NF4 Ultra Shoot-Out: Abit vs. MSI vs. ECS

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ECS KN1 Extreme: Specifications & Bundle

The last entrant we present to you in this round-up comes to us by way of ECS. Over the years, ECS has been known as a provider of inexpensive products, that tended to lack some more advanced features found on competing solutions. With the KN1 Extreme, however, ECS aims to change their image with a motherboard allegedly designed with enthusiasts in mind. The KN1 Extreme includes some items found on much more expensive products, although ECS does put their own spin on things. For example, this board has an "OTES-like" VRM cooling apparatus, but it's not as elaborate as Abit's. And the KN1 Extreme has dual-LAN and a secondary drive controller like the MSI board, but one of the Ethernet controllers is only 10/100 and instead of using a more established Silicon Image or Promise drive controller, ECS went with a SiS180.  Take a look...

    

Specifications of the ECS KN1 Extreme
ECS's Enthusiast Board

PROCESSOR
_Socket 939 for AMD Athlon 64/ Athlon 64 FX processor
_High-performance Hyper Transport CPU interface
_Support transfer rate of 2000/1600/1200/800/400 mega-transfers per second

CHIPSET
_NVIDIA NFORCE4 Ultra single chip

MEMORY
_Dual-channel DDR memory architecture
_4 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM DIMM socket support up to 4 GB
_Support DDR400/333/266/200 DDR SDRAM

EXPANSION SLOT
_1 x PCI Express x16 slot
_2 x PCI Express x1 slots
_3 x PCI slots

STORAGE
Supported by NFORCE4 Ultra

_4 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices
_4 x Serial ATA2 devices

Supported by SiS 180
_2 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices
_2 x Serial ATA devices

_RAID0, RAID1 & RAID 0+1 configuration

AUDIO
_Realtek ALC655 6-Channel audio CODEC
_Compliant with AC'97 2.3 specification

IEEE 1394a
_TI TSB43AB22A support 2 x IEEE1394a

DUAL LAN
_Realtek RTL8100C 10/100 LAN controller
_Marvell 88E1111 Giga LAN PHY

REAR PANEL I/O
_1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
_4 x USB ports
_2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
_2 x Digital SPDIF (Optical & Coaxial) out
_1 x Serial port (COM1)
_1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)

INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
_1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
_1 x 4-pin ATX 12V connector
_1 x FDD connector supports two 360K~2.88MB FDD
_3 x IDE connectors
_6 x Serial ATA connectors
_1 x SMBus header
_1 x LPT1 header
_1 x IrDA for SIR header
_2 x 1394a headers
_3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
_1 x Front panel switch/LED header
_1 x Front panel audio header
_1 x CD in header
_CPUFAN/NB_FAN1/CASFAN1~2 connectors

SYSTEM BIOS
_Award BIOS with 4Mb Flash ROM
_Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
_Supports ACPI revision 1.0B specification

FORM FACTOR
_ATX Size, 305mm*244mm


    

  

ECS included a varied assortment of accessories with the KN1 Extreme. The board shipped with six (two in each baggie) orange SATA cables, a Molex-to-SATA power cable adapter, an IDE cable, a floppy cable, an Ethernet cable, and a bracket that housed a parallel port. ECS also provided a pair of driver and utility CDs (that included a copy of NVIDIA's nTune System Utility), a case badge, a user's manual, and a custom I/O shield with the KN1 Extreme. On top of these items, we found a case bracket with two USB ports and two Firewire ports, that can be disassembled and used in conjunction with a 3.5" bracket that's also bundled with the board.

Lastly, ECS included something we haven't encountered before. We've seen Gigabyte's dual-BIOS, and other board sport a pair of BIOS Flash ROMs, but ECS took a different route. Instead of equipping the board with a secondary BIOS, ECS packages their "Top-Hat Flash" device with the KN1 Extreme. It's basically a Flash ROM with a double-sided socket.  Should the BIOS on the board fail for whatever reason, users can simply snap the Top-Hat Flash Device over the existing chip to boot the system.  Then you can remove the Top-Hat Flash device and re-flash the board. Of course, this isn't the most elegant BIOS backup feature we've encounters, but it's effective and does the job its designed to do.

Tags:  MSI, ECS, MS, shoot, Ultra, F4, Abit, SHO, ULT

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