ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Intel "Sandy Bridge" P67 Motherboard

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

ECS is trying to improve the image of their products by releasing high end "Black Extreme" series motherboards. The latest in the "Black Extreme" series is P67H2-A Black Extreme. Based around the Intel P67 series chipset code named "Sandy Bridge", the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme supports the latest Intel second generation Core series processors. Over the past month we have taken an in depth look at the new Intel Core Processors, Mobile Processors, and motherboards from a couple different vendors (1,2). Our focus today is going to be on the performance and feature of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme

One of the key features of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Sandy Bridge motherboard that will separate it from the competition is the Hydra Core. What is that, you may ask? Well, in short, it allows you to run different graphics cards from different manufacturers. By that I don't mean an AMD Radeon HD 5870 from XFX and one from Sapphire. What I mean is the core manufacturers, AMD and NVIDIA. Ultimately we will be able to run a combination like the ATI Radeon HD 5870 and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in parallel for improved performance. If you are curious about how this is accomplished, it is done using the Lucid HydraLogix 200 processor. Of course we will be putting the Lucid HydraLogix 200 processor to the test today with mixed cards and throwing a pair of Galaxy GeForce GTX 460's into the P67H2-A Black Extreme to see how it compares to the NVIDIA SLI results on the previous motherboards that have come across the Legit Reviews bench!

Other features prevalent on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme include but are not limited to:

ECS P67H2-A Spceification

CPU
  • LGA1155 socket for 2nd Generation Intel Core Family and Unlocked Processors
  • Supports "Hyper-Threading" technology
  • CPU DIM 5.0 GT/S
Chipset
  • Intel P67 Chipset
Memory
  • Dual-channel DDR3 Memory architecture
  • 4 x 240 pin DDR3 DIMM sockets support up to 16GB
  • Supports 1333 DDR3 SDRAM
Expansion Slots
  • 3x PCI Express Gen2 x16 slots
  • 2 x PCI Express x1 Slots
  • 2 x PCI slots
Storage
  • Supported by Intel P67 Chipset
  • 4 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s Host Controllers
  • 2 x SATAIII 6.0 Gb/s Host Controllers
  • 2 x eSATA 6.0 Gb/s
Audio
  • Realtek A:C892 8-Ch HD Audio Codec
  • Compliant with HD Audio specifications
Rear Panel I/O
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse combo connector
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
  • 4 x usb3.0 ports
  • 6 x USB2.0 ports
  • 2 x eSATA ports
  • 2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
  • 1 x Audio port with 6 audio jacks
Internal I/O connectors and headers
  • 1 x 24 pin Power Supply Connector, 8-pin 12V connector
  • 2 x Serial ATA 6 Gb/s connector
  • 4 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connector
  • 1 x USB3 front header
  • 4 x USB2 headers
  • 1 x front panel audio header
  • 1 x SPDIF out header
  • 1 x front panel header
  • 1 x ME UNLOCK header
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x COM header
  • CPU_FAN/SYS_FAN/PWR_FAN connectors
System BIOS
  • AMI BIOS with 32 Mb SPI Flash ROM
  • Supports ECS M.I.B X Utility
  • Supports ACPI&DMI, Plug and Play, STR(S3)/STR(S4)/S1, Hardware Monitor
  • Audio and LAN, can be disabled in the BIOS F7 hot key for boot up devices option

There are a lot of items we need to get cover today, so let's put our heads down and get to it! On the next page we will take a look at the retail packaging for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme, as well as the bundle that comes along with it!

