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ECS A85F2-A GOLDEN (AMD A85X) Motherboard Review

ECS A85F2-A GOLDEN (AMD A85X) Motherboard Review

We take a look at the "GOLDEN" Series A85X based motherboard from the folks over at ECS. There's certainly gold featured everywhere, but it does it deserved your gold?

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Mar 7 2013 12:17 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Package

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While a massive company, ECS doesn't have the brightest name when it comes to the more mainstream retail segment. Talking to a motherboard manufacturer the other week, I heard something very interesting. They mentioned that ECS actually makes some fantastic motherboards and the quality of the components they use are excellent. But they're let down when it comes to the BIOS side of things. It's something we'd have to totally agree with from past experience.

Out of the box ECS boards have never caused a problem for us. Overclocking on the other hand, while not being problematic, isn't exactly what we would call a pleasure. Like most people we don't like the BIOS and since the introduction of the UEFI interface, ECS is in a category with so many other companies in where we just feel the BIOS is unpolished and clunky.

We've got a bit of an update with the BIOS now, though, and we're hoping it stands out for the right reasons this time. We've got to look at a few things before we look at the updated BIOS. The first thing we'll do is check out the package to see what's going on in that department.

Once we've taken the time to look at the package we'll move onto the board itself before moving onto the BIOS. From there we'll check out our test system today and also cover the overclocking side of things. We'll quickly go over the other setups that you'll see in our graphs here today before finally getting into the performance side of things.

Package

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The front and back of the box are actually identical with the company logo in the top left, the model number in the middle of the box and a logo for the Black Extreme name. We've of course got a whole shiny golden theme to remind us that this is part of the "Golden" Series from ECS. Opening up each side of the box is where all the main information comes from.

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Opening up the box you can see we've got a heavy focus on the "Golden" side of things including mention of Gold Plating throughout the I/O panel. We can also see some of the main improvements across the bottom including Golden Quality, Golden Stability, Golden Cooling and Golden Royalty. On the right hand side you can see our first look at the motherboard with the model number again shown. Across the bottom you can see we're dealing with a Socket FM2 motherboard and a number of other logos are seen.

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As we flip over the box and open up the other side you can see the left side gives us a run down on some more features that are on offer including Hyper Alloy Choke, Nonstop Technology, THX Support and friendly design to name some of the few. As for the other side we see mention of the RAM Overclocking ability, CrossFire support and more on the Hyper Alloy Choke.

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As we move inside the bundle there's not a whole lot to see. Apart from some paperwork and a driver CD, we've got a gold I/O back plate along with seven SATA cables to round off the bundle.

ECS A85F2-A GOLDEN Motherboard

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Taking a look at the motherboard we've got a fairly good looking board. We've pretty much got a black setup with some gold highlights throughout the board which stand out. Let's move in a bit closer, though, and find out exactly what is going on with the board we've got here today.

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Looking above we can see the expansion slots. Towards the bottom of the board we've got two legacy PCI slots. Along with them we've got three PCIe x1 slots and two PCI x16 slots. In the event you're running two cards, the PCIe x16 slots will run at x8 / x8, as you'd expect.

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Heading across the bottom of the motherboard we've got a fairly standard setup of headers here. They include front panel audio, multiple fan and USB 2.0 headers, USB 3.0 and a front panel header on the far right.

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Turning the corner we've got the BIOS battery and just above that you can see seven SATA ports. All are SATA III and all run off the AMD A85X chipset.

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Heading north we've got the main 24-pin ATX power connector in a fairly standard location along with four DIMM slots. Here we've got support for up to 64GB of DDR3 at speeds ranging from 1333MHz DDR to 2600MHz DDR via overclocking.

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Across the top of the motherboard you can see the main 8-pin CPU connector and moving around to the socket area you can see there's not much at all going on with a very clean setup. You can see the main heatsink along with a closer look at some of the gold components that ECS are using.

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Finally we finish off with the I/O side of things. The first thing that stands out is of course the gold that is plastered all over it. Starting from the left the first thing you might notice is what we don't have. Normally we'd always see a PS/2 connector here, but you can see ECS have opted to drop it and instead we start off with a DVI, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors for video output.

Next to that we've got a clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports and an eSATA port running off the A85X chipset. Four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit networking via the Realtek 8111E chipset and an optical out port alongside five auxiliary ports giving us 8 Channel audio via the VIA VT 1819S chip.

BIOS

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When we first head into the BIOS we're greeted with a new "EZ Mode" interface which we haven't seen before. You can see looking at it we've got the standard run down of information. Of course if you want to start messing around in the BIOS you'll want to head up to the top right corner and into the advanced section.

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Heading into the advanced section the overall layout is similar to what we've seen from ECS before, but in this instance, we've got a new color scheme. ECS still haven't included the ability to screenshot the BIOS, which puts them behind the times.

If you want to do any overclocking you're going to want to be in the M.I.B X area of the board. All the options you'd expect are here, but they're just not setup as nicely as we see from other brand's boards. ECS really could do with grabbing a board from ASRock and ASUS to use as a guideline for the BIOS as they really do offer the most pleasurable BIOSs to use.

Benchmarks - 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, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital, MemoRight and Corsair.

Before we get into the overclocking side of things we will cover the boards that will be in our graphs here today. Along with the ECS A85F2-A Golden which will be running at stock and overclocked, we've got a couple of other motherboards on offer.

Staying with the FM2 platform we've got the recently looked at ASRock FM2A85X Extreme 6 and GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4. Along with those two boards we've got the Z77 based ASRock Z77 OC Formula and the X79 based ASRock X79 Extreme 4.

