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ECS AMD690GM-M2 — A Motherboard Based on AMD 690G Chipset (Socket AM2)

March 29, 2007



  • AMD 690G chipset (AMD 690G Northbridge and SB600 Southbridge)

ECS used the previous integrated chipset from ATI/AMD with the Radeon Xpress 1150 core to launch ECS RS485M-M - almost the cheapest cut-down solution for Socket AM2. And now the company decides to carry on the same policy for the AMD 690G chipset. It's rather strange on the face of it, because we've got cut-down 690V for this purpose. It would have been logical to use it in simple motherboards. However, VGA and DVI outputs on the rear panel that appear owing to the senior chipset are a good excuse for a virtual excess in payment caused by the price difference between the chipsets.




PCB layout resembles ECS RS485M-M and is just as praiseworthy - connectors and the clear CMOS jumper are arranged rationally. We can only reproach it for the layout of SATA ports - a long video card may block several ports. But it's a virtual problem. In practice, this motherboard will hardly be used with a maximum number of hard drives and an expensive video card.




This chipset is said to demonstrate praiseworthy heat release. Its heatsinks remain just warm to the touch even under long-term maximum load. This chipset probably outscores the previous leaders in economical operation from the single-chip GeForce 6100 + nForce 400/405 family. Thus, its heatsinks should suffice, even if the motherboard is installed in a compact PC case with awkward ventilation. You shouldn't worry about additional chipset cooling when you choose a CPU cooler (you can see on the photo that fins of the heatsink go parallel to the processor socket, so it's not designed to be cooled by a CPU fan). There is only one nuance to be taken into account for any motherboard with passive chipset cooling, especially when the chip is close to a processor socket. If you deliberately limit rotational speed of a CPU cooler without a safety margin as far as thermal capacity is concerned (for example, you use a boxed cooler and set the target temperature of Smart Fan to 50° and higher), the elements around a processor will get much hotter. As chipset elements channel just as much heat away through the PCB as they do through the heatsink, chipset temperature may grow significantly. A conclusion is evident. When you experiment with CPU cooling, pay attention to surrounding elements.

The motherboard has empty seats for two memory slots, LPT port, and a connector for the second COM port. The other functional (from users' point of view) components are installed. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates three field-effect transistors per channel (this PCB layout can accommodate four), six 1800 uF capacitors from an unidentified manufacturer, and three 1500 uF ones from OST. Motherboard dimensions — 245×245 mm (standard microATX), 8-screw mount, bottom edges are not secured, but it has no effect on contact reliability between the motherboard and connected components.

System monitoring (ITE IT8726F-S, according to BIOS Setup):

  • CPU and memory voltages
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Smart Fan, automatic control of CPU and system fans; you can specify minimal fan speed manually (in fractions of the maximum speed, but not in percents, the scale is divided into 128 segments) and its minimal temperature. As the temperature grows, rotational speed is increased in compliance with the Fan Slope value, which specifies percentage of fan speed growth per degree. RPM control is available only for 4-pin fans.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2, officially supports all AMD Athlon 64/X2/FX/Sempron processors for this socket)
  • 2 × DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 16 GB DDR2-400/533/667/800, dual-channel mode)
  • 1 × PCIEx16 for a video card (operates in x16 mode)
  • 1 × PCIEx1
  • 2 × PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can use a usual 20-pin connector), a 4-pin ATX12V connector for a processor
  • 1 × FDD
  • 1 × IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices — "chipset-based"
  • 4 × SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for 4 SATA300 devices — chipset-based, connected drives can form RAID 0, 1 and 0+1
  • 3 connectors for brackets with 6 additional USB ports
  • 1 × CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for a bracket with S/PDIF-Out
  • Connector for a bracket with TV-Out
  • IrDA connector
  • Connector for a bracket with a COM port
  • TPM connector
  • 2 x fan headers (4-pin), fan speed control and automatic fan speed adjustment in BIOS.

