Despite being a motherboard reviewer, I’ve never had the chance to ever see inside the HQ of any of the prominent consumer and OEM motherboard vendors.  Most of us decide which price and performance segment we want with our processor, and find a motherboard that fits the frame from reviews.  There’s actually so much to designing and producing a motherboard that I didn’t realize before, so having a chance to see how ECS works and produces product from start to finish is one that I jumped at.

On floor 13 out of 20 of the ECS HQ in Taipei, I was shown one of the many research and design rooms at the motherboard manufacturer.  In each cubicle were tens of motherboard products all being worked on by testers, BIOS coders, signal processors, trace designers, product marketers and so on.  First, I was given a brief demonstration behind the motherboard product design from the engineer’s point of view.  This in itself was interesting, going through the many stages of initial idea, to design, to testing, to debugging, and finally production:

  • Motherboard segments decided by product/project manager, often dictated by cost
    • Discussions: Specifications, Schedule, Other Details
  • Schematic Design
    • Data Research based on standards and chipset/IC specifications
    • Initial schematic CAD design, checked and double checked
  • PCB Design
    • Layer by layer – impedance for signal traces and signal integration
    • Placement of components due to thermal, current and spatial consideration
    • Layout as per design guidelines to avoid interference
    • Initial PCB design in ECS factory
  • Motherboard Sampling
    • Provide Bill of Materials
    • Revision 0.1 PCBs from factory
  • Motherboard Testing and Debugging
    • Complete test process – functionality, signal quality, power management, stability (3DMark), compatibility (software, games), electromagnetic disturbance testing
    • Fix design errors by checking signals and reworking the design.  Repeat as necessary
  • Motherboard Revision/Mass Production
    • Revise all must-fix items and confirm all solutions are implemented

I was allowed to take an alarming amount of pictures whilst walking around the engineer’s cubicles, so I photographed anything and everything.  For example we have BIOS engineers working on ECS’ new UEFI (out in July, apparently):

Power engineers working on trace lines:

Designers working on the latest marketing and taking pictures of products:

And a variety of desks full of equipment and testing beds:

As part of the tour, the soldering room and oscilloscope testing were also shown:

The oscilloscope was used for output signal testing – when the output is too high or low, the engineers will suggest changes to resistors and/or capacitors to improve the quality of the test PCBs.

I managed to find an ECS X79R-A on one of the desks similar to what we’d seen at the booth, and took some pictures.  This clearly shows that ECS are well on their way to an X79 product for launch – if I get one in to test I’ll let you know how it performs.

ECS HQ – Hospitality
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  • wwswimming - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    Right there in the picture - you can see what ECS can do to improve their process (trying to state this diplomatically).

    Do layout of a 15 to 20 layer board with multiple power & ground planes, about 6 mil traces & 6 mil spaces - ON A 17" or 15" monitor ?

    THAT'S NUTS.

    It's possible the photo is deceptive. Maybe that's a 24" Samsung, or equivalent.

    It don't matter. You need a big monitor to do that kind of layout.

    It's a testament to the work ethic of ECS engineering staff that they can crank out anything that works - under these conditions.

    Maybe Anandtech can take up a Bake Sale type drive to buy decent monitors for ECS staff. They deserve it !
    Reply
  • FragKrag - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    If you look closely you see a 13" MBP you can use for reference.

    Definitely not 15" or 17" panels.
    Reply
  • LordanSS - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    The guy with the 13" MBP is a sales/marketing person, as you can see he's tweaking a logo and specs page.

    The computer doing the power routing is an Acer-branded desktop, hooked up to a Phillips 5:4 display. I'd have to agree, that monitor looks like either a 17" or 19", probably topping at 1280x1024.
    Reply
  • Einy0 - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    My experience with ECS was been a mixed bag, but very limited. Some products where just fine nothing special but get the job done, others where complete failures. I've never dealt with their support or rma so I can't comment on that. The one thing I notice over and over is they love to stack their boards with legacy I/O. I haven't used a serial or parallel port in years and I don't plan on it either. I avoid any motherboard that has either port on it's rear panel. As a rule I want 6+ USB ports right on that I/O shield. Motherboard headers for another 4 to 6 are required too. The more USB ports the better. eSata is a nice addition too. While they are at it let's scrap the PCI connectors too. It's time to let PCI die. Firewire is neither a pro nor a con. Personally I want to see PS/2, parallel, serial, PATA, floppy and PCI all just go away for good. Time to move on.

    Oh and how about making sure every usb port has enough juice to supply the standard 500mA or more and while they are at it, notebooks need more usb ports, 4 should be the absolute minimum. 6 or more would be nice.

    Rant complete...
    Reply
  • Chillin1248 - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    For the near future at least, motherboards should retain at least one PCI slot. There are many perfectly good PCI audio and NIC cards that don't need replacement. Reply
  • Etern205 - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    ACER desktop?!
    Traitor! :P
    Reply
  • mdloops - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    To the writer of the article, you spelled realize incorrectly. Realise is not correct. I am tired of reading information from credible sites with misspellings that a high-school student should never even make. Could somebody please start writing professionally. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    FYI, Ian lives in the UK, which should be pretty obvious by several other "misspellings". Reply
  • chubbyfatazn - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    How ignorant are you? Not everyone who reads this site lives, or was raised in, the US. Reply
  • AssBall - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    Your tired of reading them but apparently not tired of complaining about them. Go away, kkthx. Reply

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