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ECS 915P-A ECS 915P-A: Looking for a cheap way into the Pentium 4 platform? While they can't do much for CPU pricing, ECS does have an answer for the motherboard.
Date: July 29, 2005
Manufacturer: ECS
Written By:
Price: $78 USD

    Next lets look at the hard drive section of the motherboard.  We see that ECS didn't add any other manufacturers IDE controller, leaving us with 1 IDE connection, 4 SATA connections, and 1 floppy drive connector.  The other notable thing is that the ICH is covered with a heatsink, something that has started to become a little more common in newer motherboards.

    The area around the memory slots is also of interest.  Here we see that ECS has only provided two DDR slots for memory, however this is also tempered with the fact that there are two DDR2 slots as well, something that the 915 chipset allows for.

    ECS has decided that the area around the CPU socket is to be kept fairly free of anything at all.  Where with the Albatron board I reviewed previously, their were capacitors and resistors within the area of the heatsink mount, the ECS board kept the heatsink mounting area free.  This allowed the installation of my water cooler to go much easier than with the Albatron board.

    Sound is controlled by the .  This chipset allows for the standard 7.1 setup that Intel has stipulated for its High Definition specification, Azalia.  It supports sound up to 192KHz with 24 bit precision, which theoretically makes for a good sound card.  The NIC is a , which makes it a 32 bit PCI based gigabit network card, which still means that it can never truly reach its full potential with anything else using the PCI bus.  A PCIe network card such as the RTL8111(B) would have been a much nicer option, though it would cost a bit more.  I would have liked to see a Firewire controller on this board, as it shouldn't add too much to the cost but is a very useful extra piece.

    The 915P Express chipset that this board is based off of was produced on the 43rd week of 2003.  This is the controller for all functions between the processor and everything else, memory, PCIe bus, and communication to the ICH.  The ICH that ECS decided to use is the standard ICH6, which includes support for SATA, and one IDE channel.  This doesn't include RAID abilities which are only included on the ICH6R.

    As we can see ECS decided to use a thermal pad for both the MCH and the ICH.  Though in the case of the MCH the thermal pad is not the only thing holding the heatsink down, as we have two clips that are also responsible for this.  The ICH is only held on by the thermal pad, which is why we don't have a picture of the actual ICH, just the heatsink.

BIOS

    Now lets look at the BIOS of this system, which uses an AMI BIOS screen.  First we will look at the start screen.

    The interesting menu options are the Features menu, and the CPU PnP menu.  Otherwise we have all the standard menu options from Standard CMOS settings, to Hardware Monitor.  The next menu we will look at is the Advanced Setup menu.  In this menu you have the standard control over boot devices and enabling control of Hyperthreading.  But there are two interesting options here, the Max CPUID Value Limit and CPU TM Function.  The Max CPUID Value Limit is designed to limit the listed speed of the processor to older operating systems, which is something I haven't seen before.  The CPU TM Function is to throttle the clock speed of higher speed Prescott's to help keep them cool.

    If you look at the two pictures you will see that the two menus are basically identical.  The menu on the left comes up when you disable the sound, save the settings and then reenter the BIOS.  This gives you the menu options on the sound section of AC '97 Sound and/or Modem.  The menu on the right gives you just two options enabled and disabled.  The menu on the right will enable the HD CODEC, but the menu options on the left provide nothing in the way of sound in windows.  Otherwise the menu allows you to enable all the basic extras that are included.

    Here is where most of the tweaking time will be spent, the CPU PnP menu.  The CPU clock speed frequency adjustment is only enabled when the function option is switched to enabled, and goes up in 1MHz increments.  The Vcore adjustments can go up to 1.6v from the stock 1.3875 volts, in 0.0125v increments.  The memory voltage has seven options from +0.05 to +0.35 volts.  PCIe voltage goes up only three different increments +0.05, +0.10, +0.15 volts.  The hardware monitor menu gives you the information on what the temperature of the system is.  The only option you could change is the Smart Fan Control which allows the system to control the CPU fan speed at a certain temperature.

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