The box is pretty small, just barely large enough to accomodate the motherboard itself. Inside the box are standard motherboard fare: a driver CD, Getting Started Guide, a paper manual, SATA cable, IDE cable, I/O shield and a driver CD.
The PCB itself is colored purple, and is laid out fairly well. The motherboard has 2 DDR-2 slots (or one bank). The motherboard’s chipset supports up to 16GB of RAM, but you can only squeeze in 4GB if you buy two 2GB sticks, which are pretty standard today. Unless you’re using a 64-bit OS then you probably won’t be able to see all 4GB of memory. The floppy, IDE, and motherboard power connectors are located right near the front of the board, which should give most drives direct access to these ports without routing wide ribbon cables all over the place.
Below this area is the Southbridge, which has a low-profile passive heatsink on it. This chipset heatsink resides right in front of a PCI and PCI-e slot, but unless you have a weird card then it should clear just fine. I like to put a fan on passive chipset heatsinks, so you may not want to put anything in the first PCI slot. Below this area are the standard internal I/O connectors such as case wire hookups and USB headers. The bottom edge of the board has connectors for the internal audio codec: HD_Audio, CD_IN and SPDIF.
The board has room to accomodate four add-on cards. The x16 PCI-Express slot is colored a bright orange, and is closest to the CPU. Below this is a x1 PCIe slot, which also has the motherboards clock battery next to it, but there shouldn’t be any clearance issues. Below this are two legacy PCI slots. The first PCI slot is right next to the southbridge chipset, so I would recommend only using the second slot unless you absolutely have to.
The CPU area has plenty of room to accomodate today’s large heatsinks, like the Evercool Transformer 6 Heatsink reviewed here. There is a standard 4-pin motherboard power connector right beside the AM2+ socket. Unfortunately, there are no solid-state capacitors to clean the power coming to the chipset. The mosfets appear to be a 3-phase design, but use cheaper components. Above the socket is a standard 4-pin fan connector, which allows the motherboard to monitor and adjust the speed of the fan based on the die temperature.
The I/O panel is pretty standard for an inexpensive board such as this. From left to right there is a standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, LPT and serial port (I don’t know why these are even used in modern board designs). To the right of the COM port is an analog VGA port. To the right of this are four USB 2.0 ports and a single 10/100 LAN port (I would have liked to see a gigabit LAN, however). To the right of this are three audio connectors, which are usually assigned Line out, microphone, and line in.
Alrighty, well now you know the hype that ECM has provided for their motherboard. Now I’m going to throw it together with my own various parts to see what it can do. I did a little investigative work and found that this board is not exactly prime for overclocking. So this seems like this board will be a good test for my overclocking skills. I am providing the following additions to make the mobo operational:
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ CPU (check prices)
- 2GB of Kingston DDR2-800 (check prices)
- Evercool Transformer 6 heatsink (read our review)
- Coolermaster chipset cooler (check prices)
- Corsair TX750 Watt PSU (read our review) (check prices)
- Seagate 7200.11 1TB HDD (check prices)
The motherboard did not come with a processor, and this is not uncommon. So since I just upgraded to an AMD 6000+ Dual Core, I am going to use the old 3800+ that came with the original mobo. I don’t want to use my premium processor for an overclocking experiment.