ECS KA1 MVP Extreme: The Board
The ECS KA1 MVP is a relatively unique looking motherboard. Its distinctive lavender PCB and large "Extreme" badge immediately make a clear statement that this is an ECS designed and built product. That is, if you're familiar with the other motherboards that make up ECS's "Extreme" family of products that have a similar aesthetic.
In general, the ECS KA1 MVP has a decent layout. Its 24-pin ATX power connector, two PATA IDE connectors, and its floppy connector are all located in a good area along the front edge of the board, just behind the four DIMM slots. And the majority of the KA1 MVP's expansion headers are clearly labeled, and neatly organized along the bottom edge of the PCB. The KA1 MVP's supplemental 12v power connector, however, is situated just below the VRM on the opposite side of the board. This isn't the best location because most users will be forced to drape the cable directly over the CPU socket which could hinder airflow. And while we're talking about the CPU socket, it shares a layout issue with the A8R-MVP. As you can see, the northbridge cooler is very close to the CPU socket, which could pose a problem for users who want to install an oversized CPU cooler on this board.
Another issue we have with the KA1 MVP's layout is the positioning of the four SB450 powered SATA ports. They are directly in the path of the PEG slots and aren't positioned on the edge of the board. If all of the ports are in use and a pair of dual-slot graphics cards are installed, the SATA cables will interfere slightly with the cards.
Two more SATA ports, powered by a PCI Express based SiI 3132 controller chip, are located just below the southbridge, behind the CMOS battery. Unlike the ones offered by the SB450, these two ports offer 3Gb/s transfers and NCQ support.
The KA1 MVP features a pair of PEG slots, a pair of PCI Express x1 slots, and a pair of standard PCI slots. Please note, that when using two dual-slot graphics cards with the KA1 though, both of the PCI Express x1 slots will be obscured an unusable. The PEG slots also feature tiny plastic retention clips for holding the cards in place that are difficult to disengage. After repeatedly installing and removing a pair of graphics cards from the KA1 MVP, we found these clips to be so annoying that we snapped them right off the board.
As you can see, the northbridge and southbridge are both equipped with passive aluminum heatsinks, but the VRM is actively cooled by a simple fan and duct. Without any heatsinks in the VRM to facilitate with cooling, the fan's effectiveness is diminished, but increasing airflow over these components is still a good idea, which is especially useful for those that like to water-cool their CPUs.
The KA1 MVP's I/O backplane features PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, a single serial port, four USB 2.0 ports, six various audio inputs and outputs, two RJ45 LAN jacks, and the exhaust port the board's simple VRM cooler. The board's audio functionality comes by way of a Realtek ALC880 8-Channel HD codec, and the LAN jacks are powered by a PCI based Realtek 8100C 10/100 Fast Ethernet controller and a PCI Express based Marvell 88E8053 PCI-E Gigabit LAN controller.