IntroductionI've covered ECS's recent revival, recently. Andy Hanley enjoyed a board of theirs, too. So that makes four recent mainboards that do the right thing more than they do any wrong thing, solidly marking ECS's reentry into the mind of the enthusiast. There's still a large amount of stigma attached to the brand, but engineering efforts like this are doing their bit to reverse that and have ECS as a vendor to consider when building or upgrading a system.
So ECS are going to have to continue executing every step of the way, to repair the image. From my perspective, as someone who sees mainboard after mainboard, where I understand how hard it is for a vendor to separate its efforts from a large crowd of very similar products from all manner of other companies, I can fathom the task that ECS have set for themselves, if they want to achieve the end game of acceptance by the masses. One strike and they're possibly out, if that makes sense.
With that in mind, reviewing their mainboards at the moment is like stepping on eggshells. As an insight into how I test a mainboard for review, the first part of the process doesn't involve running any benchmarks or statistical analysis at all. Rather I get the board out of its packaging, lay it out on a clean work surface and sit there for a while studying the board and its layout, its components and its contruction, before I ever switch it on or run a test. It's vital to get those facets of a mainboard examined and out of the way first, since they'll often expose a nuance you won't spot with emperical testing or benchmarks. It's why I spend a fair bit of time in a mainboard review talking about layout and component placement.
The eggshells part of ECS board reviews at the moment starts at that stage of the review process, as we tentatively see if the mainboard is any good. And with today's review focus, ECS present a board that has more chance of getting it wrong than any of the others HEXUS have reviewed before it in recent times. Performing that initial look at the mainboard, it was easy to spot the defining features and design choices that ECS made. And making such choices on a low-cost, high-volume product, one that seeks to allow the user to upgrade from an older AGP and DDR-based system, to brand new Intel Pentium 4 with LGA775 socket, PCI Express for graphics and DDR-II, means there's significant margin for error.
Their 915P-A did much the same, and in many respects today's board, the 915-A, is much the same product. However, using a less frequently implemented version of Intel's integrated graphics variant of 915, 915GV, brings significant issues to consider with a product that wants to implements an AGP port alongside PCI Express for graphics, and two types of memory slots.
A board that you can plug pretty much anything recent into, let's have a closer look at ECS's 915-A mainboard to see if it continues their recent good form.