Overclocking

ECS KA3 MVP Extreme
Overclocking Testbed
Processor: AM2 4800+
(X2 2.4GHz 1MB L2 Cache per core)
CPU Voltage: 1.5V (default 1.4V)
Cooling: AMD Stock Heatpipe FX62 Cooler
Power Supply: OCZ Power Stream 520W
Memory: Corsair Twin2x2048-PC2-8500C5 (2x1GB)
(Micron Memory Chips)
Hard Drive Hitachi 250GB 7200RPM SATA2 16MB Cache
Maximum OC:
(Standard Ratio)
250x12 (5x HT, 3-3-3-13)
3000MHz (+25%)
Maximum FSB:
(Lower Ratio)
263 x 9, 10, or 11 (4x HT, 3-3-3-13)
(2862MHz, 2 DIMMs in DC mode)
(+31.5% Bus Overclock)

Even after three BIOS revisions and a last minute fix with a beta BIOS, the ECS is still the worst overclocker among the nine AM2 motherboards we have tested - and not by a small margin. Every other AM2 board managed to overclock beyond 300, while the ECS reached 263 at best with a huge amount of effort.

The worst part of the ECS experience was not even the low overclock numbers with this board. It was the pain of getting to any overclock with the severe cold boot issues that were encountered above a 230 clock setting. Above 230, you set the OC speed in the BIOS and the board fails on boot. You then have to shut it down. Upon reboot the board will sit for about a minute or longer and appear to be hung, then suddenly it will spring to life and boot to BIOS at the set speed. You are then presented with an OC fail screen that states the board has failed the overclock. That's probably not true. If you then go into the BIOS again, leave the settings where you have it, and exit, the board will fail to boot again. Turn it off again, restart, and the KA3 normally boots correctly at the speed above 230 after this second shutdown. This is the worst cold boot issue we have seen in a very long time, and frankly it is amazing you can still get another 33 MHz on clock frequency after you encounter the cold boot wall.

In the end all this effort and pain still yields you the worst overclock among AM2 boards. Frankly, it isn't worth the effort when there are cheaper boards in this roundup which don't have these problems. The pain we experienced with the ECS KA3 MVP proves once again the value of true comparative testing. As we have said many times before, an article about a single board without comparison is an advertisement. A review compares the features and performance of two or more boards.

Memory Stress Testing
Optimum tRAS


The ECS KA3 MVP behaved like the MSI in tRAS testing. This is no real surprise since the MSI is based on the same ATI chipset. All testing used a tRAS value of 13 for best bandwidth.

Memory Stress Testing

The ECS has limited memory voltage controls compared to other AM2 boards aimed at the enthusiast. Memory voltage could only be adjusted to 2.2V which was barely adequate for the Corsair memory used in our benchmark tests.

ECS KA3 MVP Extreme
DDR2-800 Timings - 2 DIMMs
(2/4 slots populated - 1 Dual-Channel Bank)
Clock Speed: 200MHz
Timing Mode: 800MHz - Default
CAS Latency: 3
RAS to CAS Delay: 3
RAS Precharge: 3
RAS Cycle Time: 13
Command Rate: 2T
Voltage: 2.2V

Despite that voltage limitation, with two DIMMs installed, testing was completely stable at 3-3-3-13 2T timings at DDR2-800. However, the ECS board locked up with any attempt to set 1T Command Rate at DDR2-800. The highest speed that could run with complete stability at 1T was DDR2-533. AM2 does not officially support 1T Command Rate at DDR2-800, so it should come as no surprise that KA3 could not handle the 1T settings.

ECS KA3 MVP Extreme
Epox DDR2-800 Timings - 4 DIMMs
(4/4 slots populated - 2 Dual-Channel Banks)
Clock Speed: 200MHz
Timing Mode: 800MHz - Default
CAS Latency: 4
RAS to CAS Delay: 4
RAS Precharge: 3
RAS Cycle Time: 13
Command Rate: 2T
Voltage: 2.2V

Installing four DIMMs stresses the memory subsystem further, and it is also where the handicap of a maximum 2.2V DIMM voltage rears its ugly head. We had to drop the timings to a 4-4-3 at 2T to get 4 DIMMs to work at 2.2V. These are the slowest timings required for any of the eight tested AM2 boards running 4 DIMMs. Without the ability to provide a bit more voltage it is not clear whether the issue is the board design or just running out of voltage.

ECS KA3 MVP Extreme: Board & Basic Features Test Setup
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  • mike6099 - Thursday, September 21, 2006 - link

    The review does not list the ASUS M2N32-SLI as having raid 5. however, at newegg it lists that it does. does the ASUS M2N32-SLI indeed have raid 5 capability? Reply
  • dougcook - Friday, September 08, 2006 - link

    Be careful with the MSI K9A. If you get one, you'll probably want to get a better chipset cooler for it.

