ECS – 915-A review

low cost board with PCI Express and AGP
Photo of ECS – 915-A
£68

A dream motherboard for system builders and home enthusiasts alike would be a motherboard that supported a variety of different sub-system architectures. Ideal for system builders because they could use a single design of board throughout a large range of PCs, and ideal for the home user as it would be an easier route to upgrading.

With the 915-A, ECS has brought this dream a little closer to reality with a board that not only offers two memory solutions but also gives a choice of three graphics solutions.

The 915-A is the first of a large range of boards that ECS plans to release using its Dual Graphic engine technology. The technology has been designed to allow a single AGP card and a single 16x PCI-E card to work together to power up to four displays at the same time. And of course this dual graphics card architecture also gives you the choice of which graphics solution you want to use when you build your system with the 915-A.

But the 915-A has another trick up its sleeve. If you are not a heavy gamer and are reluctant to part with cash for a graphics card you’re never going to get full use out of, fear not: the board also comes with integrated graphics built-in.

The board is well laid out and, despite having to make room for two graphics card slots and a choice of two types of memory, there is ample room around all the components. The Intel-based 915-A is built around a Socket 775 that supports all the latest 800/533MHz FSB Intel Pentium 4s and Celerons.

Because ECS has chosen Intel’s i915GV chipset, the board offers two memory solutions. There are two 240-pin DDR2 slots supporting DDR2 533/400 and two 184-pin DDR slots supporting DDR400/333. The maximum supported memory for either solution is 2GB. The board uses the standard ICH6 Southbridge so there is no support for RAID natively and ECS has chosen not to add a third party RAID controller to the board.

You do, however, get four SATA ports and, as is standard with the latest Intel chipsets, just a single ATA/100 port. Usually this means you have to buy a new SATA hard drive to get around the problem, leaving the onboard port for the optical drive, but ECS is planning to supply an optional SATA-IDE converter card in the near future if you are reluctant to fork out for a new drive.

To keep the price down the board comes with only 10/100Mbps Ethernet, but you do get 7.1-channel audio as well, both features controlled by Realtek chips. Also integrated, thanks to the i915GV Northbridge, is the previously mentioned integrated graphics adapter, which uses Intel’s latest GMA900 controller.

ECS has created in the 915-A a motherboard packed with features that allow for a wide range of upgrade options, and it offers remarkable value for money.

Company: ECS

Contact: 0870 240 8312


Verdict
The 915-A from ECS is a highly versatile motherboard that offers even those on the tightest budget a foothold in the latest technology, with its support for DDR1 memory and AGP and/or PCI-E graphics.