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ECS SIMA A9S an Expansion Card for the ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid Motherboard

August 3, 2005



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

In March, 2005 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.

We have already reviewed the ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid motherboard, it's high time to examine ECS SIMA A9S. This very expansion card and the PF88 motherboard form the "extreme hybrid". The main task of the A9S is to support AMD processors, that's why it contains nothing but Socket 939, memory slots (2 x DDR SDRAM DIMM) and 4-pin ATX for a processor. The motherboard also contains the SiS 756 core logic (northbridge), operating with SiS956 southbridge on the ECS PF88. It's quite enough to provide cooperation between the A9S and the PF88 Extreme Hybrid. The ECS A9S is connected to Elite BUS slot on the main board. Jumpers near the above mentioned slot are used to switch between Intel and AMD processors.






We had no gripes with the ECS A9S layout. But when the card is installed into a PC case, there appear two problems. Both these problems have to do with large dimensions of the card. Firstly, such a large expansion card cannot possibly have a good effect on the air circulation inside a PC case, which in its turn has a negative effect on temperature conditions. Secondly, when installed into a PC case, the ECS A9S hampers your manipulations with memory modules near the Elite BUS slot. Besides, it should be noted that not all coolers can be installed on this card. It has to do with the CPU socket placed close to the surface of the main board. If you install a wide cooler, it will not allow to install the A9S into the corresponding slot.

The ECS A9S gets the iXBT.com editors' Original Design award:

The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two 3300 uF capacitors and seven 1500 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (two 3300 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 PF 88 motherboard. The same applies to CMOS.

System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A):

  • CPU, memory, and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5.0 V and +12 V
  • 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 939, for AMD Athlon 64/64 FX )
  • 2 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 1 GB DDR-200/266/333/400; supports dual channel mode)
  • Power connectors: 4-pin ATX12V for a processor
  • Header for a CPU fan (with rpm control).

Package Contents




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

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

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In Award BIOS v6.00PG Memory timings
+
CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay
Memory frequency selection
-
 
PCIE bus frequency control
-
 
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
 
FSB frequency setup
+
800- 2000 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
-
 
CPU voltage control
-
 
Memory voltage control
-
 
Chipset voltage control
-
 
FSB voltage control
-
 
PCIE bus voltage control
-
 

We used BIOS 415, 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.

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU:
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.46 Extreme Edition (Socket LGA775)
    • AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (Socket 939)

  • Motherboard:
    • ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid
    • ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid + ECS SIMA A9S

  • Memory:
    • Corsair CM2X512A-4300C3PRO x2 (DDR2 533, 3-3-3-8)
    • 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
  • PSU: FSP Blue Storm 500
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

The tables below contain the results, demonstrated by the motherboard under review with Intel and AMD processors. We also compare the ECS PF88 results with "typical" representatives of top motherboards with corresponding processors.

Test
ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid (DDR2 533)
ASUS P5WD2 PREMIUM (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
9:14
7:07
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:45
5:14
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec
4:28
3:52
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
35:08
32:16
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
56
73
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps
53
68

Figures speak for themselves. ECS PF88 certainly supports Intel processors, but expediency of this motherboard specially for Socket 775 processors is doubtful. They are not cheap and their performance is not impressive.

Test
ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid + ECS SIMA A9S (DDR 400)
Gigabyte K8NS Ultra-939 (DDR 400)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
7:38
7:46
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:04
5:16
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec
3:48
3:51
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
32:18
33:34
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
86
84
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps
81
79

But the situation with AMD processors is exactly the opposite. ECS SIMA A9S together with the motherboard under review demonstrates decent results. Under equal conditions it outperforms the recently reviewed Gigabyte motherboard with Socket 939 in all respects.

 

Conclusion:

ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid is quite an unusual and controversial product. On the one hand, we should do justice to ECS engineers, who implemented the idea to support completely different processors. But on the other hand, it's hard to think of reasons to buy this motherboard, because of its low results with Intel processors. It's certainly an extreme hybrid, but the ECS PF88 will hardly become a bestseller. Intel fans will most likely focus on other models (for obvious reasons), while AMD zealots will hardly agree to cram PC cases with the large ECS SIMA A9S expansion card.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
Updated on August 19, 2005


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