    I bought an MSI K9A board (after reading this review). The 570 chipset seemed about right for me. Everything seemed ok (some things seemed a bit cheap, but nothing really unusual). There were reports about it being incompatible with some memory, so I was careful there and got the good stuff. I got it all installed and it looked like it was running fine...

    For one day (until I actually tried to use it).

    The first real thing I did was burn a few CDs. In the middle of the 3rd CD, the Northbridge overheated and the machine turned itself off. This happened 2 more times, and then the machine failed to boot at all (even after giving it time to cool off). I wasn't overclocking, and the box had decent ventilation. The CPU's temperature was fine, the GPU's temperature was fine, the case temperature was fine, but the chipset temperature was through the roof. I had to return the motherboard.

    This may not happen for everybody, but looking on NewEgg, it seems that this has happened to many other people. The MSI northbridge does not have an adequate heatsink and is likely to burn up. Save the time and get something better. I got the equivalent ABit 570 SLI motherboard, and I've been very happy so far. I hear good things about the ASUS 570 as well.
    Reply
  • Stele - Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - link

    Great article! If only there were more Xpress 3200 boards on the market now... perhaps Anandtech would do a further roundup when that is the case?

    Good to see that most motherboard manufacturers are keeping that 24-pin ATX connector well at the edge. So far the only outstanding exception to this practice seems to be EpoX...

    As for the 4-pin 12V connector, well, it may not be the best place to be for airflow and cable routing reasons, but that location is actually part of the ATX form factor specifications, which clearly states that the 12V connector should be "next to Voltage Regulator" (ATX Specification v2.2, pg 8). Motherboard designers likely just followed that to make life easier. Specifications aside, it also makes much engineering sense as it keeps traces short - crucial to maintain the quality of power supplied to something as important as the CPU VRM. Besides, airflow considerations are less of an issue with respect to four strands of wire.

    IMHO perhaps the one improvement the designers could do while keeping with the spirit of the specifications would be to put the connector on the other side of the VRM, nearer the motherboard edge, though still at the I/O side of the motherboard instead of at the edges nearer the 24-pin ATX connector.
    Reply
  • lopri - Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - link

    Boy, do I love this article! Thanks to Wesley for this great review. Usually in previous AT motherboard reviews, many difficulties/bugs that end-users experience were often overlooked. (Warm-boot, Cold-boot, Vdroop(?), etc.) I sort of understood it as a result of working with motherboard manufacturers (It's been mentioned that they get BIOS updates on a daily basis), but I used to think AT's motherboard reviews were somewhat different from end-users' experience of retail products.

    This review feels much realer and it sounded almost like what I went through with a couple of the boards that I bought after reading AT reviews. I'm very glad and grateful, and hope AT keeps this critical viewpoints for future reviews, especially for motherboards.

    lop
    Reply
  • Le Québécois - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    When you are talking about the SB600 features
    quote:

    # Supports the following AMD processors: Desktop: Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 FX X2, Sempron, Opteron, dual-core- Opteron


    Shouldn't it be: Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2, Athlon FX, Sempron... To my knowledge Amd have Athlon 64 X2 ;) and even if the FX-60 (939) and the FX-62(AM2) have 2 core AMD still call them simply by FX and not FX X2.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    Edited. Basically, SB600+RD580 supports all current 939/AM2 AMD CPUs. Not sure about SB460, as Wes specifically didn't list dual core and Opteron parts there. I would guess it does, but I will leave that edit to him just to be safe. Reply
  • Furen - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    =)
    He just meant that FX X2 doesn't exist. There are A64s X2s and A64 FXes but even the dual-core parts are plain FXes.
    Reply
  • mendocinosummit - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    So, awards were handed out despite the fact that ASUS and other top mobo manus don't have ATI boards yet? Am I to assume that this is the end of the mobo lineup? I would really like to see at least two more boards featuring a ATI chipset; especially since the ECS board will basically be a flop at launch. Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Am I to assume that this is the end of the mobo lineup?
    We also have a few mATX AM2 boards along with a couple of value solutions that we will be reviewing shortly. There is still the upcoming DFI 590SLI AM2 board to review also. :)
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 21, 2006 - link

    Will you guys be testing any of the ABIT boards ? For me personaly, so far, my choice is the ABIT AN9 32x (non fata1ity). I like this board because it offers the SIL 3132 controller, and has an eSATA socket in the I/O section. This is, I'm hoping to use this board with a SATA port multiplier, for some external RAID 5 goodness :) Reply

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