Round back, the
I/O ports consist of a pair of network jacks (one 10/100, the other GbE), the
audio jacks and in place of where the parallel port traditionally goes, a fan
exhaust. The bright green plastic air scoop and 40mm fan are intended to quickly
remove some of the hot air generated by the socket 939 AMD Athlon64 processor
and power MOSFETs from the case, thereby lowering overall internal temperatures.
The concept is good, but we're left wondering
why the I/O shield is still just cut for a parallel port? A real vent for this
exhaust fan should have been incorporated in to the I/O plate. In any case, the
fan is 40mm fan (which is replaceable) is very quiet and does a decent job at
expelling hot air from the system.
BIOS Backup and
ECS has come up with a novel way of protecting end users from the experience
of a bad BIOS flash. Rather than mounting two BIOS chips on the motherboard
itself, a second BIOS is supplied in a specialized double-sided BIOS
socket. ECS call this backup solution the "Top-Hat" flash module.
Since the surface mounted BIOS ROM contacts are exposed on the
actual motherboard, the backup ECS "Top-Hat" flash module can simply be clipped
into place on top of the board mounted BIOS chip when needed.
Should there be a bad BIOS flash, the ECS Top-Hat flash module
will take over from the onboard BIOS, and once the board is up and running take
off the Top-Hat device and proceed to re-flash your motherboard. The process is
very simple and it works quite well, just make sure you keep the Top-Hat module
in a safe spot that you will remember!
Random Points and Usability
The board comes equipped with a 24-pin ATX power connector,
but if you're still holding out with an embattled 20 pin ATX power supply
it will still work in most circumstances.
But, if you have any intention of running twin videocards you
had better be prepared to pop in a higher wattage power supply that can pump out
at least 400-450Watts.
Among the short list of things we would have liked to have seen done is moving the auxiliary molex power connector from its current position at the base of the motherboard to something more central, with A/C and parking perhaps? The other big let down was the motherboard manual.
The information on how to install two Crossfire videocards, or even just one with the shunt card is skint and insufficiently detailed.
If you've been living in nVidia's world and never had an ATI Crossfire board under your fingers, the whole ATi Shunt system can be kind of confusing.
Finally before we get into the ATI Xpress X1600 overview, we should note that the brand of capacitors used on the ECS KN1-SLI Extreme motherboard are OST, G.LUXON and a brand only identified with a capital M as its logo.
Now, let's take a closer look into the ATI Crossfire X1600 chipset.