AOpen i945Pa-PLF review
They may be the same price, give or take £2, but AOpen and ECS take two very different approaches to their 945P boards. Where ECS throws hordes of extra features at the PF5 Extreme to increase its appeal, the i945a-PLF includes a decidedly skinny bundle: there’s only one Serial ATA data cable and a single power converter for that one disk in the box. Admittedly, a new SATA hard disk should come with a cable or two, but with margins as tight as they are in this industry we wouldn’t rely on it. Expect spares to cost you an extra £5 or so – extra expense the generous ECS bundle saves you. However, unlike the ECS, the supplied IDE and floppy cables are thankfully rounded rather ribboned.
The minimal bundle is a shame, since the board itself is decent. There’s FireWire at the rear, with a well-placed header for a further port. Drive connectors are kept to the right (near the drives themselves) and where possible at the bottom. It’s also good to see RAID included via Intel’s ICH7R chipset. There’s Gigabit LAN too, plus passive cooling and well-placed power connectors for tidy cabling. It leads to a pleasingly neat system allowing for decent airflow.
As befits a 945P-based motherboard, the audio is of the eight-channel High Definition Audio flavour, with Realtek’s ALC880 doing the honours. There are no S/PDIF outputs, though, which is a little disappointing even at this low price.
Despite this, the AOpen i945Pa-PLF is a good board, and we admit that we’re fonder of its design than the ECS’s more garish colours. But when the PF5 Extreme includes so many extras – from cables and backplates to a second LAN port and two extra SATA channels – it’s clear which one offers the better value this month.