Intel X48 Motherboard Round-up: ASUS, ECS, & Intel

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ECS X48T-A Features

 




As was the case with the Asus board, with ECS a dark brown or black PCB remains the color of choice.  Black is probably what they were shooting for as the X48T-A is part of their limited Black Series.  ECS runs the rest of the palette dry with their color scheme: two red PCI-E x16 slots, two black PCI 2.3 slots, a single yellow PCI Express x1 slot, and then grey and yellow marked DIMM slots for dual DDR3 with support up to 1600MHz.  The 'Black Series' logo almost seems to be an afterthought, a sticker hastily added to the motherboard on a clean section near the DIMM slots.




     

The X48T-A comes in a nicely designed box, featuring an ice dragon of sorts with some nifty graphics around the model name and two different logos marking the X48T-A as a deluxe limited edition and part of the Black Series of motherboards from ECS . The bundle was a bit less flamboyant, with a handful of SATA and eSATA cables, an IDE cable, and a labeled I/O shield being the sole goodies.  Media consisted of a quick installation guide and user's manual with a support CD-ROM.  The Crossfire section in the manual is seriously outdated, with pictures of exterior dongles and the like describing the installation procedure.

ECS X48T-A 'Black Series' Motherboard
Specifications and Features

CPU
LGA775 socket for latest Intel Yorkfield/ Wolfdale/Core 2 Extreme/Core 2 Quad/Core 2 Duo processor
Supports FSB of 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz
Supports Hyper-Threading technology CPU
      
Chipset
Intel X48 Northbridge
Intel ICH9R Southbridge

Front Side Bus
1600/1333/1066/800 MHz           

Main Memory  
  
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
Supports DDR3 1600/1333/1066/800 SDRAM
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 8 GB


Storage
Supported by Intel® ICH9R:
6 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID 10 configuration
Supported by JMicron JMB361:
1 x SATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
2 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices

Expansion Slots

2 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
2 x PCI slots

ATI CrossFire multi-GPU platform support
ATI CrossFire technology enables two ATI* graphics cards to work together for ultimate 3D gaming performance and visual quality
Full support of Next Generation ATI Crossfire

Audio
Realtek ALC 888S supports 8-channel HD audio
All DACs support 192K/96K/48K/44.1KHz DAC sample rate
Meets Microsoft WLP 3.08 audio requirements
DirectSound 3D compatible

LAN

Dual Gigabit LAN
Intel 82566DC GigaLAN Controller
Realtek 8111B PCIe GigaLAN Controller

USB

12 x USB 2.0 ports (6 on-board, 6 ports at back panel)

 
On-Board Peripherals
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
6 x SATA connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector 
1 x Chassis Fan connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x 24 -pin ATX Power connector
1 x Clear CMOS header
1 x IrDA for SIR header
1 x Front Panel Audio header
1 x CD-In header
1 x Front Panel header
1 x Buzzer   

Back Panel I/O Ports
2 x PS/2 (Keyboard & Mouse) 
1 x External SATA port
2 x RJ45 LAN jacks
6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x RCA S/PDIF-In Connector (yellow)
1 x RCA S/PDIF-Out Connector (orange)
1 x Optical S/PDIF-Out
5 x Audio jacks (1 Line In, 4 Lines Out)
1 x Serial port (COM1)

Special Features
ECS QoolTechII Heat Pipe
   
BIOS
AMI BIOS with 16Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specification

Dimensions
305mm (L) x 244mm (W) ATX Form Factor
      
Mounting
9 mounting holes



     
     

Front panel and three bright orange USB headers are found near the front, with a handy schematic placed nearby for quick reference.  Touches like these are always welcome, because no one wants to go searching for their manual anytime a cable comes loose.  SATA Ports 1-4 wind up just under the tip of a larger video card, but ECS has anticipated this by throwing in a set of SATA cables that are bent 90 degrees. The IDE port is inexplicably placed on the far edge of the board, furthest from the drives it would connect to.  I guess ECS assumed that most users won't be using it, so placement wasn't an issue, but anyone still using IDE devices will have to run cables up and over their other components.  Front panel audio or CD-In cables, will also need to run to the far corner as well.

ECS' cooling system goes under the name QoolTech II, and consists of two copper heatsinks placed over the North- and Southbridges, connected to a third radiator by means of heatpipes.  Oddly, said radiator doesn't interface in any way with the outside of the case, and will require adequate airflow around the CPU socket to keep temperatures in check.  Closer inspection of the heatpipes reveals that they are simply glued to the heatsinks rather than properly machined in place; this method probably isn't as efficient at transferring heat.
 

     
     

The X48T-A also lacks in another area - it only offers a single 3-pin fan header in addition to the 4-pin CPU fan.  Placement of that one fan header was also less than optimal, snuggled in between the 8-pin ATX power (which itself is in the crook of a heatpipe) and the CPU heatsink/fan.

Another gripe we had concerned the retention clip for the graphics adapter.  The clip itself doesn't present a large problem, although we've become accustomed to not seeing them anymore; it's the placement of three capacitors immediately next to the clip that bothers us.  Trying to reach in and push down the clip with fat fingers is one thing, worrying about knocking a cap off the board is another.

Rear I/O features PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, COM, eSATA and S/PDIF-In and Out, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 2 LAN (one each from Intel and Realtek chips), and 5 audio jacks with TOSLINK thrown in as well.  Overall it's a really good-looking board from ECS that's sure to catch the eye, but it still has a few issues that we would like to see ECS iron out.
 


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