iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ECS A780GM-A Ultra Motherboard

The SB750 Southbridge and a powerful stabilizer.

January 28, 2009

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ECS was one of the first companies to roll out a motherboard with the AMD 780G chipset (A780GM-A) and start shipments, which speaks of its healthy ambitions and initiative. Even though this motherboard belongs to Black Series, it differs from poor-bundled models with this chipset only in additional expansion slots owing to its full ATX form factor. However, its initial price is also very low.

Examining motherboards from Gigabyte and ASUS, we have often found that the 780G chipset itself can be used in seriously-rigged products. It will suit not only a Low-End computer, but also at least a Mid-End PC and a richly-rigged media center.

It goes without saying that ECS decided to update its model line with this chipset as well, especially as the Socket AM2+ platform will apparently be popular among thrifty users long after the rollout of processors for Socket AM3 -- these processors will be backward compatible, and DDR2 memory is still much cheaper than DDR3. However, ECS did not choose to copy any of the rivals' ways to reinforce functionality, The company updated the Southbridge to add RAID 5 support and Advanced Clock Calibration. To reassure users of powerful processors with unlocked multipliers, which benefit from ACC, engineers significantly reinforced the voltage regulator as well. According to the company, it can now support processors with TDP up to 160 W. By the way, ECS designed a close competitor for its own model A790GXM-A with 790GX, which differs from this product only in CrossFire support and apparently higher performance of the integrated graphics core.


On the surface of it, there are almost no differences from the layout of A780GM-A. But a closer examination reveals more details. SATA ports are arranged in a more convenient way. There are six of them now (and eSATA is implemented with an additional controller), they will all be accessible regardless of dimensions of your graphics card. Power and reset buttons are added for convenience of testers and users, who often open enclosures. Two 3-pin connectors are added to the previously installed 4-pin ones. They do not support automatic fan speed control, and for some reason they are grouped around the processor socket, even though it would have been better to scatter them across the PCB to make it more convenient to plug case fans. The voltage regulator takes up more room, and for this very reason the processor socket and memory slots pushed the floppy connector from its old place. It had to be moved down, which is less convenient, but still acceptable for the minimal relevance of these drives.

The cooling system of the board now contains a heatsink on MOSFETs. And the invariable flat heatsink on the Northbridge copes with its task very well. Although BIOS now has an option to increase the frequency of the integrated graphics core, you will hardly want to do it with the 780G chipset these days (to be more exact, to buy this motherboard with an intention to overclock its integrated GPU). If you need high performance of the integrated graphics, you may want to pay attention to motherboards with 790GX. In this case, graphics performance will initially exceed the barely attainable for the 780G level. And considering that 790GX also overclocks well, this bar can be raised even higher.

This board is equipped with a 5-phase voltage regulator (four phases are used for cores and one phase is dedicated to the integrated Northbridge). It integrates four MOSFETs per phase (10 x K3918 and 10 x K3919), 10 x 820uF and 5 x 270uF solid-state capacitors. It's an imposing design for a Mid-End motherboard, although it cannot compare with what used in top models. In other words, support for processors with TDP=140W is practically assured. Nevertheless, output voltage stability is even more important for overclocking than high current capacity. So circuits assembled with more expensive components (for example, Low RDS (on) MOSFETs) look preferable here.


ECS does not save on SATA cables, having bundled five of them with convenient metal latches. However, the company forgot about an HDMI-DVI adapter again, so you will have to buy it on your own (any standard adapter will do). The disc includes only drivers (that's a tradition for ECS). There are still no BIOS update utilities (however, BIOS archives contain everything necessary to flash BIOS in Windows).

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