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ECS 865PE-A7 Mainboard
Based on Intel 865PE Chipset
for Socket 775

October 29, 2004



It's a mainboard from the manufacturer, who is famous for its Low End solutions. And this product is obviously not pretending to be "overfeatured": there is only Ethernet adapter added out of all possible functionality expansions. And it's not even a fashionable Gigabit one, but modest 10Base-T/100Base-TX. All the more peculiar that this mainboard inevitably falls into the "gourmet" category, because it's based on a chipset for Socket 478 but equipped with a CPU socket of the latest generation: Socket 775. Honestly, it's rather difficult to picture its potential buyer: on the one hand, it must be a person who wants to buy the latest componentry (otherwise there is no point in S775 mainboard); but on the other hand, rather thrifty or pressed for money (or he/she could be tempted by a better stuffed product).

Explanation of the manufacturer (ECS) on this mainboard positioning: As part of a special program Intel is currently offering 2.8-3.0 GHz LGA775 CPUs at prices approximately 10-15% cheaper than the CPUs of the same frequency for Socket 478. Thus, this mainboard is actually an economy solution for those, who upgrade their systems and who do not want to part with their old AGP video cards.




PCB layout is standard: note the inconvenient location of audio connectors and the density of memory slots.

We are asked sometimes: why do you criticize almost all mainboards for their "memory slots density", this disease pertaining to the majority of state-of-the-art products? Our answer is: it pertains to the majority of products, but not to all of them. Let's clarify this issue by the example of ECS 865PE-A7. So, we have eight (!) slots on a very small area: four memory slots, two PATA/IDE connectors, one FDD connector, and a power connector.

The problem causing this layout is obvious: if we use all 8 connectors this part of the mainboard will look like a wild bush, with cables sticking out every which way just like branches. And it will take accurate and deft skills to get to a connector, for example in order to unplug a cable, or remove a memory module, especially when the mainboard is installed into the PC case. How can you do it any other way?

  • As in AOpen AX4SPE Max: IDE/FDD connectors are located in the bottom left area of the mainboard. However, in this case we create another problem by solving the initial one: "long" PCI cards will be out of place in Slots 2–4.
  • Almost ideal solution is laid out in ABIT IC7-MAX3: two PATA/IDE connectors are placed on the bottom edge of the mainboard (turned downwards). So the density is less, and PCI cards of any length are quite comfortable, because the cables are parallel and sideward of the mainboard instead of perpendicular to its plane.

However, this problem will most likely be solved automatically: PATA/IDE connectors are getting increasingly fewer, they are replaced by more compact SATA. And FDD has not much time to live either.

What concerns audio connectors - many people use an option to play back Audio CD in a digital form, offered in new Windows versions by transferring audio data in digital format right along the IDE cable, so CD/DVD audio connectors are gradually getting outdated...

Access to jumpers may be hampered when the mainboard is in a case, their description is provided on the PCB. +5 V Standby on the mainboard is indicated by a red LED. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates nine 1800 uF capacitors and four 1500 uF capacitors. The PCB also contains voltage regulators for the AGP bus (2x1000 uF) and for memory (2x1000 uF).

The PCB lacks the following elements, which seats are provided by the layout: COM port connectors, WOL, and WOM. Mainboard dimensions – 305x245 mm (full sized ATX, ten-screw mount, all mainboard edges are firmly fixed). The Winbond W83627THF chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU voltage, +1.5, +3.3, +5 and VBAT
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor)
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

We are actually facing a partially reconstructed modification of the 865PE-A mainboard (Revision 2.0) (we reviewed Revision 1.2, but they are not that different), only Socket 478 is replaced by Socket 775. As the proverb runs, Homer sometimes nods, doesn't he? :)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • CPU socket (Socket 775)
  • 4 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (grouped in pairs)
  • 1 x AGP (with a latch)
  • 5 x PCI (32bit, 33MHz)
  • Power supply: standard ATX and 4-pin connector for 12 V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) – in the chipset
  • 2 x SATA (Serial ATA) – in the chipset
  • 2 x USB 2.0 (for additional brackets)
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Headers for a bracket with Audio-Outs and S/PDIF
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • AUX-OUT connector
  • 3 fan headers (with rpm control)

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • LPT, 1 x COM-port
  • 2 x USB
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (10/100 Ethernet)
  • 3 x Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front)




Package Contents

  • Standard design box
  • Documentation:
    • User's manual in English
    • Short user's guide (in 9 languages including Russian)

  • Cables:
    • 1 x ATA66/100/133 (one of them is in purple cambric)
    • 1 x FDD
    • 1 x SerialATA (with a SATA power converter)

  • Rear I/O shield
  • 2 CDs with software:
    • mainboard drivers
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • PC-Cillin 2004
    • ProMagic Plus
    • MediaRing Dialer
    • ShowShifter
    • Wasay DPU

More than a modest bundle just emphasizes the low end character of this solution. Frankly speaking, even the cables are not enough to assemble a more or less serious system. Manufacturer saves on everything...

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the AC’97 codec Realtek ALC655 supporting 5.1 surround audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF jacks
  • LAN, based on the Realtek RTL8100C chip (10/100 Ethernet)

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.1 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

General results

FR passband ripple (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.19, -0.21
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-84.9
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
84.8
Good
THD, %:
0.0057
Very good
Intermodulation distortions, %:
0.017
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-84.4
Very good

General performance: Very good (details).

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper
LAN controller ON/OFF jumper
BIOS write protection ON/OFF jumper
In BIOS based on Phoenix-Award 6.00PG Memory timings+ CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Act. To Precharge Delay
Memory frequency selection+ Auto, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
AGP bus setup - 
PCI bus setup -  
PCI frequency divider setup + AGP (PCIx2)=66, Disabled
PCI IRQ manual assignment + 
FSB frequency setup+ 200-510 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier+ x8-x50
CPU core voltage control -  
Memory voltage control -  
Chipset voltage control - 
AGP voltage control -  

We used BIOS 1.0, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests.

Preliminary test results

  ECS 865PE-A7 Soltek 865Pro-775
Adobe Photoshop 7.0, script execution 00:12:54 00:12:36
DivX 5.1 Pro encoding 00:07:16 00:07:16
7-zip archiving 00:07:40 00:07:32

References






Stanislav Garmatiuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
October 19, 2004



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