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

The retail packaging for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme does have a certain eye catching appeal to it. Several of the key features can be found on the front in the marketing logos.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

The back of the retail packaging for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme goes into detail on several of the key features. These features include the ECS Hydra Core Technology, ECS M.I.B. X and Hyper HDD. Along the bottom you can find labels for even more of the features on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

Opening up the flap on the front of the packaging we can catch our first glimpse of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

The flap itself boasts the overclockability of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

Once the outer shell of the retail packaging has been removed, there is a much heavier duty cardboard box that houses the board and bundle.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

Once the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme motherboard is removed we can open up the packaging that contains the retail bundle. The bundle is neatly packaged and separated making it easy to find whatever you may need out of it.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Retail Packaging and Bundle

There is very little that one could ask for that isn't included with the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme. We have six SATA cables, I/O panel, plugs for the USB ports, user manual, and installation guide. ECS also included a USB3 front panel 3.5" bracket with the P67H2-A Black Extreme. There is also an expansion slot bracket that the front panel USB3 can be switched to; it is just a nice little touch to have that option.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme P67 motherboard is quite an attractive beast, all dressed in black and grey. There is a lot to cover on the ECS P67H2-A so let's scroll down and take a look!

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

One of the first features that stands out on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is the memory support. It will support dual channel memory up to 2133MHz. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme will support 16GB of memory in a 4GB x 4 DIMM configuration. Along the right edge of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme we can find a series of LED's that will indicate how many power phases the CPU is utilizing. Immediately to the right of the four DIMM slots are a series of six easy measure points. These allow you to check the voltages that the system is actually pumping through your components. The Voltages that you can check here are the vCore, DIMM, IMC (integrated memory controller), PCH (south bridge), PLL voltage and, of course, we have a grounding point. A little less exciting, yet still important, we have our 24 pin power as well as the power fan header.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

Moving down the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme there is a number of important features here. Starting along the right side of the image and hiding beneath the Rapid 333 label we have an onboard power and reset button. Also beneath the label we have six SATA ports. All of the SATA ports run parallel to the board so that they will not interfere with those over-sized graphics cards that are out there today. Two of the SATA ports are SATA3 (6Gbps) and four of them are SATA2 (3Gbps). The header just south of the SATA ports is the onboard Super Speed USB3 header that is intended for use with the included 3.5" front panel USB3 ports. We also have the P.O.S.T. code indicator as well as the front panel header. Once the system completes the P.O.S.T. the indicator will display the current CPU temperature. Just above the P.O.S.T. code LED we can see the NEC USB3 controller chip for the front panel USB3. Working our way uphill on the left side of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme we have four USB2 headers, one of which is powered for ECS's ezCharge capabilities.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

Rotating the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme another time we can begin running down the right side once again. Just past the ezCharge USB2 header is the pin-out for the factory SPI Debugger followed by a system fan header. Taking a slight jump over one of the many solid capacitors we have the serial port header, followed by the SPDIF header and the front panel audio. Between that first series of capacitors we have the Realtek ALC892 audio codec. Just a hop skip and a jump away we have the pair of Realtek RTL8111E gigabit LAN controllers.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

Here we can see a nice shot of the heat sink assembly that keeps the power circuitry nice and cool. Just to the left of the heat sink we can see the Interstil ISL 6366 which is a new six phase controller chip, essentially the heart of the power delivery system.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

The I/O panel of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is packed. There is a total of 10 USB ports, four of which (blue) are Super Speed USB3 while the other six USB ports are USB2. There is a pair of RJ45 jacks which operate at gigabit speeds thanks to the pair of Realtek RTL 8111E chips on the ECS P67H2-A.

The looks of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme are appealing, though that has never been a big concern or selling point to me. Though it never hurts to have some looks. Performance is what we are going to need to see before we can make a call on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme. With the list of features, it looks like the ECS P67H2-A may have a promising future, but we'll get the performance of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme shortly. For now, let's fire up the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme and stick our heads into the BIOS.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard System BIOS