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 × DVI, 1 × VGA
  • 2 × USB
  • 2 × USB and 1 × RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 × Analog Audio jacks (Line-In, Line-Out (Front), Mic-In, Surround, Center/Sub, Rear).

Package Contents

 




  • Package: a small box of the standard design for inexpensive motherboards from ECS
  • Documentation: User's Manual and a poster in many languages with installation instructions
  • Cables: 1 × SATA, 1 × ATA66
  • Rear panel bracket for a COM port
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and proprietary ECS utilities. Our motherboard also came with a pre-release CD-R with drivers and Pro Magic Plus to restore a file system to a "point of return".

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset support for HD Audio and Realtek ALC883 codec, 7.1+2 channel audio, front line-ins/outs supporting an additional stereo channel and CD-In
  • Network: Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps, based on the Realtek RTL8110SC controller with PCI Express interface.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the ESI Juli@ sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.16, -0.17
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-89.6
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
89.5
Good
THD, %:
0.0078
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.012
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-92.2
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.013
Very good

General performance: Very good (details). Integrated audio support is praiseworthy.

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
Award WorkstationBIOS v6.00PG Allows to disable specific CPU functions + K8 Cool’n’Quiet
Memory timings -  
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800 MHz (you actually specify a multiplier to the HTT frequency)
HT bus setup + frequency (200, 400, 600, 800, 1000 MHz) and capacity (8 or 16 bit), as well as drive strength
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200—232 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from ×4, at integer steps
GPU frequency control + clock frequency (synchronous to system or asynchronous within 133—633 MHz at variable steps) and GPU frequency (200—500 MHz at 1 MHz steps)
Memory voltage control + +0.05—0.15 V at 0.05 V steps

We used BIOS dated 13.01.2007, the latest release version. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. The choice of overclocking options is very good for an entry-level model. But GPU frequency controls turned out to be inactive - the motherboard just ignored their changes (performance would not change). A GPU can be overclocked only synchronously to a CPU by increasing FSB clock and setting the GPU clock frequency synchronous to the system frequency. The integrated core endured 232 MHz FSB (maximum overclocking) during our tests. Its temperature did not grow much in the process. In return, performance gain in games reached 10—15%.

Overclocking

In order to evaluate the motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary (but if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier). Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run WinRAR performance test for 10 minutes (Tools — Benchmark and hardware test). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.

  Clock, MHz FSB Clock, MHz Core voltage (according to system monitoring in BIOS), V HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (2.0 GHz)
2320
232
1.36
1160 (x5)

The result was predictable. Overclocking is limited by BIOS capacity to increase FSB clock. But unlike most inexpensive motherboards, we didn't have to adjust HT bus multiplier.

Performance

Testbed configuration:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
  • Memory: 2 × 1 GB Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X1900XTX, 512 MB GDDR3
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We decided to compare the motherboard under review with ECS RS485M-M on ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 - an immediate ideological predecessor in this ECS line.

Test integrated video discrete video
ECS RS485M-M ECS AMD690GM-M2 ECS RS485M-M ECS AMD690GM-M2
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 6:57 6:44 6:52 6:39
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 6:14 6:08 6:12 6:06
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640×480), fps 31.3 32.5 58.6 59.4
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024×768), fps 23.8 23.5 55.7 56.2
FarCry (Medium@800×600), fps 29.7 32.0 113.8 109.8
DOOM III (Medium@800×600), fps 13.4 14.3 122.3 128.7

Despite the lack of manual memory timings control, ECS AMD690GM-M2 works with memory more efficiently than its predecessor.

Conclusions

Entry-level models with two video outs and modern peripheral functionality can be only welcome. ECS AMD690GM-M2 can be used to build a production office PC. And considering minimal heat release of the chipset, it can also be used for an inexpensive media center. Besides, it will also do for a home computer intended for a multi-monitor setup.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Dmitry Laptev (lpt@ixbt.com)
March 29, 2007


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