Whenever a lower-tier manufacturer sends me a board for review, I always know in the back of my mind that resources are not always plentiful. ECS sells ~6-8 million motherboards a year, but most (75%+) are to OEMs and thus their own channel team is actually fairly small.  I would not be surprised if the combined BIOS and software teams numbered more than 4 or 5.  This unfortunately can have a detrimental affect on the quality of the BIOS and software, which over time may not be updated, and left in limbo / a poor state of user experience.  I have to treat each motherboard on the same level when it comes to reviews, with no benefit of the doubt when compared to the competition – if there are flaws that cannot be circumnavigated then the price/warranty/box contents are often the deciding factors.

With ECS’ efforts since graphical BIOSes came to the mainstream markets, they have gone through several stages - a basic version followed by a reasonably designed aesthetic edition and on to implementing an easy mode.  The new Easy Mode for ECS actually looks like something futuristic:

Gone are the white and blues with a touch of green, with the blue backgrounds exchanged for a starry black background similar to that used by ASRock.  The front screen as we go onto the BIOS is a great example of how a graphical BIOS can be used – colors, options, and information all being top priority.  We are given the Motherboard model name, the BIOS version, the CPU installed, the memory installed, the important voltages, fan speeds, and a funky thing in the middle that says ‘CPU Offset’, which as far as I can tell relates to the temperature.  Aside from this naming issue, we get options to put the machine into several modes – Normal, Performance, Power and Quiet, each using the internal options to adjust features to improve processing power, reduce power usage, or reduce fan speeds.  Elsewhere on this screen is also a boot priority list and language selection.  At the top right is our button to go into the Advanced Mode.

Unfortunately the Advanced mode has taken a step back from the previous ECS BIOSes we have exampled.  The icons are dull, and the inverse contrast color scheme can be highly frustrating in low light scenarios.  Our front screen in the advanced menus is very bland, despite the fact that, in my view, it should have all the information given in the easy mode as well.  All we get here is a language option and the system time and date.

The ‘Advanced’ tab on the top menu list gives various options related to the controllers on board, such as LAN configuration, CPU Configuration, SATA, USB, Super IO et al.  The fan controls are hidden under ‘PC Health Status -> Smart Fan Function’, and only the CPU Fan is actually adjustable.

Users can set the top and bottom points of a gradient in terms of speed and power to the fan header.  Power to the fan header is given as a number between 0 and 255 (the ‘PWM value’), although as we have mentioned previously in reviews, the fan speed of a fan is never directly proportional to the power provided, making this system the easiest way out of the ‘we must provide fan controls’ situation.

Under the Chipset tab are a few options split between ‘North Bridge’ and ‘South Bridge’.  Selecting North Bridge gives the integrated GPU options as well as the ability to enable a Hybrid CrossFireX situation.  South Bridge contains audio codec options.

The next tab along is M.I.B X, the ECS BIOS overclocking options.  Rather than separate the overclocking options out into various sub menus of relevant categories, or even a single menu with options grouped together, we get a wall of everything:

I do not know where to start criticizing this methodology.  It smacks in the face of new users by providing a ‘wall of everything’ where various explanations of options in the top right say exactly the same as the option itself, and for enthusiasts is means a lot of shuffling up and down with no clear visual markers.  On top of this, I am also jilted that none of my memory worked properly using these settings - no XMP rated profile worked or even a minor bump in the memory strap.  With a few hours work, it could be arranged much nicer to look at and easier to use.

Other options in the BIOS relate to the boot settings and security options.  It is good that ECS have a boot override option, and also a quick boot option for Windows 8.

ECS A85F2-A Golden Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features ECS A85F2-A Golden Software
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  • JohnUSA - Sunday, January 13, 2013 - link

    To PatrickPenn:
    May you die and burn in hell for eternity.
    Evil assh0les like you do not deserve to live.
    Reply
  • ForeverAlone - Sunday, January 13, 2013 - link

    Why so much power and so many slots/plugs on such an underpowered chipset?

    You'll never need to crossfire/SLI graphics cards with a CPU as weak as the A10-5800K.
    Reply
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Sunday, January 13, 2013 - link

    This has got to be the most poorly penned review I've read in a while. I reads mostly like a cut and paste jumble. You repeat yourself constantly. The grammar makes my brain hurt. Your assumptions about what "golden" represents is just space filler. For a moment I thought I was reading a bad auto-translate. Lastly, admitting you look around the web at other opinions and I now am not sure if this review is your opinion or some kind of reference to what other people have said. Please do over. D-. Reply
  • IanCutress - Sunday, January 13, 2013 - link

    I do admit that sometimes my British idiosyncrasies come through more on some reviews than others, but it's not something I should apologize for. It did get a thorough triple check before going live, as do all my reviews. If there is something that completely boggles the mind, please feel free to email me for clarification.

    Regarding space filler, my review is meant to cater for a large percentage of the potential readership, and thus explaining design philosophy to those not accustomed to it is part of the package.

    As for looking at other reviews and such, I would be a poor academic researcher if I did not find reference and justification for the results and final opinions of the board. To go in blind would be completely remiss, especially if I come across a fringe issue, or fail to come across a significant issue because I do not specifically test for it. I am a strong advocate in researching a topic before discussing it, especially in such a public facing publication such as AnandTech.

    Ian
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, January 13, 2013 - link

    This is actually one of the sharpest boards I have ever seen. As for the gold coated rear ports, I'm not sure if those are necessary, but if the price is right I wouldn't be complaining. Very ooglable! :) Reply
  • lordcheeto - Monday, January 14, 2013 - link

    You should review the Biostar Hi-Fi A85W. That's what I have, and it looks good and performs good. Not sure how it stacks up against the boards you have tested, but I think it will do well.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • sudz - Monday, January 14, 2013 - link

    (though on a board this side I would prefer at least five).

    This size?
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Monday, January 14, 2013 - link

    out of the box?

    Back in the Athlon days, main board makers were using this trick to gain a few points in benchmarks, but thankfully it gradually disappeared again.
    Now many different main boards hit the market, that overclock CPUs out of the box. This is not acceptable in my book, as I want all components in my system to play fair with one another, and adhere to the well known specs.

    This kind of fudging around for a few percent of performance in some computation benchmarks, that don't even reflect real world gains, should be harshly judged.

    After reading this, I stopped reading the rest of the review.

    One other note. As you write scientific articles, why do you not preface your articles with an abstract? I think this would increase reading efficiency. If the main strong and weak points, as well as the verdict can be resumed on the front page, then a lot of time reading non-essential information can be used otherwise.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, January 14, 2013 - link

    ECS is plenty big, and has a lot of good boards toward the cheaper end at all levels.

    The problem here is AMD and it's crap. The overclock page is embarrassing.

    Another unstable piece of amd centered junk.
    Reply
  • dgingeri - Monday, January 14, 2013 - link

    Sorry, after my past experiences, no matter how nice you find this board and no matter how inexpensive it is, I am not ever going to buy ECS hardware. I had a motherboard that was bad out of the box, returned it for warranty replacement, got 3 used ones in a row, including one with the socket lever broken, that were also non-functional over the course of 3 months, and then declared the board was no longer under warranty because it was beyond 90 days. (This was way back in the socket 5 days.) I swore off them then and have never bought another one, in nearly 20 years.

    Not gonna happen. I won't trust them again.
    Reply

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