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ECS A75F-A (AMD A75) Motherboard Review

It's been a while since we've seen anything from ECS, but today we check out their new A75 offering with our A8-3850.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Jul 29 2011 9:08 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

It's been a while since we've seen anything from ECS. To be honest, it's been a while since we've seen products from a couple of companies with PowerColor and Jetway products recently showing up at our doorstep as well. While one of those products went a lot smoother than the other, we hope that it's all smooth sailing today with the ECS A75F-A motherboard.

As you can probably guess from the name, the A75F-A motherboard is of course an A75 based one, supporting the latest crop of APUs from AMD. With the new Llano platform off to a good start and companies showing us a strong lineup of boards, it will be interesting to see what ECS manage to bring to the table today.

As for the layout, there's not going to be any surprises with the typical setup seen. We'll start by checking out the package before we move onto the board itself to see what's going on. Once that's done, we'll venture into the BIOS to have a look at that setup before we get into the overclocking side of things.

Once that's done, we get into the fun stuff and find out the performance we're able to get out of the board. But first, let's check out that package.

The Package

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Checking out the box, we can see that funky reflective design is going on which makes it really hard to take a photo. Take our word for it, though, it does look cool. On the back of the box you can see it gives us a run down on a lot of the major features that are on offer and we'll look into all that when we take a closer look at the board.

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Moving inside the package, there's nothing too out of the ordinary going on; we've got a manual and quick setup guide, driver CD, five SATA cables and our I/O cover. Nothing too fancy, but everything you need to get up and running.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

Being a part of the Black Series means that we've got a really good looking black PCB going on which you can see below. The rest of the color scheme revolves around a white / grey setup and to be honest, this is a pretty good looking motherboard.

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Looking at the board, we've got two PCIe x16 slots. One of them is running at x4 which comes as no surprise since we've seen this from all companies who have opted for the dual PCIe x16 setups.

Along with these two connections, we've got two PCIe x1 slots along with three legacy PCI slots to round out the connectivity side of things.

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Moving to the bottom of the board, we can see we've got our COM header, S/PDIF and speaker header. In the middle of the board we've got our Front Panel header; next to that a USB 3.0 header and next to that we've got three more USB headers. The two white are USB 2.0 while the blue one is USB 1.0.

The front panel header is in a bit of a weird position in the middle of the board; most of the time we would see it sit towards the bottom right corner. It's not too major, but something that was worth mentioning.

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Turning the corner, you can see our five SATA ports. Like our other A75 boards we've looked at, these are all SATA III ports and run natively off the AMD A75 chipset which the motherboard of course uses.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

Moving away from the bottom of the board and up to the top, you can see our four DDR3 DIMM slots. As for speed, you can see just above the top most DIMM slot that up to 1866MHz is officially supported, but of course higher is possible if you have good enough RAM and APU.

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Under our RAM slots you can see we've got our main 24-Pin ATX power connector. Apart from those two items, though, there's not much else going on and it's now time to check out the CPU area itself.

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Here we can see that we've got our main 8-Pin CPU power connector and of course our FM1 socket for our A8-3850 that we'll be using today. Like most motherboards we see these days, we've got a pretty clean setup around the socket and you can see we've got a little heatsink towards the I/O connectors.

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Moving around to the I/O side of things, we've got our combo PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, DVI-D and VGA for onboard video connectivity. Next to that you can see we've got a clear CMOS button along with a further two USB 2.0 ports and an eSATA port.

You can see our two USB 3.0 ports that are powered natively by the chipset and above that we've got Gigabit networking via the Realtek 8111E controller. Finally, we finish up with 5 analogue connectors and an optical out port that runs off the Realtek ALC892 HD audio Codec.

BIOS

BIOS

Getting into the BIOS, I was surprised to find that ECS have opted for that graphical UEFI interface. I only say surprised because we saw that MSI who have a graphics interface on their Z68 boards not use it on their A75 one. Clearly that's not a trend for everyone, though.

As for the BIOS itself, it's not too bad. We've got plenty of options as we work our way through it and as soon as you enter you are in "EZ Mode", like we see ASUS do. It's not a bad idea as it lets you do a few little things without having to get into the scary part that freaks most people out.

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It's not the most advanced BIOS and for the most part there's not much that bothers me. With that said, there is one thing and that is related to the voltages. It's really annoying when companies don't give you either the ability to select the voltage you want, for example 1.65v on your RAM, or when they only offer the + mV option and don't show what the current voltage is at.

What you end up having to do is go back to Advanced, look at the PC health to see what the voltage is at, then go back to the M.I.B III section and set the mV to what you need so you can have 1.65v on your RAM. It's not the end of the world, but it's indeed a little bit annoying. The addition of just what the voltages are at will be extremely handy and hopefully this is something ECS can implement in a future BIOS update.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

There's nothing different going on with the Testbed side of things today, so we'll just get stuck into the overclocking side of things instead since everything is pretty much explained in the above image.

The first thing we've got to mention is that out of the box the board is running at only 1600MHz DDR instead of 1866MHz DDR, which is what we've tested our other boards on. Normally we'd be annoyed with this, but every motherboard manufacturer had issues with RAM speeds coming out the gate. We could get our Flares running at 7-9-7-24; unfortunately as mentioned, it was at 1600MHz DDR, instead of 1866MHz DDR.

What was really weird, though, was when we got into the overclocking side of things we ended up leaving our memory divider at the same 1600MHz DDR setting, with our base clock getting to 117MHz which resulted in a 3,395MHz clock speed, or 3.4GHz as illustrated in our graphs. You can see that below.

