AMD 990FX Preview - Waiting for Bulldozer



ECS has harbored ambitions of breaking into the top ranks of motherboard manufacturers and its enthusiast series, the Black Extreme, has often been close to achieving it with its numerous high-end features and impeccable hardware. It's just that so far, the software and the BIOS have not matched its improvements in hardware and the A990FXM-A looks to follow in a similar vein.

First, the hardware. A massive heatsink, albeit low-profile, at the CPU socket area, with heatpipes running through that caught our attention, along with a nice, polished 'Black' series logo on the Southbridge heatsink. And then there's the IDE port. Yes, ECS has thrown in a curveball with its support of this legacy interface. Meanwhile, we also find a Bluetooth module onboard, something that we had previously only seen on ASUS boards.

At a glance, this ECS board does little wrong with the layout; it helps that it only has three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots compared to the four we have seen on other boards. Then again, three is a realistic number considering the PCIe bandwidth available. Besides, the three on the ECS board are spaced exactly to support dual-slot graphics cards.

ECS' Black Extreme series has a new member now in the form of the A990FXM-A.

We have seen Bluetooth support on ASUS motherboards recently and now ECS too has that feature. There's just barely space here for all the connectors, especially with dual Gigabit LAN but ECS makes it work by not having FireWire support like the ASUS and MSI boards.

Another surprise was in store for us as we spotted an IDE port right besides the six SATA 6Gbps ports. Now this is something that you don't see too often nowadays.

There were no surprises here at the DDR3 DIMM slots, with the standard 4 DIMM, dual-channel configuration. ECS also added a debug LED for POST messages at the bottom here.

Again, we have come to take onboard power and reset buttons for granted. Thankfully they are found on this board.

With just three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, 3-way SLI or CrossFireX is the best you can get on the ECS. The slots are spaced out sufficiently to support dual-slot graphics cards.

As the printing on the PCB says, there are two Gigabit LAN controllers on board, along with a USB 3.0 controller from ASMedia (an ASUS subsidiary interestingly) and the ubiquitous Realtek audio chip.

Like the ASUS, the Socket AM3b on the ECS board has an 'open' feel to it.

A small but thoughtful touch here from ECS to raise the ATX power connector to make it easier for bigger, clumsy fingers that may find a depressed connector too hard to reach.

As for the BIOS, it's from American Megatrends and identical to what we have seen on ECS' Intel P67 boards. While it's responsive enough, it's not one where you can use your mouse or with fancy graphical elements. Overall, we don't agree with some of ECS' choices here, but there's little to criticize the implementation, at least in terms of hardware quality and the layout. If the price is right, this board could be excellent value.

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