Intel's Budget Chipset Evolves - ECS G33

We check out the ECS G33T-M2 (V1.0) motherboard based on Intel's GMA3100 graphics core and see if it is any good.
| Jul 1, 2007 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 80%Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

IntroductionIntel has been very busy over the last two years, first off trying to do some major damage control over its Netburst architecture. From the very beginning critisism was rather high due to the 1.4GHz Pentium 4 processor being slower in just about all benchmarks compared to AMD's Athlon range. Even worse, the pre-gen Pentium 3 1GHz processor was able to blow the Pentium 4 away in gaming situations, only leaving media applications as the strong point for the Netburst architecture. Despite this, Intel kept on going with the Netburst design. Northwood was simply the best of the bad processor line. Overclocking improved, cache sizes increased and bus speeds also jumped up. Soon after, we started to see the introduction of Dual Channel DDR memory, allowing the Pentium 4 processor to get a huge memory bandwidth boost.Dual Core and 64-bit architecture eventually came to Netburst. While Intel was first to bring Dual Core, it was well behind AMD in terms of its 64-bit architecture adoption. Despite all the problems Intel kept on the Netburst bandwagon, not only was the performance of Netburst brought into question compared to the AMD Athlon 64 processor, but the amount of energy used and wasted on Netburst also came up. With these CPUs drawing up to 130 watts of energy on the core alone (compared to around 70 watts AMD's chips were on the same 90nm process), Intel had to finally admit that Netburst was simply not going to cut it.Core Architecture was finally brought to bare on AMD. As the next generation of CPU design, the new-generation chips were based on what was learnt from the highly successful Pentium-M processor, along with combining some of the better aspects of Netburst into the fray, Core architecture was unleashed. As such, Intel has now made a huge headway. Core architecture based CPU's run cooler, perform better and simply work faster than their Netburst counterparts. Not only this, when compared to AMD Athlon 64 based processors, Core 2 is also able to keep the power usage down whilst beating AMD's highest clocked CPUs with its better performance per clock.To this end, new chipsets have come to the air of the Core 2 desktop platform. First there was the P965, the best chipset Intel has released in ages. It overclocked extremely well and supported DDR2-800 memory technology. Now with DDR-3 hitting the shelves, Intel has its next generation of hybrid chipsets out which are designed to bridge the DDR-2 to DDR-3 platform gap (similar to how i915 supported both DDR and DDR-2 memory on a single chip, depending on what you want to use).We have looked at the mainstream version of the bridge chipset, the P35 has proven to be a very powerful performer. Today we are looking at the first of the value chipsets with Intel's latest integrated graphics core, the G33. ECS has provided us with their latest G33 motherboard to test.

Specifications

Specifications of the ECS G33T-M2CPUSupports Core 2 Quad Series Supports Core 2 Extreme SeriesSupports Core 2 Duo SeriesSupports Pentium D 800 - 900 SeriesSupports Pentium 4 500 - 600 SeriesSupports Celeron 300 - 400 Series ChipsetIntel G33 Express ChipsetG33 GMCH Northbridgei82801IB ICH9 SouthbridgeDMI @ 2GB/sSystem Memory4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-667/800MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency100/133/200/266/333MHz Internal400/533/800/1066/1333MHz ExternalExpansion Slots1 PCI Express x162 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity4 Serial ATA ports1 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port12 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 8 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 Serial Port1 CRT VGA Port

Inside the Box

Package and Contents
To start off we take a look at the package and what you get. ECS's G33 motherboard is aimed at the value and budget users. The box somewhat resembles it, but it's the packaging that mostly reflects it. The box is small, giving us the clear indication of the Micro ATX motherboard inside. The front of the box just gives you the model number and company logo.
The back of the box gives you quite a bit of information on the board as well as a full colour photo which details the layout and an explanation of the features. While on the budget side, ECS has a big plus on giving you a full colour photo of the board. It's not wise to purchase a product without being able to at least see a photo of it, this is how it's been in the past. But thankfully companies are starting to see the light in terms of consumer knowledge.
Documentation is quite extensive. ECS provides a full detailed user manual explaining all of the features of the board, its layout and BIOS setup. A quick install pamphlet is also included which provides quite a bit of info on getting the board inside your case, connecting the front panel ports and also the onboard headers. Software is included on a single CD with drivers that are not only for XP and XP64, but Vista as well. This is because the chipset gets the Vista certifications thanks to Intel's new onboard video.
Lastly are the accessories included. The budget side of the board is shown here. Only a single SATA data cable, FDD cable and rear I/O shield are included. There are no power adapters for the SATA HDD or IDE cables, as there are no IDE ports on the board.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard
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.

