ECS P32T-A2 Motherboard Review

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Jeremy’s take on this motherboard

While browsing on NewEgg for P45 motherboards I noticed there was also a new P43 chipset, which I had heard nothing about. I was curious so ECS was kind enough to send me their new P43T-A2 motherboard so I could see what this new chipset was all about for myself.

Specs & Features

  • North Bridge – Intel P43
  • South Bridge – Intel ICH10 (so unfortunately, no included RAID)
  • 4x DDR2 Slots with dual-channel support, up to 16 GB RAM
  • 1x PATA
  • 6x SATA 3GB/S
  • 6 Channel Audio
  • 1x Gigabit LAN port
  • 4x Rear USB
  • Form factor is ATX
  • 1x PCI-Express 16x
  • 3x PCI-Express 1x
  • 2x PCI

This board accepts all current s775 CPUs, including 45 nm.

First Impressions

The P43T-A2 comes in one of the most attractive boxes I’ve seen in a while. While the box may not be important to some, packaging is very important to me. This ECS box is very simple and to-the-point. It has a logo and lists features – what else do you need?

By the way, the box looks so much better in person.

 

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On removing it from the box, the first thing I noticed about the board was a fan header right next to, and almost touching, the 4-pin CPU power plug. That fan header is also crowded by capacitors, so if you want to remove a fan, you get to yank it out by the wires rather than the plug, creating the potential for bent pins.

 

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The second thing I noticed is the southbridge heatsink, or lack thereof. It’s just a thin piece of aluminum stuck to the southbridge. This may be a small problem, as I’ll point out later.

 

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The rest of the motherboard seems to be laid out fairly well – it’s neat and uncluttered.

Also in the box:

  • User’s manual
  • Driver disc
  • 1 PATA cable
  • 1 SATA cable
  • I/O Shield
  • Quick install guide in 12 languages

Now let’s see what this little P43 is all about – the test setup:

  • ECS P43T-A2
  • Intel Core 2 e8500
  • 2 x 1 GB Team Xtreem PC2 8000
  • BFG 8800GTS 512 MB
  • Corsair HX 520w
  • CPU cooling with Thermalright Ultra-120 with Arctic Silver 5

I used higher end components to be sure the limits reached were actually those of the motherboard. Someone buying this board for his or her own computer probably wouldn’t be using the same components I chose, as this is a budget board.

Everything went in smoothly as expected until I got to the video card. I had already plugged an optical drive into the first SATA port. As it turns out, if you’re using a higher end two-slot video card, the first two SATA ports are unusable. However, many people buying this board probably won’t be using a card like this, so the problem goes away. Also, the two SATA ports would probably become available again if I put an aftermarket cooler on the card.

 

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The BIOS

Pretty standard main BIOS menu:

 

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DRAM Frequency settings are Auto, 667 MHz and 800 MHz. Minimum timings are 3-3-3-9, maximum timings are 10-10-10-24.

 

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And finally the overclocking section – it’s about what you would expect from a budget board, but no CPU multiplier adjustment.

 

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I’m pleased with so many voltage options, but I hate the +xxx voltage thing. Why can’t they list the actual voltages? It’s easy to figure out, but still annoying. I can’t blame ECS, though, as I’ve seen this on high-end boards as well.

 

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VDIMM options are great. I wanted 2.2v but 2.25v will do fine. It goes up to 2.4v, , which will never be needed with this board.

 

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I installed Windows and booted in at stock speed to check for any potential issues. I felt around the board to see if there were going to be any heat issues, and as I expected, the southbridge was already scorching. I stuck a fan on it and went on about my business. The northbridge heatsink was fine, just slightly warm. However, when I started overclocking I was in disbelief at how much hotter the northbridge got with only a bump in FSB to 350, so I stuck a fan on that as well.

When I set out to find the max stable FSB for this board I was hoping for 400 FSB, but I was completely crushed – I could only get 362 MHz stable. The first screenshot was overnight at 360 MHz.

 

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As it turns out, this board doesn’t care too much for clocking RAM. I changed the ratio from 5:6 to 1:1, giving me the 400 FSB I was after.

 

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The absolute max FSB I reached for this board ended up being 410 stable and 418 bootable. It would POST at 420, but couldn’t quite make it into Windows.

Conclusion

This motherboard actually surpassed my expectations. I was hoping for 400 FSB, but wasn’t so sure I would get it. Sure 400 FSB isn’t much compared to the 600 FSB that some of my other boards will do, but they serve different purposes than those for which this board is intended.

You can’t set world records with this board, but you can build your kid a decent and very inexpensive gaming rig. Many of the budget Intel CPUs, such as the newer generation Conroe-L Celerons, have an FSB “wall” at or below 400 MHz – all of the ones I’ve owned did. The fact that the board doesn’t like high RAM speeds means you can buy budget RAM. A Celeron 430 (or even a Q9300) paired with some 800 MHz valueram would make for some very nice 1:1 400 FSB action.

Jeremy Clifton

 

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