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ECS's PX1 Extreme motherboard

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ModelPX1 Extreme
Price (MSRP)$162.99

LONG A STAPLE in the budget world, ECS recently turned its attention up market with an "Extreme" line of motherboards geared toward enthusiasts. ECS's first Extreme offerings were reasonably solid boards, but despite flashy colors and neon extras, they lacked many of the tweaking and overclocking options that enthusiasts have come to expect. Undeterred, and apparently eager to improve, ECS pressed on and introduced a new wave of Extreme boards, including the PX1 Extreme for Intel's new Core 2 processors.

At first glance, the PX1 looks promising. The board is built around Intel's latest P965 chipset—complete with a Viiv-compliant ICH8DH south bridge—and features passive chipset and VRM cooling, dual PCI Express x16 slots, two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, and eSATA and Firewire connectivity. A BIOS update also gets you support for CrossFire configurations and even Intel's latest quad-core processor.

Of course, it's easy to fill out a spec sheet. To really appeal to enthusiasts, the PX1 Extreme also has to deliver competitive performance and impeccable stability alongside all of the tweaking and overclocking options that ECS boards have typically lacked in the past. Read on to see if it does.

Board specs
Motherboard specs are rarely titillating, but the PX1's rap sheet is sure to raise a few eyebrows.

CPU supportLGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridgeIntel P965
South bridgeIntel ICH8DH
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots2 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
3 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/133 via JMicron JMB363
6 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
1 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1 support via JMicron JMB363
Audio8-channel HD audio via ICH8DH and Realtek ALC885 codec
Ports1 serial
1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
USB 2.0 with headers for 6 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Intel 82566DC
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8110S

1 eSATA via JMicron JMB363
Headers for 2 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6308P

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
Bus speedsFSB: 266-333MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 533, 667, 800MHz
Bus multipliersNA
Bus dividersNA
VoltagesCPU: default + 0.05-0.15V in 0.05V increments
DDR: default + 0.05-0.35V in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU

The board's P965 north bridge chip is a common component, of course, but this is the first enthusiast board we've seen equipped with the ICH8DH south bridge chip. The DH is essentially an ICH8R with the addition of what Intel calls Quick Resume Technology (QRT). QRT attempts to mimic the instant on/off characteristics of typical consumer electronics equipment by using a Quick Resume mode to fake a power off state. When invoked, this mode halts video output, mutes audio output, and switches the monitor to its low-power state. The rest of the system remains running—it's just playing dead.

QRT doesn't exactly jump out as a killer feature, but it could explain why the ICH8DH is compatible with Intel's Viiv platform, while the ICH8R is not. The PX1 Extreme is also Viiv-compliant, although you'll need to be running the latest version of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to complete the picture; neither Home nor Pro versions of Windows XP meet Viiv's requirements.

Another interesting feature that jumps off the PX1's spec sheet is the board's second PCI Express x16 slot. P965-based motherboards with dual x16 slots are relatively rare, and understandably so; when the chipset was announced, neither ATI nor Nvidia was willing to extend CrossFire or SLI support to include it. ATI has since changed its tune, making the PX1 one of very few P965 boards capable of taking advantage of CrossFire GPU teaming.

The final nugget of interest in the PX1's feature list is the board's use of an Intel 82566DC Gigabit Ethernet controller. An Intel GigE controller is required for Viiv compatibility, so it's not particularly surprising to see one on the board. However, it should be very interesting to see how the Intel chip fares against the Marvell and Realtek Gigabit chips more commonly found on enthusiast boards.