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

When you first fire up the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme into the BIOS, this where you start. Here we can set the language, date and time. Not real exciting, yet still important.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The advanced tab of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme brings us to several sub pages. We have the option to head into the LAN Configuration, ECS eJIFFY Function, PC Health Status, Power Management Setup, ACPI Settings, CPU Configuration, SATA Configuration, USB Configuration, and the Super I/O Configuration.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The PC Health Status page shows us the current system temperature, various fan speeds, and the current voltages throughout the system.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The CPU Configuration page gives us access to the various technologies on the Intel Core i5 2500K that we will be using.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The chipset tab of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme will give us access to the North Bridge, South Bridge, and the ME Subsystem settings.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The M.I.B. X page is where the P67H2-A Black Extreme BIOS gets a little rough for me. On the main page of the M.I.B. X section of the BIOS we have the ability to alter our voltages. Instead of allowing me to set the Voltage that I want to operate at, all of the Voltages are adjusted in a plus or minus style. This isn't my preferred method, but I was still able to get the job done when we get to the overclocking section of the article. All of the Voltages are set to the maximum allowed.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

If you plan on doing any bclk overclocking you need to come into the Integrated Clock Chip Configuration page and enable the "ICC Enable". This will pop up the option for the ICC Overclocking sub-page.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

Once into the ICC Overclocking page you are presented with six more sub pages. They are not very descriptive of what each one does, but I will cover that below.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

This is a shot of the DIV-2S page, and the one we will need later on for our overclocking adventures. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme will support a BCLK of 99.55 MHz up to 200 MHz. We can apply the new settings immediately, once after reboot, or permanently after reboot.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The Performance Tuning sub page of the M.I.B. X section brings us to the CPU Configuration as well as the Chipset Configuration.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The CPU Configuration is where we will find our multiplier and turbo settings. We are also able to set the power limits of the CPU.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

Chipset Configuration in the M.I.B. X section allows us to set the memory multiplier as well as the timings for the memory.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The Boot page is where we will set the boot device order.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The Security page allows us to change or set the password for the BIOS.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme System BIOS

The Save and Exit page has a touch more to it than just saving and exiting. We can also store a single set of settings as user defaults, which can be reloaded. This will prevent you from losing your overclock settings if you have to reset for any reason.

Legit Reviews Test Bench

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Corsair Vengeance memory modules were run in Dual-channel mode at 1600MHz with 9-9-9-24-2t timings. The XFX Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards were run with 10.12A CATALYST suite drivers. The Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1Gb Graphics cards were running driver version 260.99. The Intel Core i5 2500K processor was running at the default clock of 3.3GHz with turbo enabled. The ECS P67H2-A was running BIOS dated 01-07-11.

Intel Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core i5 2500K  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  See Above  
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDnow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Thermalright Venomous X  Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Test Bench

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black System Settings

SiSoftware Sandra 2011c

SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth

A year ago, SiSoftware released Sandra 2010 with full support for Windows 7; in the 18 months since the launch of Windows 7, more than ever before we have seen the line blur between PC and entertainment hubs. Two months ago we released a Blu-Ray benchmark, now we have added a brand-new Media Transcoding benchmark using the new Media Foundation of Windows 7. We have also added yet another benchmark (GPGPU Cryptography) which allows direct comparison of CPU performance (using crypto instruction sets) and GPGPU performance.

ASUS P8P67 Deluxe SiSoftware Sandra 2011c Memory Bandwidth Results

Benchmark Results: There isn't a whole lot of difference in the memory performance between our boards today, at least nothing that would be noticeable in daily use. That being said, the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme had memory performance that was slightly behind other boards that we have tested. The SiSoftware Sandra 2011C Memory Bandwidth benchmark shows that the Float Buff'd memory bandwidth is .9% behind the ASUS P8P67 (lowest performance in the Float Buff'd bandwidth) and the Int Buff'd memory bandwidth is .6% behind the MSI P67A-GD65 (lowest performance in the Int Buff'd bandwidth). Not a very significant difference, but it is there.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme NVIDIA SLI Scaling

Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1Gb SLI Kit

Since the Intel P67 is a brand new chipset, we decided to change a few things up in our testing. The next two pages are all about the scaling of multiple GPU's in our systems. First off, we are going to test how well the P67 chipset scales multiple NVIDIA cards. In order to do this we contacted our friends over at GALAXY and they were kind enough to send over a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1Gb graphics cards that are available in a two card SLI kit.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

