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PF4 Extreme is not the first high-end model made by ECS, and we can see some familiar features in it: a flashy look (bright-coloured connectors, blue blinking LEDs) and a perfect funtionality. While the latter lives up to the expectations of whose ready to buy such cards, a kindergarten look of this expensive product will definitely not appeal to all customers. We carried out our tests on a preserial board.
Despite its rich functionality, the board's layout produces an exceedingly favourable impression. PCIEx1 slots occupy far less space than conventional PCIs and always problematic audio inputs have been moved from the back wall to the lower edge. The only disadvantage of the layout is that an inserted graphic card will block the DIMMs in their connectors. Access to the only jumper won't be hampered even when the board is installed into the case (the jumper's functionality is not described on the PCB). The DIMM connector voltage is indicated by an orange LED, a blue one switches on when the PCIEx16 card is installed and a yellow one when it is absent. The presence of extension cards in PCI and PCIEx1 slots is indicated by off LEDs while their absence is accompanied by the LEDs blinking. The four-channel CPU voltage regulator has 14 x 1800µF capacitators. The PCIEx16 bus and the memory have their voltage regulators too. The former includes 4 x 1000µF capacitors and is enhanced with inductive elements. The latter incorporates 6 x 1000µF capacitators and has inductive elements as well. Curious shapes of heatsinks look funny while the original solution to place the fan with a flare in the back panel (to cool regualtor chains) is not at all so much fun in terms of acoustics.
When we tested the card, it hadn't been officially announced. But no doubts, it will remain unique in ECS's production line and the company will not make new variants based on this PCB. It is confirmed by the fact that the board has no laid out but unsoldered elements. The board measures 305õ245 mm (full-size ATX, nine-screw mount, firm fixation). A Winbond W83627THF chip is used to control:
This number of back panel connectors may seem unusual, but it will become habitual as board supporting High Definition Audio are expanding.
The ECS high-end board appeals much to us, and a number of original solutions (especially in what concerns the package) indicate the company's creative approach.
The integrated audio quality was tested in 16 bits, 44 kHz, using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.2 test program and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:
|Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:||+0.19, -0.68||Good|
|Noise level, dB (A):||-90.5||Very good|
|Dynamic range, dB (A):||90.3||Very good|
|Stereo crosstalk, dB:||-92.3||Excellent|
Total: Very good (details).
|Jumpers and switches||Clear CMOS jumper|
|BIOS, AwardBIOS 6.00PG version by Phoenix||Memory timings||+||CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Precharge Time|
|Memory frequency selection||+||Auto, DDR2-400, DDR2-533 (at FSB = 800 MHz)|
|PCI Express bus setup||+|
|PCI bus setup||-|
|PCI frequency divider setup||+||Sync, Async|
|PCI IRQ manual assignment||+|
|FSB frequency setup||+||200510 MHz at 1MHz increments|
|CPU core voltage control||+||Auto, 1.1251.585 V at 0.025V increments|
|Memory voltage control||+||1.8, 1.9, 2.0, 2.1, 2.13, 2.18, 2.2 V|
|Chipset voltage control||-|
|AGP bus voltage control||+||Auto, 1.51.675 V at 0.025V increments|
We used BIOS 1.0Pb, the latest available version for the moment of testing. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in the version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. Nor do we know what the AGP bus voltage control setting is really responsble for.
We have only tested one i915P-based board, so we have no information on whether its performance it typical of this chipset-based representatives.
Dmitry Mayorov (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
29.06.2004[an error occurred while processing this directive]