200—500 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 800 MHz FSB
CPU multiplier -  
CPU core voltage control + Auto, 1.2—1.6 V at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control + Normal, +0.1—0.45 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control + Default, +0.05, +0.10, +0.15 V

We used BIOS 051018 dated 28.10.2005, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. We found some drawbacks in the firmware (preinstalled 080012 and the latest 051018): periodic problems when you try to set the bus frequency automatically. Judging by the symptoms (including diagnostic boot messages), FSB frequency was raised to such a level that the motherboard/processor failed to startup and the CPU multiplier was probably dropped to minimum (in our tests we use engineering samples of Pentium 4 processors, their multiplier is unlocked for clock reduction). Thanks to the built-in technology that fights overclocking problems, the motherboard automatically rebooted, resetting CMOS settings. But it still failed to startup and any attempt to change BIOS settings repeated a cycle. The only way out was to force the FSB frequency to 200/266 MHz (nominal frequencies for our Pentium 4/Pentium 4 EE processors) in the overclocking menu :)

Preliminary test results

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair XMS2-4300 CM2X512A-4300C3PRO (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)
  • Video: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA), 7200 rpm
  • AC power adapter: FSP Blue Storm 500
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We are not going to dwell on ECS 945P-A (2.0) results, as we shall soon publish a large shootout of motherboards on Intel 945 series chipsets. You may pick up some information from the table below. On the whole, this motherboard looks a tad worse than the other representatives of the chipset. Even though the motherboard does not allow to specify the CL timing, in our case it was set correctly (probably by SPD) to 3.

Test ECS 945P-A (2.0) Gigabyte 8I945P-G Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:18 6:59 7:03 7:03
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 5:20 5:12 5:15 5:14
Doom 3 (640x480x32), fps 105.0 111.7 111.0 111.0
Doom 3 (1600x1200x32), fps 59.6 59.7 59.7 59.7
Unreal Tournament 2004 (640x480x32), fps 69.5 72.2 71.5 71.6
Unreal Tournament 2004 (1600x1200x32), fps 63.5 65.7 65.3 65.8

It's a budget motherboard with no outstanding functionality, performance level below average, and quite a low price. It seems to us that budget customers will not look for i945P models in the nearest two years (the latest Intel chipset at the time of this review). But if you do, or the low price of this motherboard is enough to stop your search for a cheaper model, the ECS 945P-A (2.0) will be a good choice.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
December 1, 2005.


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