ECS's Extreme line of motherboards include a ton of stuff in the box,
this is especially nice considering most ECS motherboards only come with the basics. One of
the most useful accessories is the 3.5" front panel I/O bay connector. It allows
you to move the rear USB/Firewire expansion bracket to the front of the case thanks to
an ingenious little piece of plastic. With the ECS KA3 MVP Extreme, if you don't
have front panel USB or IEEE 1394a, that's not a problem because you will now
with this board.
Other goodies include an eSATA
bracket; external Serial ATA is gaining popularity and this is a must
have if you're interested in external storage devices. Many manufacturers are removing the parallel port from the
rear I/O, ECS does this as well but just in case you need
it for an old legacy printer, a parallel port expansion bracket is
ECS also throws in a 6' Cat5 straight through network cable
with the motherboard! Many households have more than one computer and networking
is between them is one of the first things you'll want to go about setting up.
With a network cable already in the box, you're able to connect the
new system to the network or game LAN instantly.
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 IC 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. If a BIOS flash has gone
bad, the backup will then be used to boot the PC so that the
primary BIOS can be restored.
'RD580' CrossFire Xpress 3200
The ATi 'RD580' Crossfire Xpress 3200
northbridge is where all the dual videocard Crossfire action occurs. To
take advantage of the multi-GPU
functionality of the ECS KA3 MVP Extreme motherboard you'll need two PCI Express
x16 ATI Radeon videocards of the same GPU class, with one being the special Crossfire
Edition Master card.
works differently from nVIDIA's SLI and it'll get more confusing with ATi's next generation Crossfire videocards
at that. For the moment, if you want to run Crossfire with
ATi's latest and greatest, you first have to team up a "CrossFire Master" videocard
with a non master card of the same GPU class. To differentiate between the
two, if it doesn't say 'CrossFire Master' on the packaging, then it's
a regular PCI Express videocard.
installing the two videocards into a ATi Crossfire compatible motherboard, you must
then connect the 'Crossfire Master' videocard to the non master via
a special external cable for the two to split rendering loads properly. ATi went
this route because it thought nVIDIA's internal SLI connector card was clumsy. In
all frankness, we don't like ATI's method at all.
rumors floating around that next generation CrossFire Edition
videocards will do away with the external jumper cable altogether, and instead will
run multi-videocard Crossfire through the PCI Express bus itself. Here's to hoping, we'll
see early in 2007 what actually happens... now back to the 'RD580' Xpress 3200
Technically speaking, the ATI 'RD580'
Crossfire Xpress 3200 core logic has support for 40 PCI Express lanes in total.
Of those, 32 lanes are dedicated to the videocard(s) and the other 8 PCI Express
lanes are reserved for expansion peripherals. The 'RD580' is
currently the only chipset in the world that supports two PCI Express x16
slots; nVIDIA achieves similar results
by splitting the two PCI Express X16 32 lanes between its northbridge MPP and southbridge MCP.
ATi's CrossFire Xpress 3200 is a dual chip solution and is separated
into the traditional Northbridge and Southbridge designation. The ATI 'RD580'
communicates with the socket AM2 processor over a HyperTransport connection
at a rate of 2000MT/s, while a dedicated high
speed 'A-link' connects the ATI 'RD580' northbridge and ATI 'SB600' southbridge chipsets
The CrossFire Xpress 3200 is teamed up with the ATi 'SB600' chipset which has
an integrated six channel Serial ATA II controller support hot plugging,
can do RAID 0 and 1. Please note though that
only four channels will be available internally while the other two
Serial ATA II PHYs are intended for eSATA use. ATi supports one parallel IDE channel
with this chipset. It's unfortunate but unsurprising as both Intel and nVIDIA have done
the same thing with their respective chipsets. The 'SB600' supports 10 USB 2.0 channels and a
maximum of six 32 bit PCI slots can be employed for expansion
Let's take a walk around the ECS KA3 MVP Extreme motherboard