Now it's down to the board itself. The box gave us the notion this was going to be a Micro-ATX board, and that is what we got. ECS has gone with its typical purple PCB design. The board has a reasonable layout design, with only a few issues that stand out. The 24-pin power connector along with the FDD port is located behind the four memory slots, whilst the four SATA ports line the right side of the board. The 4-pin power connector is one of the few flaws we found. Placed between the Northbridge heatsink and the rear I/O ports means you have to route the 4-pin cable around the CPU.
The CPU layout is extremely clean and tidy. There are no high rise capacitors to block the install of any aftermarket heatsinks that hang over the CPU area. The CPU is given power though a 3 phase voltage regulation system. Since this board is meant to run primarily with Core architecture CPU's, 3 phases are fine for CPUs that aren't overclocked. With Conroe-L on its way, this board will be a definite go for them.
The rear I/O ports are pretty bare. The setup is pretty standard; there is a single CRT port for the onboard graphics system, which is another one of the little gripes. If ECS only wanted to have a single graphics port on the board, we would have preferred to see a DVI port, as DVI to CRT converters are now common place. Intel's GMA3100 also now supports HDMI, which we would also like to have seen put on the board, but being budget oriented, we can't expect everything.
Lastly we focus on the expansion slots. If you aren't content to use the onboard graphics, a single PCI Express x16 slot is included for a discrete graphics solution. A single PCI Express x1 slot along with two PCI slots also reside on the board. Since Intel no longer offers any integrated LAN controllers on its ICH series of chipsets, a Realtek PCI Express Ethernet controller is added to a spare PCI Express x1 channel.
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