Computer enthusiasts should
take pride that their past efforts to spice up that dull old beige PC have not
been in vain. Manufacturers have taken notice, and computer components have
become colour-coded bundles of circuitry that would have been hard to predict 5
Heck, the last time I strolled through FutureShop, a plane-Jane PC &
consumer electronics retailer by anyone's standard, I saw cold cathodes, LED
fans and computer cases with side windows. It's a good testament to just how
mainstream modding and enthusiast creations have become.
ECS has long been an OEM/low cost motherboard maker, and
as that field has become more competitive with the likes of ASRock, Gigabyte's
RZ-series and the like, it has been forced to innovate to retain its market
share. At first glance, ECS' new 'Extreme' motherboards are flashy, well
performing, well rounded and best of all very affordable!
With a retail price
of $128 CDN ($108 US), the socket 939
Athlon64 ECS KN1 Extreme comes with quite a few goodies like an additional
Serial ATA/IDE RAID controller, Gigabit and 10/100 LAN, 5.1 channel audio and
IEEE 1394a Firewire. Should that not be enough for you, the board has three PCI
slots and two PCI Express x1 sockets for future expansion, not to mention its
PCI Express x16 socket for the latest videocards.
ECS did a pretty good job with the board itself, but
there are a few areas of layout which could stand to be improved on. The large
nForce4 Ultra chipset heatsink may be troublesome in certain situations as we
mentioned, but with the way the board has been built that's unavoidable.
The area adjacent to the rear I/O headers can the source
for a lot of the heat generated in a chassis, and the little 40mm exhaust fan
and air scoop are a novel way of decreasing internal case temps.
The performance of the ECS KN1 Extreme was generally very good,
and certainly excellent if we take price into consideration. In the workstation
style benchmarks like SYSMark2004 or Content Creation 2004, the ECS KN1 Extreme
kept up with the best, but it really shined in the 3D tests like UT2003/2004,
Doom 3 or Comanche 4. ECS is traditionally weaker on the overclocking front, and as we saw here the company still has some work to do if
it hopes to attract this segment of users in the future.
Ultimately, if you're looking to build a budget Athlon64
system the ECS KN1 Extreme motherboard is a great choice, in spite of its few
irksome qualities. It's inexpensive and lightning fast like just about every
other Athlon64 board on the market, and in the end that's what really makes it appealing.
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