Though ECS has somewhat abandoned the competition in luxurious motherboards with lots of heatpipes, exclusive features and whatnot, company's motherboards do have their own style. At least you can easily recognize a representative of the mid-end Black Series, even without that heatsink label. It's quite something, because it's harder to make a functional yet simple motherboard recognizable.
Two graphics slots are not uncommon these days. Speaking of motherboards for AMD processors, most mid-end and even some low-end models have those. So, manufacturers now provide three slots, to stand out in that crowd. The first two (dark orange in this case) support x8+x8 CrossFire while the third can be used for a physics accelerator. Or any other PCIe-compatible card for which four PCIe 2.0 lanes are enough.
Another layout feature that ECS uses actively is the Northbridge located right by the CPU VRM. This provides more space for expansion slots (and cards you install into those). Essentially, as much as an ATX motherboard can offer. Build quality also makes a good impression. In particular, the use of solid capacitors even in secondary circuitry, neat coils in molded cases, and even On/Off and Reset buttons to make testing easier.
The set of interfaces is quite interesting. Firstly, there are four video outputs (promoted as "4most Display"): DVI, D-Sub, HDMI and DisplayPort. Of course, you can only use one digital output simultaneously with D-Sub. This is a limitation of the chipset. Secondly, there are two Gigabit LAN ports that can combine bandwidth, if networking equipment permits. Thirdly, there's a convenient Clear CMOS button. On the downside, there is no USB 3.0 controller. If you need it, ECS offers an A890GXM-AU motherboard that comes bundled with a standalone PCIe controller.
As we have already said, the design is peculiar, because the Northbridge is located by the CPU VRM, so the whole layout has a monoblock nature. Though, there are two separate heatsinks connected by a heatpipe. Such a structure can easily be cooled by a box CPU cooler. However, the heatsinks have enough heat capacity to avoid issues in case of moderate cooling. Our testbed cooler provided the minimal auxillary airflow, but the heatsink temperature had never exceeded 32°C.
The CPU VRM has 7 phases, an unusual number. However, considering the coming rollout of hexacore processors, one phase per core plus another one for the memory controller seems natural. Each phase has 2 Low RDS (on) MOSFETs. There are 8 x 820µF and 4 x 270µF capacitors, all solid. Without a doubt, the motherboard can work with CPUs of up to 140W TDP. It can also dynamically disable unused phases, which is indicated by LED lights. In the standby mode, you'll see that two phases (one is always on, powering the memory controller) are enough for any Socket AM3 CPU.
The motherboard features 128MB GDDR3-1600 video buffer (Samsung K4W1G1646E-HC12). It's interesting that they used GDDR3 initially designed for graphics. Usually, motherboards and low-end graphics cards feature regular DDR3 memory. The peak (and default) video buffer clock rate you can set in BIOS is 1333 MHz.
The bundle includes four SATA cables with metallic latches, a black faceplate with a soft antistatic cushion, a complete user's manual, a quick-start guide, and a software disc that finally has an automatic BIOS firmware upgrade utility.
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