While the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme doesn't officially support NVIDIA SLI, it does utilize the Hydra Core technology which allows two graphics cards to run in parallel. In this case we are going to run our two Galaxy GeForce GTX 460's in an SLI type configuration. In Rebellion's Aliens Vs. Predator the performance gains we see are comparable to what we have seen on our NVIDIA SLI licensed boards. Running the AvP benchmark at 1280x1024 the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw a boost of 84.8% while our best scaling SLI boards have gained between 89.2% and 90.7%. While running at 1920x1080 we also saw a gain of 84.8%, while our other boards were sitting between 90.6% and 92.3%. There is a slight performance difference between the two technologies, but this is a promising start.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme NVIDIA SLI Scaling in Metro 2033

The Hydra Core technology didn't fare quite as well in Metro 2033. In fact, we saw almost zero gains at both 1280x1024 and 1920x1080. At 1280x1024 the MSI P67A-GD65 saw a gain of 78% while the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw only a 4.3% performance gain. Our results at 1920x1080 mimic our lower resolution results. The MSI P67A-GD65 saw a gain of 72% while the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme gained only 4%. These results were disappointing after the gains we saw in Aliens Vs. Predator.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme NVIDIA SLI Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Our final test for NVIDIA SLI scaling is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. These results are also discouraging. at 1920x1080 the ECS picked up only .4 frames per second, this is a gain of only .7%. At 1280x1024 the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme picked up only .6% with a second Galaxy GeForce GTX 465.

Our "SLI" results are definitely on the disappointing side. Only one of our three game benchmarks saw any significant performance gains. We do have to keep in mind that the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme doesn't officially support SLI. Unless I am mistaken though, the Hydra Core technology allows the two cards to work together for a performance gain. Unfortunately, we just didn't see that in our testing.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme AMD CrossFireX Scaling

XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB Graphics Card

As with the previous page where we tested the NVIDIA SLI scaling between the chipsets, we want to do the same for the AMD CrossfireX. When we decided to run this series of tests, we were able to get in touch with our friends over at XFX and they kindly sent over a pair of XFX Radeon HD 6950's.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme AMD CrossFireX Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

Again we will start with Rebellions Aliens Vs. Predator for our CrossfireX testing. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw a gain of 95.5% at 1280x1024 and 100.8% at 1920x1080.The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe saw a gain of 96.7% at 1280x1024 and 98.7% at 1920x1080. The ASUS P8P67 saw a performance gain in CrossfireX of 85.9% at 1280x1024 and 88.6% at 1920x1080. The ECS P55H-AK saw a gain of 92.9% at 1280x1024 and 93.9% at 1920x1080. The performance of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is right on track with our other Intel P67 boards!

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme AMD CrossFireX Scaling Metro 2033

Metro 2033, which is an NVIDIA "The Way it's Meant to be Played" title, should give us some interesting results in CrossfireX. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw a gain of 26.8% at 1280x1024 and 45.5% at 1920x1080. The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe was able to improve by 42.2% at 1280x1024 and 54.4% at 1920x1080. The ASUS P8P67 saw a gain of 30.5% at 1280x1024 and 41.6% at 1920x1080. The ECS P55H-AK saw a gain of 8.1% at 1280x1024 and 7.4% of the single card performance at 1920x1024. Once again the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is right on track with our other Intel P67 motherboards.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme AMD CrossFireX Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw a performance gain of 53.2% at 1280x1024 and 66.4% at 1920x1080. The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe was able to hit 53.5% at 1280x1024 and 67.6% at 1920x1080. While the ASUS P8P67 hit 51.3% of the single card performance at 1280x1024 and 61.3% at 1920x1080. The ECS P55H-AK scaled to 119.2% at 1280x1024 and 138.7% at 1920x1024.

