Counting Down to 2011 - Sandy Bridge Motherboards Preview



ECS has managed to raise its enthusiast profile with its more extreme, Black series in recent years, like this ECS P55H-AK and continuing with this trend, it has pulled out another Black motherboard bristling with premium features and components. In fact, looking at the packed PCB, we can pick out touches and details that could be seen as 'inspired' by the competition. However, that's all part of the industry as the good ideas eventually make their way to all board vendors though implementation may be a different story.

First, this ECS P67H2-A comes with a Lucid Hydra chip onboard. That's right, Lucid has found its wares becoming more popular since MSI first featured it in its Fuzion series and ECS has followed suit with this chip that allows for the installation of non-homogeneous graphics cards (meaning you can now mix and match between ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards for multi-GPU performance, provided you're running Windows 7 OS). For this board, you can have up to three such graphics cards, due to its three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (in a x16/x8/x8 configuration).

The first rule of premium boards - do things in pairs. Hence, the dual Gigabit LAN controllers from Realtek, dual NEC USB 3.0 controllers on this board. There are only four SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps ports from the Intel chipset, but ECS has thrown in a Marvell controller for an extra two eSATA 6Gbps ports at the rear panel. HD audio is done by a Realtek ALC892 chip while ECS has ditched FireWire.


Despite a PCB that appeared to be cramped with features and onboard ICs, we found the overall layout to be quite well-done. ECS has managed to fit three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots for dual-slot graphics cards while ensuring that the SATA ports are aligned out of way. The power and reset buttons may be a touch close to the tangle of cables from the ATX power connector and SATA ports but it's again placed to avoid any interference. True, there are some onboard USB headers that may be affected by a third, dual-slot graphics card, but there are enough of them that it shouldn't matter.

Meanwhile, the heatsinks look a bit more heavy duty than the ASUS board, which hopefully can translate to lower temperatures. Overall, it looks pretty promising so far for ECS' P67H2-A.