There’s only one constant thing in life and that is that things change. Nothing is ever constant and with the PC industry this constant is actually ratcheted up about six notches. Why do I bring this up? Because I am going to be talking about the ECS PF5 Extreme, the new high end motherboard from ECS. ECS is mostly known for their low end, entry level motherboards and I only knew of them as being the brand of choice for the great motherboard/chip deals on Outpost.com. I was a little wary of the board as I’ve seen a lot of other companies try and enter this market and fail because they didn’t quite understand all of the nuances of the market they were getting into.
The first thing you notice when you get the PF5 Extreme is how big the box is. It was easily twice the height of every other motherboard box I’ve ever seen before. ECS has to use a box this big though, just to contain all of the goodies that come with the PF5. Opening the box revealed four SATA cables, a pair of ribbon IDE cables, a FDD cable, a Top Hat flash unit, a USB/1394 bracket, a USB/1394 3.5 drive bay housing, an Ethernet cable, rear SATA bracket, a rear LPT1 bracket, a PF5 case badge, a pair chrome faucets, a pedestal kitchen sink, and seven maids a milking. OK, I made the last three up but there’s a lot of stuff in the box. I really like the fact that ECS included a rear USB/1394 bracket as well as a housing that you can mount on the front of your case. If you need extra USB headers for the front of your case and you don’t have a case with front ports this is a really nice benefit.
A nice little touch is the dust covers for optical ports on back of the motherboard. Instead of adding in those dinky-easy-to-lose plugs for the optical ports, ECS put little flip dust covers over the ports. I know it’s a small thing but it’s those little things that can add up pretty quickly.
Another nice touch is the Top Hat flash unit which allows you to immediately restore an old BIOS incase you manage to trash the one on the board. While I didn’t have to use it, it does represent a nice lifeline in case you hose up a setting and can’t get back into the board for some reason such as a BIOS flash gone bad.
Besides the trinkets there is the motherboard itself which has a feature list that is also fairly impressive:
The first thing you’ll notice looking at the very purple motherboard is the large lime green fan at the top left corner of the board. This fan actually pulls cool air into the case and over the power capacitors and CPU. It’s not a particularly powerful fan but ever little bit helps right? The fan also has some air holes in it to help exhaust some of that heat as well. The negative part of this is that it does take up a bit of the space from the rear IO port (hence why the LPT is on bracket that hooks directly to the motherboard). It’s not a bad trade off though as long as you don’t have a need for that port.
Intel 945P chipset North Bridge
2 x16 PCI-E slots, 1 x1 PCI-E slot, 3 PCI
Altec ALC880 8 channel audio
Dual LAN ports, 1 Marvell Gigabit connection, 1 Realtek 10/100 connection
8 USB 2.0 ports, 4 on back panel, 4 on the motherboard
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