Overall, the CrossfireX performance of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is right on track with our other Intel P67 boards. There were a few slight differences between the performances board to board. When it comes down to it though, the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme was easily able to give the others a solid run for the money.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Lucid Hydra Core Performance

Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1Gb SLI Kit

The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme takes advantage of the Lucid Hydra Core technology. We wanted to play with a little bit of mixing and matching of graphics cards from different vendors. We already took a look at a pair of Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1Gb graphics cards. Unfortunately performance in an SLI type configuration was less than we hoped for. In our charts below we will take a look at the performance with the XFX Radeon HD 6950 as primary with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 running in parallel. We will also look at our pair of XFX Radeon HD 6950's running in parallel with Hydra technology versus a CrossfireX configuration.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Lucid Hydra Core Scaling in Aliens Vs. Predator

Aliens Vs. Predator gives us some promising results. Adding a Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 to the XFX Radeon HD 6950 we saw an improvement of 30% at 1920x1080 and 1280x1024 to the performance of the single XFX Radeon HD 6950. Running our pair of XFX Radeon HD 6950's in parallel using the Hydra Core technology we lost ~11% of the performance we saw in CrossfireX.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Lucid Hydra Core Scaling in Metro 2033

The ECS Hydra Core seems to hinder the system performance in Metro 2033. Running a single XFX Radeon HD 6950 we were hitting frame rates of 29.74 at 1920x1080 and 37.09 at 1280x1024. Once we added in a second card from either vendor we saw a performance hit of as much as 4%.

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Lucid Hydra Core Scaling in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat didn't see any significant gains or losses from a second graphics card when we were using the Hydra Core technology. We did see an improvement of 1.6% at 1920x1080 when we added a Galaxy GeForce GTX 460, though that's nothing like the 30% gains we saw in Aliens Vs. Predator.

The ECS Hydra Core Technology is disappointing, at least in the games that we tested. There may be some games out there that we would have seen better performance, we just haven't seen the performance in our selection of benchmarks. The mix and matching is a sharp idea, it just doesn't seem practical. Perhaps if we were to use some of the older cards in our lab we may see some better gains, but that is just speculation. Besides, how many are going to spend ~$250 on a new motherboard and use old graphics cards.

Futuremark 3DMark 11

3DMark 11 Screenshot

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 Settings

Since Futuremark is releasing 3DMark11 today we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

3DMark 11 Benchamrk Results

Benchmark results: The ECS P67H2-A ended up slightly behind the other Intel P67 boards when running Futuremark 3DMark 11. Running in the performance preset, the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme was 123 3DMarks or 2.7% behind the ASUS P8P67 which is the next lowest performing board, and 3.7% behind the MSI P67A-GD65 which is the highest performing board in the performance preset. Taking a look at the Extreme preset numbers, the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black once again fell short, including to the Intel P55 System. When comparing the performance to the Intel P67 platforms, the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black was between 2.9% and 3.8% behind in performance.

RightmarkAudio Analyzer

RightMark Audio Analyzer

The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.

RightMark Audio Analyzer Results

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart

(click for larger image)

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Audio Performance

There is very little performance difference between any of the boards we have tested. Stereo Crosstalk is the only area we are seeing much of a difference. Stereo Crosstalk happens when one channel leaks to the other; this happens at a certain number of decibels. The higher the decibel rating the louder the audio will be before the Stereo Crosstalk will begin to happen.

Network Throughput

NTttcp Tool

The Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers vary on each board, so it will be interesting to see what the performance is on all the boards. Each of the boards uses a different Gigabit Controller. Let's take a look at what controller is on each of the boards.

To test the Gigabit PCIe Ethernet controllers we used the NTttcp tool to test Ethernet Throughput and the CPU utilization of the various Ethernet controllers used on the AMD Motherboards. To do this properly we set up one machine as the server: in this test an Intel Core I7 970 system with an MSI Big Bang XPower motherboard acted as our Gigabit LAN server.

On the server side, we used the following Command Line for Gigabit PCIe Ethernet Testing:

Ntttcpr -m 4,0,<Client IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

On the client side (the motherboard being tested), we used the following Command Line:

Ntttcps -m 4,0,<Server IP> -a 4 -l 256000 -n 30000

At the conclusion of each test we recorded the throughput and CPU utilization figures from the client screen as that is the system being tested.

