ECS KA3MVP Extreme AM2 Motherboard Reiew


Initial thoughts

You get a lot of stuff with this board! Four SATA cables, an ethernet cable (I’m up to my ears in ethernet cables, but am always happy to get another one!), a rear bracket for eSATA, a rear bracket for a parallel port if you need one, another bracket for extra USB and firewire ports, and a cool little tool for restoring your BIOS if you damage it while upgrading. You also have the manual and two install disks with drivers and extra software.

Other thoughts
Coloring…hmm… ECS chose the colors of the board & connectors with a purpose. I am sure they did – they would not have just thrown together whatever was lying around. Perhaps in one of their major markets the more bright, mismatched colors the better, and this is a real winner. But when I see it, I can’t help but remember the old giant LEGO sets that you find in preschools. There are, literally, like 12 different colors going on all on the same board. It’s just not appealing to my eyes. These things are subjective though, and in fairness, the PCB of the board itself is stunning! You may not be able to tell from the photos, but it is a very cool metallic-purple that reminds me of automotive paint. Very cool indeed!

The layout of the board is very good overall. There’s plenty of room around the CPU socket. If your video cards use larger heatsinks though, you can say goodbye to one of your PCI slots or the little ePCIx1 slot, or both, if you utilize the CrossFire function. Particularly welcome is the positioning of the legacy IDE/PATA connectors: there is one near the bottom of the board, and one near the top. This is perfect, because you usually have your optical drives installed near the top of your computer case, and the hard disks are usually down lower. This arrangement will help clutter issues, and also prevents the problem of IDE cables from being too short.

One glaring thought: I don’t like the look of those passively-cooled northbridge & southbridge heat sinks. Passively cooled heatsinks do not lend themselves to successful overclocking. The good news though is that they are not held on by two-sided thermal tape, but are attached to the board, and under continual pressure against the logic chips themselves. They have a little phase-change thermal interface material between the metal heat sink and the chip to help with heat transfer. I’m sure they’ll work fine at default speeds, but we’ll have to see how they do when we crank things up.

On the side of the board it is nice to see four USB ports available (the included installable bracket makes two more ports available as well as one IEEE 1394 a.k.a. firewire port), and both optical and coaxial S/PDIF audio out. The rest is pretty much standard fare, except for the interesting fluorescent cooling fan, which is supposed to help cool the power MOSFETs. It looks like it very well may, but it may also be eye-candy, either way, it certainly won’t hurt.