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Intel Core i5-760 and ECS P55H-AK Review

Intel Core i5-760 and ECS P55H-AK Review

Intel Core i5-760 Review

ECS P55H-AK Black Series Motherboard

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For their latest motherboard ECS have chosen to go for a reflective box design which features the Black Series branding and the usual dragon mascot. Spread across the front of the box are various logos which tell us about the major features of the board and on the back are more detailed specifications. Inside the box we find a good bundle which starts with a well written manual and useful quick-start guide. These are accompanied by a software CD, drive cables, SLI/Crossfire cables and an I/O shield. The bundled extras don’t end there though as we also get a 3.5” bracket which allows us to add two USB 3.0 ports in a drive bay. This adapter can also be changed to use a different cover, allowing installation at the back of the system.

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ECS have opted for a 305x244mm black PCB on their P55H-AK board and running from the power circuitry at the top of the board, across the P55 Northbridge and down to the ICH10R Southbridge are large passive heatsinks with copper heatpipe passing between each. An extra level of quality is added to the board through the use of gold contacts on the CPU and memory slot pins.

It is also possible to see an additional small heatsink between the PCIe slots; this covers one of the additional chipsets; ECS have attached two to the AK board. The first is the nForce 200 chip which enables 3-Way SLI in a 16/8/8 configuration and the second is a PLEX 8608 PCIe Gen 2 switch which offers 8 PCI Express Gen2 (5.0GT/s) lanes… the reason for this will become clear soon.

In terms of CPU support the P55H-AK is compatible with all Socket 1156 CPUs and ECS state that a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 can be installed in the four dual channel memory slots. Speeds of up to 2400MHz are officially supported as is X.M.P.

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Looking down at the bottom left of the board we find the add-in card slots. These run from PCIe 1x through PCIe 16x, PCIe 1x, PCIe 8x, PCI, PCIe 8x and it is good to see that ECS have added extra space below the 16x slot to stop larger heatsinks impacting connectivity.

Over at the bottom right corner we find a packed area of PCB. There are the usual front panel connectors for USB 2.0 and ECS provide on-board power and reset buttons along with a diagnostic LED and speaker. From there things get a little more interesting though. The reason for this is that located here is the first of two NEC USB 3.0 controllers. Most boards use one however ECS have added a second which works with the USB 3.0 bracket that is bundled with the board. On the left edge of the PCB we find six SATA 2 ports which run off the Intel Southbridge and allow AHCI as well as RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 operation. Above these are two SATA 6GB/s ports which use the first of two Marvell 9128 controllers and allow AHCI, RAID 0 + RAID 1.

That’s right, 2 USB 3.0 controllers and 2 SATA 6GB/s controllers, offering a total of 4 USB 3.0 devices and 4 SATA 6GB/s drives. No wonder ECS added additional lanes through the PLEX chip!

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Round at the I/O panel we find an external Clear CMOS button which sits beside a single PS/2 connector. Also present here are eight USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA (6GB/s Marvell 9128 with RAID), dual GB-LAN (Realtek 8111E with Teaming), two USB 3.0 (the 2nd NEC controller) and 7.1 channel audio connectors which use the Realtek 889 chipset.

BIOS

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ECS use an American Megatrends based BIOS on this board and the majority of our time will be spent in the M.I.B. X screen. In here we can configure the performance options for the system to maximise performance. ECS allow us to tweak CPU, VTT, Memory and PCH voltages and include the ability to overclock manually or via pre-set profiles. We can also save two of our own profiles for future use if desired.

There is no BIOS flash tool included to facilitate updates from USB sticks however the board can be updated in Windows or from a bootable DOS device.

Software
ECS offer two update utilities with the P55H-AK. eDLU ensures our drivers are up to date and eBLU does the same for the BIOS. In addition to this ECS, like many other manufacturers, offer a Linux based OS (eJiffy) which allows access to basic system functionality without entering Windows.

The chances are though that most of a consumers time will be spent in the final bundled application, eOC which is a Windows based monitoring/tweaking/overclocking tool.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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