P67 Network Throughput

Benchmark Results: The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme utilizes the same Ethernet controller as all of our boards except for the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe. Throughput for these four boards is nearly identical. However, there is a difference in the CPU usage. The ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black utilizes more of the CPU than our other system boards.

SATA6 Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

The SATA6 Testing was done using Crucial RealSSD C300 256Gb SATA6 SSD drive.

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black HD Tach SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: The ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black SATA6 performance has an average read rate just above that of the MSI P67A-GD65. The average write speeds of the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black were slightly lower than the other boards, though only 2.8%.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black HD Tune SATA3 Performance Results

Benchmark Results: The ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black was able to edge out all of the Intel P67 boards in the Average Read rates. The Average Write speeds the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black fell behind in HD Tune as much as 9.2%.

USB 3.0 Performance Testing

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.

HD Tach

Testing of the USB3 was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black USB3 HD Tach Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Now that we have eliminated the hard drive inside the enclosure as a limiting factor, we start to see a performance difference between our boards. Our ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme fell short of the performance of both the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe and the MSI P67A-GD65 with a read rate of 105.8MB/s and a write speed of 100.67MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

HD Tune

HD Tune

Our testing of the USB 3.0 performance was done using the SUNBEAMTECH Airbox USB3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure. The drive used was a Crucial Technology RealSSD C300 SSD.

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black USB3 HD Tune Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The Average Read of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme gained a little ground in HD Tune; here it fell between the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe and the MSI P67A-GD65 with a rate of 108.43MB/s. Average Write fell short by nearly 9MB/s.

System Power Consumption

CPU Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's was run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. Curious about real world scenarios, we decided to drop Furmark and ran 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and took the maximum power consumption during the first GPU test.

System Power Consumption

When it comes to power consumption numbers, the Intel P67 platforms are significantly lower than our Intel P55 system. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme does draw a bit more power than our other P67 boards; this can be attributed to the Lucid Hydra chip. Our idle power numbers for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme were sitting at 87 Watts, this is 15 Watts higher than the ASUS P8P67 motherboard. Comparing the same two boards, the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme saw numbers as much as 20 Watts higher. These are the highest numbers we have seen on a Intel P67 system, though it is also the only board that has had the Lucid chip integrated into it.

Overclocking the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get.

Overclocking with the new Sandy Bridge processors has been simplified, at least in part. Adjustments to the Bclck have been almost done away with and overclocking is almost completely done through increasing the multiplier. When overclocking we used to run out of room on the Bclck or cooling. Now we are going to be limited by the Multi-wall. The Sandy Bridge processor just isn't capable of going any faster; it's all dependent on the piece of silicone that you get when you purchase your processor.

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black 2500K CPUz

The Intel Core i5 2500K utilizes a bus speed of 100MHz, though the MSI P67A-GD65 is picking it up at 99.8MHz. Under full load the Intel Core i5 2500K uses a multiplier of x33 to achieve the final clock speed of 3.3GHz. Since we are using a K series processor we will be able to increase the x33 multiplier until we hit the multi-wall.

ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black 2500K CPUz

Despite my grievances with the BIOS on the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black it was fairly easy to accomplish a rock solid overclock. Prior to the Internal PLL Voltage option that we have seen with newer BIOS revisions on the ASUS and MSI boards that we have tested, we were able to hit a maximum multiplier of x48. That is also the case with the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black. Adding an extra 190mv to the vCore we were able to hit 4.8GHz on the ECS P67H2-A Extreme Black. Unfortunately though, any increase to the bclk caused the infamous BSOD. That fact was a little on the disappointing side, though a gain of 1.5GHz overall is nothing to shake a stick at!

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme Motherboard Layout

There are several features of the ECS P67H2-A that I like; unfortunately, there are also those that I am not impressed with. The Layout of the ECS P67H2-A was well thought out. All of the SATA ports come out parallel to the PCB. This allows us to run the lengthy graphics cards like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580's without interference from the SATA Cables. The on board buttons for power and reset are placed above the graphics cards which allows easy access if you are running multiple graphics cards in CrossfireX.

