ECS (http://www.ecs.com.tw) is a brand that produces motherboards for cheap PCs, but with a little better quality than the famous PCChips, despite the fact that the boards are manufactured in the same factories, since the ECS and the PCChips are part of the same group of companies. That is, it is a perfect brand since it joins cheap price to good quality (better than the PCChips we know).
The motherboards by ECS traditionally do not have similar performance to the top motherboards, and the ECS does not compete directly with a Gigabyte or an Asus because they are part of different segments in the market of motherboards.
But we were amazed at the performance of the P4VXAD, which really deserves to be graded. The motherboard for Pentium 4 that obtained the best processing performance in all our tests up to now was not a Gigabyte, an Asus or an Abit: it was the ECS P4VXAD!
Figure 1: ECS P4VXAD Motherboard.
This makes us think about the reason why it happened. One of the explanations is the chipset. The motherboard that had previously obtained the best processing performance among the socket 478 motherboards that we tested was the VIA P4XB-RA, which also uses the VIA P4X266A chipset. The second explanation is the motherboard's external clock configuration. The external clock was not set at 100 MHz sharp, but the model we tested was running externally at 102.93 MHz. This little overclocking of almost 3 MHz that came from the factory may have been the responsible for the extra performance of this motherboard, since our 1,5 GHz Pentium 4 was running at 1,543,95 MHz.
Even losing in other categories to the top competitor motherboards, we recommend you to buy the P4VXAD motherboard since we believe that it has the best cost/benefit relation to the Pentium 4 processor: cheap and with good performance.
The ECS P4VXAD is based on the VIA P4X266A chipset and can come with two chips for its South Bridge: the VT8233A or the VT8233. The first one accepts hard disks up to ATA-133, while the second one only supports up to ATA-100. The model we tested used the chip VT8233A, allowing that ATA-133 hard disks reach its maximum performance together with this motherboard.
Figure 2: The model of the ECS P4VXAD that we tested uses the VT8233A South Bridge (ATA-133).
Besides that, the main feature of this motherboard is two additional IDE ports controlled by the chip PDC20265R by Promise (that is ATA-100 and allows the RAID configuration). In Figure 3, besides the additional IDE ports and the chip Promise PDC20265R, you also see a detail present in top motherboards (especially by Gigabyte) that the ECS is adopting: the rounded corners.
Figure 3: Detail of the extra IDE ports and the controller chip Promise PDC20265R.
The P4VXAD also has on-board sound controlled by the chipset itself, more specifically by the South Bridge, that we have seen in Figure 2, aided by the Codec Avance Logic ALC201A, and on-board network, controlled by the chip Realtek RTL8100B.
Figure 4: On the left, the chip Realtek RTL8100B, that controls the on-board network. On the right, the small Codec ALC201A, that executes part of the on-board sound.
The motherboards by ECS do not usually have many extra features. We were even surprised by the fact that the P4VXAD has RAID, because it is not a very common feature in the motherboards by ECS. In terms of overclocking, the motherboards by ECS are extremely "square", old fashioned. The P4VXAD is a good example, using the ICS 950901BF clock generator, which allows very few overclocking options. If the ECS released the P4VXAD with a better clock generator, for sure it would be an even better motherboard.
Figure 5: Clock generator of the P4VXAD. The ECS could have chosen a better clock generator, which would provide a good overclocking capacity for this motherboard.
An advantage of this motherboard over the competitors is that it uses a regular ATX power supply and does not need case or power supply special for Pentium 4.
The CD-ROM that comes with the motherboard brings some software for free, such as the PC-Cillin, the CDGhost, the PCDJ, the Recovery Genius and the PageABC.
The main characteristics of the ECS P4VXAD are:
•Chipset: VIA P4X266A (AGP 4x, ATA-100 if you use the VT8233 or ATA-133 if you use the VT8233A)
• Clock generator: ICS 950901BF
• IDE: Two ATA-133 ports and two more RAID ATA-100 ports controlled by the chip Promise PDC20265R.
• USB: 4 USB 1.1 ports.
• On-board sound: Produced by the chipset itself together with the Codec Avance Logic ALC201A.
• On-board video: Not available.
• On-board modem: Not available.
• On-board network: Available, chip Realtek RTL8100B.
• Buzzer: Yes.
• Power supply: regular ATX.
• Slots: 1 AGP 4x slot, 5 PCI slots and 1 CNR slot.
• Memory: 3 DDR-DIMM sockets (maximum of 3 GB if modules with buffer are used; 1.5 GB if conventional modules are used).
• Extra features: None.