BIOS and Overclocking

BIOS
ECS has gone for something a bit different in the BIOS department, using an AMI setup. Its setup is almost identical to that of the more common Award setups, so going to AMI isn't as hard as you may think. AMI has picked up over the last few years with its tweak-ability.
ECS doesn't provide any overclocking options on this board, so we can't gauge it compared to that of the P35 chipset. Only a ratio divider option and voltage adjustments for the memory are provided.
Lastly we have a look at the Intel shared memory system for its integrated graphics. There are two modes you can have - fixed and DVMT. Fixed is when you set a certain amount of memory to be used for the frame buffer. You can have either 128MB or 256MB. In fixed mode this memory is always allocated to the graphics system. When you check in Windows, your system memory will be what you installed less either 256MB or 128MB.In DVMT mode, only 8MB is allocated to the graphics card when in 2D operations. When you go to 3D applications a further amount of memory is allocated to give either 256MB of 128MB, depending on what you set in the BIOS. We used DVMT with 256MB total setup, so in our 2D application tests we had the most amount of system memory free.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Memory Performance

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (Supplied by Intel)Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1066 Corsair (Supplied by Corsair)Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 SATA-II (Supplied by Seagate)Graphics Card: Onboard GMA3100 and MSI Radeon X1950 Pro (Supplied by MSI) Cooling: Gigabyte Neon775 (Supplied by Gigabyte)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: Intel INF 8.3.0.1013, ATI Catalyst 7.3 and DX9cIn today's tests we pit the Intel G33 chipset based board from ECS against the Intel P35 chipset board from Gigabyte.We didn't do any overclocking tests, as the ECS board did not give any overclocking options, so these are all done at stock speed. In our G33 chipset tests we used the onboard GMA3100 graphics core as well as our Radeon X1950 Pro graphics card. Our usual suite of tests were run to determine what's available from the G33 chipset's onboard graphics as well as using discrete graphics. Let's begin and see what it has to offer!EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used: 2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
With the onboard graphics enabled, there is a slight performance hit.However, with the DVMT setup there isn't as big a drop as we have seen from other chipsets with onboard graphics. When using discrete graphics the P35 and G33 perform identically.

Benchmarks - PCMark

PCMarkVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Again with the onboard graphics enabled, we see a memory performance hit as well as a huge decrease in overall graphics performance. This due to the lower power of the integrated graphics core compared to the external Radeon solution. With the Radeon plugged in, both boards perform identical. It should be noted that this is Intel's first chipset to fully support DX9 functions for Vista.

Benchmarks - WorldBench

WorldBenchVersion and / or Patch Used: 5.0Developer Homepage: http://www.pcworld.com Product Homepage: http://www.pcworld.comBuy It Here
WorldBench 5.0 is the fifth generation of PC World's industry-standard benchmarking application. Designed to measure the performance of today's wide range of personal computers, WorldBench has been in continuous use at PC World for nine years.WorldBench 5.0 uses the following applications to gauge system performance: ACD Systems ACDSee PowerPack 5.0, Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Ahead Software Nero Express 6.0.0.3, Discreet 3ds max 5.1 (DirectX), Discreet 3ds max 5.1 (OpenGL), Microsoft Office XP with SP-2, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Mozilla 1.4, Musicmatch Jukebox 7.10, Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5 and WinZip Computing WinZip 8.1.
When running WorldBench, the integrated graphics certainly suffers compared to the discrete graphics, but its not as much as what we would have expected. Intel's graphics core is good for office productivity.

Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements

Adobe Premiere ElementsVersion and / or Patch Used: 2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Adobe Premiere Elements suffers a bit, as extra bandwidth is a key factor here and the onboard graphics definitely sucks in this regard. When rendering comes into play, 3D takes place and system memory gets sucked away, as does more bandwidth.

Benchmarks - HDD Performance

HD TachVersion and / or Patch Used: 3.0.1.0Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm CDT

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