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ECS KV2 Extreme – a Motherboard Based on VIA K8T800 Pro (Socket 939)

May 24, 2005



The KV2 Extreme is another high end motherboard from Elitegroup, which was in fact the first in the Extreme series of ECS motherboards for the latest AMD Athlon 64/64 FX processors (another tested one is KN1 Extreme). On the whole, the new model is a simplified version of its senior brother KN1. That's because the KN1 Extreme was based on one of the most functional chipsets on the market, namely NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra. This model uses a simpler chipset from VIA. But it has a positive effect on the price of this product.

The excessively bright (traditional for the Extreme series) design and a lot of multi-colored LEDs are a tad irritating, they give this motherboard a frivolous air. Considering that all Extreme motherboards from this manufacturer are high end models, it's not clear why Elitegroup loves glaring colors so much. Hardly many customers will like those colors in a top end product.




The PCB layout leaves a nice impression. But FDD, IDE connectors and two SATA connectors in the bottom left corner may limit the usage of the last PCI slot. Voltage at memory slots is indicated by an orange LED. Besides, when an AGP 8x video card is installed into the motherboard, a blue LED lights up; in case of an AGP 4x card, the LED is yellow. Expansion cards in PCI slots are indicated by blue LEDs. Access to the jumpers is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There are brief descriptions of jumper functions on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates nine 3300uF capacitors. The PCB also contains voltage regulators for the AGP bus (7x1000 uF) and for memory (6x1000 uF). Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed). System monitoring is performed by the ITE IT8705F chip.

System monitoring (ITE IT8705F):

  • CPU and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V and +12 V
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor)
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • CPU socket (Socket 939, for AMD Athlon 64/64 FX)
  • 4 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (DDR 200/266/333/400, up to 4GB differ by color, grouped by two)
  • AGP 4x/8x (with a latch)
  • 5 x PCI
  • Power connectors: Standard ATX (20-pin) and a 4-pin connector for 12 V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA)
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) — two of them are in the chipset (VIA VT 8237 south bridge), the other two are based on an additional controller (SiS 180)
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 2 connectors for a bracket with additional FireWire ports (IEEE 1394a)
  • Connector for SMBus devices
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 3 x fan connectors (two of them are with RPM control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 2 x S/PDIF-Out (Toslink and Coaxial)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (10/100/1000 Mbit/s Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (10/100 Mbit/s Fast Ethernet)
  • 3 x Audio (Line-in, Line-out, MIC-in)

Package Contents




  
  • Package: a large box with detailed information about the motherboard on the back
  • Documentation: motherboard user's guide in English
  • Cables:
    • 2 x ATA66/100/133 and an FDD cable in black cambric, which improves the air flow in the PC case; the cable connectors are equipped with pull straps to make it easier to unplug them





    • 4 x Serial ATA (with a power adapter splitter for two SATA devices)
    • 1 x network (UTP), 2 meters long

  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB and 2 x FireWire (6-pin + 4-pin)





  • 3.5-inch bay faceplate for USB and FireWire instead of the rear panel bracket (the block of connectors can be attached to any of these modules with three screws)





  • TopHat Flash chip to recover bad BIOS
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with software:
    • Motherboard drivers
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • Award Flash Memory and WinFlash Utility (utilities to flash BIOS under DOS/Windows)
    • I'm InTouch (remote control)
    • MediaRing Talk (to use a voice modem for telephony)
    • WinCinema WinDVD Creator Plus (to capture and edit video, and prepare it for DVD recording)
    • WinCinema WinDVD (powerful player for DVD and some other multimedia files)
    • WinCinema WinRIP (to record, store, and organize MP3 collections)
    • Pro Magic Plus (to create images of drives and restore them)
    • DPU (Data Process Utility - to control access to selected files and protect them from modifications and deletion)
    • ShowShifter (multimedia player, which can work with your TV tuner)

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on AC'97 Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC655 codec supporting 5.1 surround audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out (Coaxial and Toslink) jacks
  • ATA133/SATA RAID based on the SiS180 chip supporting RAID 0, 1 and 0+1, 2 with SATA connectors and one ATA133 connector
  • FireWire controller, based on the VIA VT6307 chip (supports two IEEE1394a connectors)
  • Two LAN controllers, one of them is based on the Marvell 88E8001 chip (supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/s, Gigabit Ethernet), another is a chipset MAC + VIA VT6103L PHY (supporting 10/100 Mbit/s, Fast Ethernet)

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.4 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.30, -0.25
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-83.7
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
83.4
Good
THD, %:
0.047
Good
Intermodulation distortion, %:
0.080
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-79.8
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.176
Average

General performance: Good (Details). Good results, quite sufficient for a regular home PC. And S/PDIF outs allow to use this motherboard for more serious purposes. But these days competing solutions offer integrated 7.1 High Definition Audio (supporting 24-bit output, etc) so it's not a top solution even in its class.

Proprietary technologies

  • Q-Boot — calls a menu to select a boot device without changing this parameter in BIOS Setup
  • Pro Magic 6.0 — restores critical data
  • AGP A.I. — automatically detects AGP 4X/8X mode
  • Dr. LED — a chain of LEDs near PCI slots lighting one by one. According to ECS, it indicates serviceable PCI slots, but in fact it's just an annoying (because Dr. LED cannot be disabled) illumination.

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG Memory timings
CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Min. RAS Active Time, Row Precharge Delay, DRAM 1T Timing, Turbo Performance
Memory frequency selection
Auto, DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
AGP bus frequency control
66 or 75.4 MHz
HT bus setup
Frequency (200/400/600/800/1000 MHz) and bandwidth (8/16 bit of each direction)
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
FSB frequency control
200—511 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
from x4, by 0.5x steps
CPU voltage control
Normal, 0.825—1.550 V at 0.025 V steps
Memory voltage control
2.55-2.70 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control
-
HT bus voltage control
-
AGP voltage control
1.45 V, 1.51 V, 1.53 V, 1.60 V

We used BIOS 1.2B, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. Cool'n'Quiet feature is supported for AMD CPUs.

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+
  • RAM: 2x Corsair XMS3200 CMX512-3200XL (DDR400, 2-2-2-5))
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA), 7200 RPM
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

According to the test results, the ECS KV2 Extreme takes the first place among the reviewed motherboards with Socket 939. This is no surprise cause results are very close, and every new mobo may become a king of the hill by one dime. We had no problems during our tests, so taking into account low price of the KV2 Extreme it's very attractive for users, who are pressed for money.

Test
ECS KV2 Extreme (VIA K8T800 Pro)
Albatron K8X890 Pro II (VIA K8T890)
ECS KN1 Extreme (NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra)
Memory read speed, MB/sec
4369
4368
4380
Memory write speed, MB/sec
2613
2305
2237
Memory read latency, ns
31.5
31.6
31.5
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
7:31
7:39
7:36
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:05
5:07
5:06

ECS KV2 Extreme is a worthy product at an adequate cost. It may upset only the group of Elitegroup fans, who are used to lower prices. But you should keep in mind that for your money you will get a good motherboard, supporting most modern technologies. I'd like to note the good quality of integrated audio and a full, well thought-out bundle.



This model specs on ECS web site






Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
April, 2005.

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