ECS KA3MVP Extreme AM2 Motherboard Reiew


BIOS options

BIOS options can be tricky for anybody. Different manufacturers have various ways of explaining functions and features, but usually you can make sense of the basics. For this board though, being labeled as “Extreme”, ECS includes all sorts of user-tweakable and performance features. A lot of these have bizarre and cryptic descriptions, with meaningless explanations. For example: in the memory settings area of the BIOS, you will find the item, “DQS Training Control (Perform DQS)”, and for the manual’s explanation: “DQS training is used to place the DQS strobe in the center of the data eye.” What?!? What’s the “data eye”? What does this mean? Try Google-ing “DQS Training Control”, and you will get back a tiny number of hits, none of which explain what DQS is.

Same thing goes for another item, “Memclock tri-stating”. And the manual’s explanation: “This item enables or disables memclock tri-stating function.” Ah, yes, but what IS the mysterious memclock tri-stating function? Another Google search merely showed me that other people were as clueless as I. I ended up simply disabling both options…who knows whether that’s good or bad… But ECS should not leave us hanging like this. If you’re gonna put in these options, at least tell what they do.

My next biggest concern was the complete lack of documentation or instruction in the manual for setting up any of the RAID functions that come on the motherboard, and for not including the RAID drivers on a floppy disk for Windows installation. The only documentation is for a program called “ATI WebPAM”, which lets you configure RAID once you’re in Windows. Well, that only helps if you’ve already successful loaded Windows, and doesn’t do anything for you if you want to install Windows on a RAID array. The only reason I could even set up RAID on this board is because I have set up dozens of RAID systems before, and I know what to look for and how to do the procedure. This lack of information is only going to frustrate end-users, and will contribute to a poor reputation in the community.

The KA3-MVP Extreme uses the Award Bios, and has the usual overclocking settings. The CPU Voltage can be modified from +0.55V to +0.7625V in 0.0125V steps and from +0.775V to +1.350V in 0.25V steps. Memory voltage can be modified +0.05V to +0.35V in 0.05V steps. North Bridge Voltage can be set from normal, +0.05V +0.10V and 0.15V. HyperTransport Voltage can be set as normal, +0.05V, +0.10V and +0.15V. The CPU FSB can be set from 200MHz-500MHz in 1MHz increments.

Let me tell you about what does work well in the BIOS now. Overclocking. This is where I think the name “Extreme” comes into play. Now it’s amazing that we can overclock on ECS boards at all, considering that for years and years they supported nothing but stock speeds (officially).

But now we have settings to alter the CPU multiplier (if unlocked), FSB speeds in 1MHz increments from 200 – 500, we can add voltage to the CPU, the memory, and even the chipset itself. This is great, but it would be better if ECS allowed greater voltage options: you max out at 1.4v on the CPU, and you can add only .35v to the memory. Even so, we were able to overclock the little Athlon 64 by 700 MHz!

With just a little more juice, it would likely have gone even further. At 2.7 GHz though, Windows XP was perfectly stable, well enough to run the Prime95 CPU torture test for 48 hours without error. And remember the passively cooled heat sinks? They didn’t get all that hot. Well done here, ECS.

Another notable area is the on-board sound. It is fantastic! I have been impressed with the Realtek ALC-883 codec before, and it sounds just as wonderful on the ECS board. If you have a PCI card that you would prefer to use for sound though, the bottom PCI slot is a high-filtered slot to offer excellent I/O quality on your sound card.