iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ECS PF5 Extreme – a Motherboard Based on Intel 945P

December 14, 2005

  • Intel 945P chipset (Intel 945P Northbridge and ICH7R Southbridge)

We have already reviewed quite a lot of motherboards on Intel 945P/G/955X chipsets, but none of them was from Elitegroup. And now we have an opportunity to test two i945P-based models from this company. The first model (the one we shall review today) is a top motherboard with maximum functionality. The second one, ECS 945P-A, offers more unassuming functions and is intended for people of moderate means.

Like nearly all top motherboards from ECS, PF5 Extreme is painted lilac and is equipped with an acid light-green cooler for field-effect transistors in the CPU power circuit. In my opinion, such colors do not add "gravity" to the motherboard, so it's hard to take it as a top product. But tastes differ, after all…

So let's see what ECS PF5 Extreme can boast of. Firstly, its support for nearly all existing Intel processors (except for Intel Pentium Extreme Edition (840)). Secondly, additional SATA II controller, FireWire controller with two ports, one of which is already on the rear panel, and two network controllers. Besides, this model is equipped with ALC880 HDA codec, proper for its status. So, quite a standard set of functions for a motherboard of this price segment. What concerns PF5 Extreme, it deserves attention at least because it's the cheapest motherboard among the available models on Intel 945P with similar functionality.

What concerns the PCB layout, it produces a nice impression. We can just note a not very good location of the 4-pin peripheral power connector. It's very close to the main PCIE x16 slot, so it will be hard to plug a cable there, for example for SLI. Access to the only jumper is not hampered, when a motherboard is installed into a PC case. Its brief description is provided on the PCB.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates eleven 1800 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (five 1000 uF capacitors, reinforced with L elements). In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Ost. The motherboard has no empty seats for unsoldered elements. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Winbond W83627THF, according to BIOS Setup)

  • CPU, chipset, battery voltages, +5V, +12V, and StandBy +5V
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor)
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, officially supports all top processors from Intel at the time of the announcement (except Intel Pentium Extreme Edition (820,830,840)): Celeron D (345), Pentium 4 (570 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz))
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-533/667 without ECC; Supports dual channel mode, the total memory capacity in both channels must be the same — for example, 256/256 or 256+256/512)
  • 2 x PCIEx16 (the second slot operates in x1/x8 mode, it's intended for an additional video accelerator to organize SLI or for any other PCIE device)
  • PCIE x1
  • 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, besides you'd better not 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, chipset-based) for two Ultra DMA 100/66 devices
  • 6 x SATA II (Serial ATA II) for 6 SATA300 devices, hard disks connected to four chipset connectors can form RAID 0, 1, 10(0+1), and 5. Hard disks connected to the two additional connectors, based on the Silicon Image controller, can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • Connector for the bracket with an additional FireWire port
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for a bracket with LPT port
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 5 x fan headers (three of them have rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • COM port, S/PDIF-In (Toslink (optical)) and 4-pin FireWire port
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 Analog Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front, Center/Sub, Rear) and Toslink S/PDIF-Out (optical).

Package Contents

  • Package: a box of the standard design and dimensions
  • Documentation: User's Manual in English and a brief description of motherboard features in fifteen languages
  • Cables:
    • 2 x ATA 66/100/133 (black, with company logo)
    • FDD (black, with company logo)
    • 4 x Serial ATA
    • SATA power converter
    • Blue power cable

  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB and 1 x FireWire (6-pin)
  • Rear panel bracket with 1 x SATA port for external hard disks
  • Rear panel bracket with LPT port
  • 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)
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and software.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the HDA codec Realtek ALC880 supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • An additional SATA II RAID controller based on the Silicon Image SiI3132CNU chip, supporting 2 SATA300 devices that can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 2 network controllers: Marvell 88E8053-NNC1 PHY controller for integrated Gigabit Ethernet MAC as well as a separate Realtek RTL8100C chip supporting 10/100 Mbit/sec Base-T (Fast Ethernet)
  • Fire Wire, based on the VIA VT6307 chip, supports 2 x Fire Wire (FireWire-400, IEEE 1394a).

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:
+0.14, -0.16
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
Channel crosstalk, dB:
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:

General performance: Good (Details).


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper (on the main board)  
In BIOS v2.58 from AMI Allows to disable specific CPU functions
Memory timings
by SPD, RAS# to CAS# Delay, RAS# Precharge, RAS Activate to Prec
Memory frequency selection
Auto, 400 MHz, 533 MHz, 667 MHz
Peripheral bus frequency control
PCI IRQ manual assignment
FSB frequency setup
266-500 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
x12, x13
CPU core voltage control
1.2000—1.6000 V at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control
Normal, +0.1—0.45 V at +0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control
Normal, +0.05 V, +0.1 V, +0.15 V

We used BIOS v.08.0.12 dated 12.07.2005, 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.


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)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA, 7200 rpm, 8 MB Cache)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • AC power adapter: FSP Blue Storm 500
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

As I have already mentioned, we have tested a lot of i945P-based motherboards already. The table below contains results of two motherboards from Elitegroup and one of the fastest motherboards on this chipset we have ever tested - MSI 945P Neo.

ECS PF5 Extreme (DDR2 533)
ECS 945P-A (DDR2 533)
MSI 945P Neo Platinum (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
MPEG 4 (XVID) Encoding, min:sec
MPEG 4 (DIVX) Encoding, min:sec
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps

The model under review is obviously a tad slower than its competitors. So the situation can be improved only by the retail price. But even in this case, a rather fast ECS 945P-A will be a serious competitor to the PF5 Extreme motherboard due to its moderate set of functions and thus a low price.


ECS PF5 Extreme is a top motherboard (in functionality), based on a chipset initially intended for budget solutions. But additional controllers did this model no good. The results, demonstrated by PF5 Extreme in our tests, leave much to be desired. Advantages of this model include a HDA codec, SLI support, and good price/functionality ratio.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer

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

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