ECS 915P-A review
If you’re looking to upgrade to a Socket 775 motherboard but don’t want to throw your existing graphics card, PCI cards and memory away, then ECS is your white knight in shining armour. Not only does the 915P-A sport an AGP graphics card slot, but it has a 16-lane PCI Express slot too. These accompany two standard PCI slots and two one-lane PCI Express slots. And that’s not all. Of the four DIMM sockets, two are standard DDR and two are DDR2. Even Asus’ P5GDC-V Deluxe can’t compete with this broad compatibility.
You can’t dismiss the 915P-A as simply a transitional board either. Like Gigabyte’s 915-based motherboard, the ECS has four Serial ATA connectors. However, once again, these are accompanied by only one Ultra ATA connector. As this is only enough for two devices, it somewhat flies in the face of the step-by-step upgrade path, but doesn’t rule out old drives completely. Also worth noting is the lack of RAID controller, so you won’t be able to set up a mirrored or striped configuration.
Onboard sound comes courtesy of a C-Media CMI9880 audio controller that supports Intel’s High Definition Audio. Like Realtek’s ALC880 chip, this offers eight-channel audio support and 24-bit/96kHz playback. The six mini-jacks are also ‘Smart Jack’-compliant, so you needn’t worry about plugging devices into the wrong port. This step up from the old AC97 standard means that a host of additional features, such as multistreaming and DVD-quality audio, are present. If you’ve got this at the centre of a home network, there are some tempting benefits.
However, here the checkboxes run dry. There are no S/PDIF ports, no backplate extensions or even a FireWire controller. Another point worth noting is that the board supplied to us was listed as the 915P-A 1.1. This particular version of the motherboard can’t take Intel Extreme Edition processors or be upgraded. However, by the time you read this, the otherwise identical 915P-A 1.2 version should be available for the same price and this will happily take the expensive CPUs and is upgradable.
We were happy with the performance of the ECS’ 915 chipset – the difference in speed compared to the 925 is negligible and not worth the premium. However, performance fiends may be put off by the near total lack of overclocking options. Still, this board isn’t designed for overclocking. If you want to upgrade to a Socket 775 CPU then, at this price, the ECS makes a good buy.