Features of the ECS L4S8A
Package and Contents
ECS have the most plain motherboard packaging we have ever seen. This same box design is used over and over again. So, determining which board is which from the outside is a little hard without the labelling stickers that it comes with. When you open the box though, you are confronted with more than the previous two boards provided.
Inside you get your user manual, Driver CD, IDE and FDD cables, Serial ATA cable, USB bracket and your motherboard. The inclusion of all this leads us to believe we have been given more than the previous efforts.
The layout of the ECS L4S8A is what we would have expected for a budget board. 1/5/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) slots are allocated for all your expansion needs. What surprised us was the large space between the AGP and the PCI slots. On closer investigation we noticed that it was perfect space for installing the Abit OTES card and still use the first PCI slot. ECS placed the BIOS chip inside this gap to give it a less barren look to the board.
Placement of the power connectors was very poor; some better R&D could have gone into this part. Located next to the chipset Northbridge, just below the CPU socket are both the 20pin ATX and 4pin 12VAux connectors. This means both sets of cables have to drape across the CPU, cutting vital air flow to the HSF.
Another gripe was the placement of the FDD connector. Located near the bottom of the board, this means you have to have the FDD cable drape across the intake fan for the case cooling, and worst of all, if you happen to have a HX08 full tower case, your cable won't reach the FDD drive from here, as we found.
Chipset - Cooled to the max
For budget, this board is cooled like it's an overclocker. On the Northbridge you have a large passive cooling unit. Since the SiS 648 doesn't require active cooling, some dollars were saved on the addition of power headers and the fan itself. On the Southbridge, you have a smaller passive cooler. This is designed to keep the system cool when all the peripherals are in full operation. While the 963 Southbridge doesn't get very hot, it's a nice approach.
Budget Ethernet - Realtek to the rescue
While being based toward budget onboard solutions, the Realtek RTL8100B chip has proven to give exceptional Ethernet quality for motherboards who want to replace the onboard software network solutions. ECS have added this chip to its motherboard for base level Ethernet and broadband internet access.
Serial ATA - Budget?
This is defiantly something I would never have expected for a budget solution. We barely see any extra ATA controllers onboard, but Serial ATA?
The Silicone Image Serial ATA chip is used to give two Serial ATA ports for your use. This chip also allows either simple ATA mode (as in a second HDD controller) or a RAID device (for RAID 0 or 1 operations). In all this is a great effort from ECS, so far.
As I said before, this board looked like it could overclock, and I was right.
ECS have given some pretty basic yet very well added overclocking options. Under the Frequency/Voltage Control menu you have access to FSB adjustments from 100Mhz up to 200Mhz in 1MHz increments. CPU voltage adjustments are also possible from 1.5v up to 1.85v in 0.025v increments, excellent for budget. DIMM voltage adjustments also available form 2.5v up to 2.8v, this keeps the DRAM in the safe limits for DDR SDRAM voltages. Memory frequency dividers are also available for setting your memory to just about any speed depending on your FSB. Now you can choose the fastest you want your ram to run while being able to adjust your FSB frequency.