This year in March we reviewed a motherboard from ASRock K8Upgrade-760GX. The key feature of this model was its support for AMD processors both for Socket 754 as well as for Socket 939 due to 939 CPU Board connected to a special AGP slot. But the technical progress is never idle, today we shall review a motherboard from ECS, which supports AMD and Intel processors.
Yes! You've got it right! This wonder of modern engineering allows to install processors from both manufacturers. The board was initially equipped with Socket 775, so it supports Intel processors (Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition). The motherboard also contains four DDR2 SDRAM DIMM slots supporting dual channel mode. As you can see, there is nothing interesting so far. But should you take a closer look, you will notice that the board has three PCIE x16 slots. One of them is part of a single large slot called Elite Bus. The second part of this slot is PCIE x1. This combined slot is used to plug (as in case of K8Upgrade-760GX) a special expansion card called ECS SIMA A9S. This card carries Socket 939 to support AMD processors and two memory slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM. It's based on the SiS756 chipset. ECS SIMA A9S is reviewed in a separate article, so let's return to our "extreme hybrid".
It should be noted that the other two PCIE slots are used for their designated purpose: one - when the motherboard works with an Intel processor, the other - when the SIMA A9S card is connected. Jumpers near the Elite BUS slot are used to switch between these modes. The board has two chips with different BIOS versions for AMD and Intel processors.
The new motherboard from ECS can also boast of integrated SATA (Silicon Image Sil3132CNU) and FireWire (VIA VT6307) controllers. AC’97 codec based on Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC850 spoils the impression. It's strange to see so many average marks, especially compared to the results of new HDA codecs.
The PCB has a common layout. PCIE x 16 and Elite BUS slots are placed too close to memory slots, which makes it difficult to handle them. Besides, the 4-pin ATX 12V connector for a processor is too close to an inductance coil. So when you unplug the CPU power cable, you will have to use a screwdriver.
The ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid motherboard gets the iXBT.com editors' Original Design award:
The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates seven 1800 uF capacitors and two 820 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (two 1500 uF capacitors and six 1000 uF ones reinforced with L elements). The board mostly uses electrolytic capacitors from OST and G-Luxon. The motherboard has no empty seats for unsoldered elements. Motherboard dimensions – 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, ten-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).
System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A, according to BIOS Setup)
Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors
Back panel (left to right, blockwise)
Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard (3/4)
General performance: Good (Details). It's a sad result for a modern motherboard (with an HDA codec), but such results are normal for old models with AC'97 audio.
We used BIOS 416, 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.
Preliminary test results
Of course, it's very interesting to test performance of this motherboard with the SIMA expansion card. You will get an answer to this question in the nearest future. As for now, let's clear up the issue with the first speed, so to speak, of the PF88. :)
We have published results of the ASUS P5WD2 Premium for comparison, which demonstrated the highest performance among the reviewed models on modern Intel chipsets. These two motherboards cannot compete for a place in the same computer, they are too different in functionality and destination. It's just convenient to compare the model under review with the fastest motherboard to see the performance level of the new model.
Unfortunately, ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid results are very low. It's steadily outperformed by its competitor by no less than 10% in real applications, sometimes even by 30%! We cannot say which fault it is (motherboard or chipset) without an additional analysis. So we can only ascertain that the choice for the future CPU flexibility results in a considerable loss of calculating capacity of a currently installed processor.
ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid is an unusual and controversial product. On the one hand, we should do justice to ECS engineers, who implemented the fresh idea to support completely different processors. But on the other hand, the reasons to buy this model didn't look too convincing. And considering the low performance of this motherboard in the native mode, we have to cross out from the list of potential buyers those users, who care about the performance of the computer they assemble now. Here is our verdict: an excellent exhibit, a shop window star, a collector's dream, but not a motherboard for real people.
The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer
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