ECS A75F-A (AMD A75) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

Getting back to the weird stuff, though; at 117MHz our memory ended up coming in at 1873MHz DDR. At stock, with the 1866MHz DDR multiplier we couldn't get our board to post, but at the same memory speed via an overclock, we ran into no problems at all.

This situation kinds of sums up the initial issues that the A75 chipset has had with high speed memory and we've seen most companies release updated BIOSs to fix the problems. We received an updated one from ECS and while it helped with our overclock, including getting over 1866MHz DDR, it was still being a little weird when it came to setting 1866MHz DDR via the divider.

Still, it's not the worst thing that could happen and we'll of course press on, but it's important to know that the RAM is running a little slower, as it will skew some of our benchmarks results.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Fortunately, firing up AIDA64 and checking out CPU performance we can see that the memory speed has little impact and we can see strong performance from the A75F-A that lines up with our other A75 based boards here.

CPU Benchmarks Continued

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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HyperPi benefits slightly from the extra memory speed and you can see it sits just ever so slightly back here. At 3.4GHz, though, and our improved memory speed, you can see we're able to shave a few minutes off our overall time.

AutoGK

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55

Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Download It Here

AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.

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Looking at Auto GK performance, you can see it's a little slower than our other A75 boards here, but only by a few minutes. You can again see that when the overclock comes into play, though, that we manage to shave a nice chunk of time off our total encode time.

Storage Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at storage performance, our ECS board was slower than our other A75 boards in both USB 2.0 and SSD performance. This one is a little surprising considering we're all running off the same chipset, but we ran the test multiple times to make sure and the results were indeed consistent.

Memory Benchmarks

Sisoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2011

Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Buy It Here

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With the memory speed coming in a little slower at 1600MHz DDR, it comes as no surprise that performance is a little lower than our other boards which are running at 1866MHz DDR.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at AIDA64, we get a better idea on memory performance. You can see when we crank up the clock speeds, though, and our RAM gets running at over 1866MHz DDR, we get some very strong performance out of the ECS board.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Compared to the other A75 boards we've tested, we haven't got anything out of the ordinary going on with Aliens vs. Predator performance not changing and 3DMark 11 getting a boost in the Performance preset when we up the clock speeds on the APU.

Temperature and Power

Core Temperature

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Again, because we're relying on companies own software to read the temperature of our APUs, we're not putting as much emphasis on the results. The ECS software actually reported when the system was at idle that our APU was running at 0c. We figured that wasn't right, so ignored that number. As for load numbers, they don't look too bad and of course, as we ramp up the voltage when we overclock, that load temp does jump up a bit.

Power Draw Tests

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Looking at power draw, we can see the ECS board looks pretty good and falls in line with our other boards. Overclocking again of courses increases our power draw a little, because we're running extra voltage through our board.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

The first things we need to cover are the slight downfalls with the board. The fact that we can't easily see the voltage levels in the BIOS when adjusting them is a little annoying, but this should be an easy fix. The second is the 1866MHz DDR memory divider. At the moment it seems a little fussy, but we've seen every other company sort this out and since the initial BIOS, ECS has improved the performance. You can also see that it's not so much that the board can't run the RAM at 1866MHz DDR, because when overclocked we managed to achieve higher than that. It seems more related to just the divider itself.

The only other two things that kind of stand out is that our USB 2.0 and SSD performance was a little down when compared to some other of the other boards we've looked at. On a whole, though, we've seen a bit of fluctuation with these areas; hopefully it's again something that will be able to be fixed with a BIOS update.

I find myself being a bit negative about the board, but to be honest, when I walked away from it, I actually really liked it. First, the price. At $84.99 US this is a really well priced motherboard and the cheapest we've tested so far, and by a fairly decent margin as well with all our other motherboards coming in at over $100 US.

Second, I love the fact that ECS have opted for the graphical UEFI BIOS. I like it, and it's nice to see companies have a different look compared to others. It's also just something else that helps separate the board from the others.

Next is performance; when it came down to it, we saw that performance pretty much lined up with our other boards in a lot of tests and considering the cheaper price tag on offer here, it's something that you find yourself paying attention to.

The other thing that stood out for me was just the look of the board. The A75F-A is a good looking board and that's surprising considering the price point. Let's be honest, most boards under $100 look ugly as, but the A75F-A with its black PCB is a really nice looking board.

I think the best way to sum up the A75F-A is that it's a little rough around the edges. The good news is that most of the minor issues we have with it should be fixable by a BIOS update and we're sure ECS are working on it like most other companies are for their A75 offerings.

Out of the box with an A8-3850 installed the A75F-A is going to perform well, especially if you're using something like 1333MHz DDR or 1600MHz DDR memory. You're just not going to run into any problems. If we wanted to do some serious overclocking, it's not one that we'd put at the top of the list, but when it comes to price, features and just the overall look, it manages to really stand out.

If you find yourself wanting to get in on the A75 action, don't want to spend big on a motherboard, nor expensive high speed memory, this is a really attractive option. For the price of some of the other boards we've looked at, you could get yourself this board and a 4GB kit of DDR3 1600MHz RAM. That's a good buy and it makes us realize that there's a clear user group that will find the appeal in this board.

Like everything, the ECS A75F-A isn't perfect. Priced at such a good level, though, and a striking design that stands out in the budget motherboard arena, it's a real contender for people. We'd just keep an eye out on the ECS website for BIOS updates that are sure to come in the following weeks and months.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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