Before we get into the performance side of things we need to quickly cover the overclocking side. We headed into the BIOS and straight into the M.I.B X section. We decided to leave the voltages alone in this case as we noticed under CPU-Z that the board was running our CPU at 1.48v. We didn't really want to go much higher than that so we decided to leave the voltages as they were, and mess around with the multiplier.

Our A10-5800K CPU maxes out at around the 4.5GHz mark no matter what we do. Still with that in mind we headed into the BIOS and jumped to a 47x multiplier. We got into Windows at 4.7GHz with no issue. We started running Media Espresso, but unfortunately after a few minutes, it crashed.

From that point we then moved to a 46x multiplier. The results here were extremely interesting as we went from being able to get into Windows 100MHz higher to our system not even booting. We reset the BIOS and tried again and while we got into Windows, we got a BSOD in no time at all. Funnily enough, the system was more stable at 4.7GHz than it was at 4.6GHz. Ultimately, though, the system wasn't stable enough at either speed.

ECS A85F2-A GOLDEN (AMD A85X) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

We headed back into the BIOS to move to a 45x multiplier which seems to be the most our APU wants to do. With everything set in our BIOS we headed back into Windows and started testing under MediaEspresso. In no real surprise everything was running as we'd hope with the system now 100% stable. While we've seen some truly awesome numbers come out of the APU based camp for overclocking, they've all been driven by LN2 based cooling. When it comes to overclocking on just standard kind of cooling, the overclocking numbers are pretty consistent with the three boards we've tested all maxing out at 4.5GHz 100% stable.

CPU Benchmarks

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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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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Out of the box the performance of our A10-5800K is pretty much where you'd expect it to be. Under HyperPi you can see we're lagging behind a little bit, but for the most part across the three areas you can see everything is fairly close.

As always you can see overclocking brings with it an increase in performance, but really the A10-5800K doesn't overclock great for us on a whole so the gain is quite minimal.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

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

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

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

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

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso performance is in line with our other AMD setups here.

Overclocking again helps improve performance, but because it's not a huge leap over the Turbo speed, the performance difference isn't all that major. You do see it separate itself from the stock setups, though; that can't be denied.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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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USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 performance is exactly where you'd expect it to be with all our setups performing close to each other.

We do see the ASRock XFast setups perform a little better when it comes to USB 2.0 performance, but USB 3.0 performance across the board is nearly identical on every platform.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

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

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

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Our SATA III SSD performance wasn't great sitting in line with the older 990FX based ASRock motherboard. We changed ports and rebooted a number of times to see if we could get the numbers up, but no matter what we did, we saw these lower numbers.

Obviously when it comes to areas like MediaEspresso and PCMark 7 we don't see too much impact from the slower speeds. It would be most noticeable when it came to transferring large amounts of files.

Memory 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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Read performance is a little lower on this ECS offering compared to the ASRock one. Copy and write is fairly standard. Looking above you can see the GIGABYTE board was the one that fell behind the most.

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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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

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

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Looking at gaming performance the numbers are fairly standard and sit exactly where you'd expect them to on our A10 setup. Overclocking brings a slight boost in the lower resolution areas, but for the most part, there's little change when bumping up the CPU speed.

Power Consumption

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Stock and overclocked power draw numbers are near identical.

Idle sits a little higher while load is actually three watts lower which would be due to fluctuation more than anything else.

Compared to the other setups you can see we're kind of in between. Idle numbers are lower than the GIGABYTE board, but load numbers sit more in line with the ASRock board.

Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts

AMD's A85X based FM2 boards range from $69.99 to $139.99 with the ECS A85F2-A Golden coming in at $114.99, which is around the middle of the pack. This is a pretty strong price point for a motherboard, but we can't help but feel the latest FM2 platform isn't getting the love that it needs to be truly successful in the DIY market.

The A10-5800K is going to cost you slightly more than that coming in at $129.99. Some RAM, storage and a video card that you feel is adequate and you do have yourself a nice little PC that's capable of doing most things you'd expect at this price point.

This is a nice motherboard that offers everything you'd hope. Overclocking performs just as you'd expect with it lining up with our other A85X based motherboards. The whole golden theme looks great and for the money when compared against Intel offerings, this is a fantastic looking board for this price point.

The bundle is a little on the limited, but again due to the price the board comes in at, you can't expect a massive bundle. Like our other A85X boards that come in at a strong price point, we don't hold the smaller bundle against them too much.

When it comes to the features and build quality, ECS made a push for some good ones. The problem is that it doesn't seem to result in added performance or stronger overclocking. That doesn't mean the components aren't better than others, it's just that it can't really be measured in a way that we can show you.

As far as an FM2 based A85X boards goes, this is a nice motherboard. The price point is strong, performance is overall fairly good, except for SATA III performance that seemed a little low. The design of the board is nice and the gold accents make for an overall sexy looking product.

If you're looking for an FM2 based A85X motherboard it's probably not a bad option at all. The problem is we're not too sure how many people are looking for FM2 based A85X motherboards. I really do leave thinking about what I was told by a partner recently and what was mentioned in the introduction.

ECS has looked to put together a perfectly strong and capable motherboard. Components are awesome, out of the box the board was an absolute pleasure to deal with. The BIOS while not being the nightmare it used to be is far from a dream as well. If they improve in this area it really feels like ECS could become quite a strong competitor in the DIY retail sector. There's no denying they have great success in the OEM / ODM segment, but their DIY retail boards still need some perfecting.

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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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