The Socket AM3 Black Series Gets Better

ECS continues with their Black Series of motherboards with the introduction of the ECS A790GXM-AD3 motherboard. The Black series boards that we have dealt with have seemed to have a quality build with great features and they are offered at a very reasonable price. Today’s market seems to find nearly everyone searching for a bargain, so this new motherboard from ECS may be just the hot deal you have been looking for... or is it? That is what we intend to find out as we look at the AM3, 790GX based motherboard.
ECS A790GXM-AD3 AMD Socket AM3 Motherboard
The A790GXM-AD3 Black Series motherboard uses the AMD 790GX chipset, so it fully supports all of the Phenom and Phenom II processors on the market today. In addition, the ECS A790GXM-AD3 comes with the feature of dual channel memory architecture that supports DDR3 1333MHz memory up to the capacity of 32GB which is capable to provide faster data throughput for memory-intensive applications. To meet hardcore overclockers’ requirements, the latest exclusive BIOS utility, M.I.B. II, is included to provide various detailed tweaking options. Paired with AMD SB750 south bridge controller supporting the function of ACC (Advanced Clock Calibration), ECS A790GXM-AD3 allows users to push the overall system performance to another higher scale. It also means that you you are trying to 'unlock' a triple core AMD Phenom II processor and make it a quad core this board should be able to give it a shot. The board also features a five phase power design with a massive heat sink to help keep things from overheating. The board of course also features AMD CrossFire technology for true multi-GPU gaming performance and six SATA II 3.0GB/s ports that support advanced RAID configurations like RAID 5 and RAID 10. Let’s take a closer look at all the specs:

CPU

Chipset

Graphics

Memory

Expansion Slot

Storage

Audio

Rear Panel I/O

Internal I/O

Form Factor

Warranty

Board Layout and Bundle

ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
The layout of the ECS A790GXM-AD3 motherboard has a very neat and clean layout.  The heatsinks on the board make this board very heavy and of a quality build.  The Black Series motherboards add some color to the plastics of the board, but nothing too loud or distracting.The bundle included with the board is a little thin, but once you look at the price, you can see the reason.  To keep the price low, they have to cut some things out, and there is not too much that is cut out on the board, so the bundle had to be thinned. Take a look at the video to see more about the layout and bundle.

BIOS

ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
The BIOS of the ECS A790GXM-AD3 was also very easy to work with.  We flashed to the latest BIOS using the Windows flasher, and had no issues at all with setup and tweaking of the board.  There are quite a few options for tweaking this board, as you will be able to see in the video...
 

Test Setup

 
ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
 
Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

AMD Phenom II X3 720

AMD Phenom X4 9850 CPU

Motherboard

ECS A790GXM-AD3

Zotac GeForce 8200-ITX WiFi

ECS A780GM-A Ultra

ECS 8200A

Asus M3A79-T Deluxe

Asus M3A78-T

Video Card

Albatron GeForce 9600GT

Memory

Corsair 6400C4 DDR2 4GB Kit

Kingston HyperX PC3-13000

Hard Drive

Western Digital 250GB, 16mb Cache

Cooling

Corsair Nautilus

Power Supply

PC Power & Cooling 750

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64Bit

All tests were run using a clean install of Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Bit. For our stock speed tests, we ran everything at default timings for the CPU.  Our Corsair DDR2 kit was running at DDR2 800 speeds with timings of 4-4-4-12 with the exception of the ECS A780GM-A Ultra.  We could only run 5-5-5-18 on this board.  Our Kingston DDR3 kit was running at speeds of 1333 and 7-7-7-20 timings.

Testing Results

 
ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review 
ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review Click on image for larger view and complete results
As we look at the results, keep in mind that we are now running a Triple-Core Phenom II CPU instead of the Quad-Core Phenom that was used on all the other boards tested against this ECS A790GXM-AD3.  Also, we need to keep in mind that this board is running DDR3 memory compared to the DDR2 kit that we have run on all the other boards.  These differences certainly make it hard to compare apples to apples, but it will give you an idea of what you can expect when upgrading to the newest technology.  With these changes, some of the results are certainly not a surprise.In our Sandra testing, we see lower scores throughout the results, which is certainly a result of one less core on the CPU. Everest scores are much higher due to the use of the newer DDR3 memory and the higher speeds at which it runs. In our POV testing, render time for the Beta test ties for the top spot, but the real-time rendering is much lower -- again, the result of one less core.  That would also be the reason for the longer render time in the Cinebench 10 results as well. Burst speeds are faster on the ECS A790GXM-AD3 motherboard than any of the other boards tested, and the average speed is also right behind the leader. The ECS board did extremely well in the 3dMark 06 benchmark.  The CPU score was the only one it lagged behind in, and for good reasons (one less core).  Other than the CPU score, it scored much better than the other boards here. Now, on to gaming... F.E.A.R. testing showed this board to be much faster than the other boards as it scored 4FPS faster than the next board. Even with one less core, the ECS A790GXM-AD3 scored the best out of all the boards in the Company of Heroes testing, and also did better in the Call of Duty 4 testing in the 1280x1024 resolution.  There was not even 1FPS different in it and the top board in the 1920x1200 resolution. Overall, this setup is a great gaming setup and does it at a very good price, which we will look at in the conclusion.

Overclocking

Our overclocking adventures were certainly just that... an adventure!  There does seem to be a BIOS glitch somewhere, as there were times when we could not get the Northbridge frequency to adjust, which hampered our overclocking.  Every now and then, it would just start working out of the blue.  It would continue to work with no issues UNTIL we did a clear CMOS for some reason.  Not sure what the issue is, but a BIOS fix will make this board the perfect overclocker. We started out overclocking at the stock cpu multiplier and just pushed the fsb as far as we could go.  Take a look and see what we got!
ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
Yes, you are seeing that right!  We got a fsb of 280!  Giving us a 1.1GHz overclock!  Pretty dang good if you ask me!  Next, we wanted to see how high if a divider we could use at default bus speed...
ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
Another 1GHz overclock!  This is certainly an awesome board for the overclocking enthusiast.  It makes the short list for sure in my book!

Conclusion

ECS A790GXM-AD3 Motherboard Review
  The ECS A790GXM-AD3 motherboard was a board that was easy to set up and to work with.  There was nothing that gave us any issues at all.  It was smooth sailing throughout the review, which has been something that rarely happens any more.  It seems there is always something that we have to struggle with, but not on this board! Performance on this board was outstanding, though it is a little hard to compare apples to oranges. This board kept up with the other boards in every area with the exception of gaming, where it pretty much overshadowed them, scoring great scores with one less core! The layout and setup of the board also gave us no reason to complain.  Everything was thought out with great detail, including the power and reset buttons that were included. The bundle was a little thin, but with so many features on the board, I am sure the reason it is thin is to keep costs down. Pricing for the board was difficult to come by.  We were not able to find this board offered for sale anywhere online.  There is a predecessor to this board at an e-tailer for $120, so I would imagine that this board will bring in a bit higher price with its DDR3 and AM3 support. Overclocking was almost a dream on this board! I say almost, because there does seem to be that BIOS issue that hampers things.  Hopefully ECS can get that worked out. Legit Bottom Line: This board was great to work with.  It is fast, a great gaming board, and has upgrade options for the end user.  Also, overclocking is phenomenal!  Without a price, it is hard to say where this board fits in, but if it is in your price range, it is certainly a board you want to keep on your short list!