The Black series from ECS includes Mid-End models with various options for hard-driving users, and it all started with the ECS A780GM-A based on the AMD 780G chipset. It must be noted that the motherboard itself was equipped quite modestly, but ECS showed model ardor in promoting it. Suffice to say that the motherboard appeared in stores a couple of days prior to its announcement. Plus an attractive price and even some advertising.
Quite a lot of models have been launched in this series since that time, and their functionality is getting increasingly interesting. But what concerns commercial activity, the situation is contrary: ambitions evaporated during the world crisis. As a result, ECS is noticeably losing its retail positions and its market share to large competitors. However, it should make no difference to users whether the company is doing great or not, it's technical features that should interest them in the first place, right? Not quite. For example, competitors update BIOS versions almost on a weekly basis. In this case we don't see such responsiveness, even though there are some bugs to fix. But let's be consistent.
This motherboard has an excellent layout, there aren't even minor flaws. Nice features, which should keep up the status of a motherboard for hard-driving, but thrifty users, include side blocks in SATA connectors, POST indicator, and buttons to power, reset, and clear CMOS. We were happy to see two eSATA ports on the rear panel based on the additional controller, not even on the chipset ports. Engineers even installed FireWire. So we have a sufficient set of bells and whistles, especially for a practical microATX motherboard. The only questionable solution here is the lack of PS/2 ports. Most users don't need them, of course, but if you don't want to part with your old keyboard or KVM switch, you should keep it in mind.
Low large heatsinks on the Northbridge and MOSFETs in the voltage regulator have become a brand feature of ECS motherboards from this series. It's a good find not only from the point of view of visual identity, but also as capacity to accommodate any CPU coolers, whatever heatsink configurations they have. By the way, a heatsink on the Southbridge of this motherboard is not for decoration only, as it features developed finning. That's playing on the safe side, of course: this chip does not need intensive heat dissipation. But if you check the temperature of on-board heatsinks with a finger, you will feel definitely better.
Engineers decided to do without a video buffer for the integrated graphics core, which is a justified solution. There are a lot of buffered motherboards on the market even with this chipset, so it's not the way to distinguish a product. What concerns practical benefits, they are relatively low with 780G/785G chipsets, and more justified for 790GX, which was demonstrated by our tests. Especially now with DDR3 memory.
Speaking of memory, it must be noted that a dual-channel kit must be installed into Slots 3 and 4, and a single module should be installed into Slot 3. Otherwise, you will have problems with stability (blue screen of death at Windows startup, etc). We have an impression that compatibility of this motherboard with memory leaves much to be desired. We had to raise voltage even for our universal kit from Apacer, which have been used in dozens of configurations.
Voltage regulator uses four phases. There are four MOSFETs in each phase. The power circuit also incorporates eight 820 uF and four 270 uF solid-state capacitors. That's a classic circuit design without excesses. Support for processors with TDP of 140W is provided solely owing to modern high-quality components and the heatsink on MOSFETs. However, this motherboards will not overclock as well as other models with more phases.
This motherboard comes with a good bundle that includes four SATA cables with convenient metal latches, an IDE cable, a full manual and a brief install guide in several languages. The bundled CD includes only necessary drivers, BIOS flash utility is integrated into images downloaded from the official web site.
As Linux-based shells are becoming popular now, ECS motherboards also feature this function, called eJiffy. This implementation looks convenient for Internet access (web surfing, even video playback). This shell is installed on a hard drive from the bundled CD, so it can startup only after the POST procedure and does not load as fast as flashed shells (it takes about 10-15 seconds). However, hardware solutions raise manufacturing costs and presently exist only in expensive models from ASUS. It certainly won't be justified here.
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