Let's start out with gaming performance. If you are planning on running a single graphics card on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme, the good news is that single card performance was on par with the other Intel P67 boards that we have tested. When we added a second XFX Radeon HD 6970 in AMD CrossfireX we saw a boost in performance that is on par with the other boards that we have looked at. NVIDIA SLI performance, or Hydra performance since the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme isn't licensed for NVIDIA SLI, was severely lacking. In only one of the three games that we tested the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme with our pair of Galaxy GeForce GTX 460's were we able to see a solid boost in performance. Aliens Vs. Predator saw a gain that was comparable to the boards that are licensed for SLI; this gave me hope for the Lucid Hydra technology. After that we went on to Metro 2033 and saw a boost that was only ~4%. Then we moved on to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat and the gains were even lower, less than a 1% gain. When it comes down to it, the Lucid Hydra technology isn't worth it to me. We saw very little gains in our gaming performance, and in all honesty I would have been happier to see NVIDIA SLI licensing instead.

Unlike the boards that we have tested previously, there is no auto overclock feature on the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme. Is that good or bad? Well, it depends on your perspective. The ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme is aimed towards the enthusiast crowd, many of whom are already overclockers and prefer to push their systems manually. There are those that like to take the easy route and use a feature like MSI's OC Genie and be done with it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that route, all I am getting at is that for a ~$250 motherboard we should have the option.

Another of the features that I found lacking for an "Extreme" board is the BIOS. The BIOS for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme seemed very rough when compared to our past boards. I'll be honest, I'm not just talking about the ASUS P8P67 boards that we looked at and the MSI P67A-GD65 that all feature uEFI BIOS. I am referring to the majority of boards that have come across my bench in the last year. The layout of the BIOS was tricky, and some of the items within the BIOS were difficult to find. When overclocking with the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme I expected to find the Bclk adjustment on the same page as the multiplier, while in fact it was several sub-pages away. I'm not necessarily knocking the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme for the lack of uEFI BIOS, though for a $250 "Extreme" motherboard one might expect it. There are certain features one has come to expect inside today's BIOS. The simple ability to flash the BIOS from within was lacking for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme. I had to flash the BIOS through Windows which is one of my least favorite tasks to do. It wouldn't have been the first motherboard to become a paper weight because the flash got corrupted in Windows. We'd like to see any and all enthusiast motherboards be updated with a built-in USB Flash drive utility!

When it comes down to it, of all the features that didn't impress me about the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme, the Lucid Hydra core technology is what left me feeling disappointed. Sure the BIOS is on the rough side for my taste, but I was able to get everything done that I needed to with them. The overclocking wasn't the greatest; hopefully we will see a new BIOS revision coming out that will give us the option to enable the internal PLL Voltage. That will increase the overclocking ability of the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme. If I could make one change to the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme, I would add NVIDIA SLI licensing. Fortunately for us, ECS has a pretty solid line of boards that will be hitting the market, most likely after the Cougar Point error is corrected. Included in the up and coming line is the P67H2-A2. The A2 revision of the board does feature SLI capabilities and will retail for only $189.99. The ECS P67H2-A2 features only two PCIe X16 slots versus the three on the ECS P67H2-A. There are a few other differences, though; the NVIDIA SLI licensing and number of PCIe X16 slots are the key differences. ECS also has a micro ATX Intel H67 board coming out, the H67H2-M, which will retail for $149.99. ECS is also bringing a mini-ITX Intel H67 board to the party, the H67H2-I is $94.99 and features a single PCIe X16 and two DIMM slots. It is also packed with features like Bluetooth and HDMI that will make it ideal for an HTPC.

ECS Sandy Bridge Motherboard Lineup:

Legit Bottom Line: The performance of the ECS P67H2-A was average at best. When it comes down to it, though, the performance and lack of true SLI support doesn't warrant the premium price for the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme.