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ECS P55H-A Motherboard

An unremarkable model of the once top-class Black Series.

June 10, 2010



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Speaking of system monitoring, the BIOS lets you track CPU temperature (as a negative offset obtained directly from the CPU sensor at that), system temperature and 4 voltages. You can also monitor two fans, and there are flexible automatic control settings for the CPU fan. Overclocking features are standard (minimal) as expected, with voltage increments of 0.01 V and such. Of course, this is more than enough for real life, but it's "not cool." One serious drawback is that ECS P55H-A can't manage excessive overclocking. Too agressive timings will force the machine into an endless loop of turn on/hang/turn on/hang. Not quite the overclocker's dream.



The bundle is minimal, including two SATA cables, a back panel faceplate, and a brief assembly guide. The latter doesn't contain any information on what memory sockets to use first, not to mention the POST code legend. A waste of nice paper, really. Trifles like these kind of mar the impression of this motherboard. Of course, it would be stupid to expect a top-class product for such a low price. But there are other companies, like Biostar, for example, that also make inexpensive motherboards with minimal features that actually work and can be recommended. While ECS P55H-A, the top model of its series, annoys with its minor drawbacks. However, we believe that in some cases bundles are better and even include user's guides.

Features



ECS P55H-A is based on the Intel P55 chipset (P55 PCH). Additional controllers include:

  • Integrated audio based on 7.1+2-channel Realtek ALC888S HDA codec (a mid-end solution in terms of analog audio output), features an optical S/PDIF-Out (Toslink) on the back panel and an S/PDIF-Out connector on the PCB;
  • Gigabit Ethernet based on Realtek RTL8111DL (PCIe x1);
  • IDE/SATA 3Gbps based on JMicron JMB361 (PCIe x1), supports two IDE (PATA) drives and one SATA 3Gbps port (a eSATA port on the back panel).

We tested the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz and 16-bit/48kHz modes using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and a Terratec DMX 6fire sound card. The digital S/PDIF Out on the PCB supports both 44.1kHz and 48kHz sampling frequencies. This is basically it about the audio part, because the codec and drivers don't support technologies like Dolby/DTS.


Test 16-bit/44kHz 16-bit/48kHz
Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.01, -0.06 +0.02, -0.05
Noise level, dB(A) -92.2 -92.3
Dynamic range, dB(A) 92.2 92.4
THD, % 0.0042 0.0044
THD + noise, dB(A) -82.4 -82.3
IMD + noise, % 0.0083 0.0082
Channel crosstalk, dB -90.6 -91.5
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0.0083 0.0080
Overall grade Very Good Very Good

ECS used the inexpensive JMicron JMB361 controller again. It would've been okay, if it wasn't for IDE support. This is actually the primary feature of this peripheral controller. Having sacrificed IDE, they could place one of the chipset ports onto the back panel and it would've been cheaper and more convenient. Unfortunately, JMB361 has a rather unpleasant drawback. In modes managed by BIOS, drives connected to an IDE port will work in the PIO mode. Installing an OS from a DVD to a hard drive, you will have to wait for half an hour until the hundreds of small files are copied to the hard drive. You will only be able to set the correct mode for the ODD from Windows.

Conclusions

This model will hardly become a motherboard of choice for many people. The advantages only include stylish heatsinks and POST code indication. The number of drawbacks is higher.

Sadly, motherboard's retail price doesn't impress as well. This isn't the cheapest Intel P55-based model, and many similar products we have already examined were better. Of course, ECS has cheaper motherboards, but those don't have many advantages either. Frankly speaking, we can't recommend company's current Socket 1156 series -- in terms of both features and proprietary peculiarities. ECS P55H-A works, has a couple of useful features, but doesn't stand out among counterparts.


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