iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ECS SIMA A4S Another Expansion Card for ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid Motherboard

  • SiS756 chipset (SiS756 northbridge and SiS965 southbridge (ECS PF88 motherboard))

Not long ago (this year in August) our test lab reviewed quite an interesting product from ECS. It was ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid motherboard supplemented with a special expansion card ECS SIMA A9S, which allowed to install AMD Socket 939 processors on PF88. It was the first expansion card from the SIMA series at that time. And now we have an opportunity to test two more cards from this series: ECS SIMA A4S and ECS SIMA I9S. Today's article is devoted to the former.

In fact everything written about the ECS SIMA A9S also applies to the card under review. A4S is installed into Elite BUS slot (PCIE x16 + PCIE x1). It's intended to expand PF88 Extreme Hybrid features, namely, to install Socket 754 processors. Appropriate to its mission, the ECS SIMA A4S is equipped with the above mentioned CPU socket, two memory slots (operating in a single-channel mode) and 4-pin ATX12V connector to power up a processor. It goes without saying that there are no integrated controllers (they are not necessary here). Everything necessary is located on the main board. Like in A9S, SiS756 northbridge is at the back of the card, but it has got a cooler instead of the heatsink. That's all the difference between the A9S and the A4S.

What concerns the PCB layout, all the shortcomings, found in the ECS A9S, migrated to the A4S. So we shall skip them. You may read the previous article to learn the details.

The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates five 1800 uF capacitors and three 1500 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (two 1500 uF capacitors and four 1000 uF ones). The board mostly uses electrolytic capacitors from OST and G-Luxon. The motherboard has no empty seats for unsoldered elements. Card dimensions — 240x135 mm (attached to the rear panel with two screws). System is monitored by a chip located on the ECS PF88 motherboard. The same applies to CMOS.

System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A, according to BIOS Setup):

  • CPU, chipset, and battery voltage, +3.3V, +5.0V, +12V and StandBy 3.3V
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor)
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • CPU socket (Socket 754, for AMD Sempron and Athlon 64)
  • 2 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 2 GB DDR-200/266/333/400)
  • Power connectors: 4-pin ATX12V for a processor
  • 2 x fan headers (two of them are with RPM control).

Package Contents

    Here is a view of the card (3/4)

  • Package: a small SIMA-series box with a card
  • Documentation: a poster with brief instructions on how to install and configure the motherboard in English


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper (on the main board)  
In Award BIOS v6.00PG Allows to disable specific CPU functions
Memory timings
Auto, CAS# latency (Tcl), Min RAS# active time (Tras), RAS# to CAS# Delay (Trcd), Row precharge time (Trp), Row to Row delay (Trrd), Row cycle time (Trc), Row refresh cyc time (Trfc)
Memory frequency selection
100 MHz, 133 MHz, 166 MHz, 200 MHz
HT bus setup
200 MHz, 800 MHz
Peripheral bus frequency control
PCI IRQ manual assignment
FSB frequency setup
200-255 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
CPU core voltage control
Memory voltage control

We used BIOS v.1.0 dated 25.08.2005, 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: AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (Socket 754)
  • Motherboard: ECS PF 88 Extreme Hybrid + ECS SIMA A4S
  • Memory: Corsair CMX512RE-3200LL x2 (DDR 400, 2-2-2-5)
  • 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

The table below contains the results of our motherboard under review and the fastest model among three motherboards with Socket 754 (tested with our new methods) Albatron Ultra-U Pro.

ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid + ECS SIMA A4S (DDR 400)
Albatron Ultra-U Pro (DDR 400)
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

As we all remember, ECS SIMA A9S demonstrated quite decent results compared to other motherboards with Socket 939. The A4S failed to reach the same results in its class. It's slightly slower than the Ultra-U Pro. In this respect, our A9S conclusions (see the previous article) are not just applicable to this very card, but are even more relevant.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer

Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
November 21, 2005.

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