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Review: ECS PF4 Extreme

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 11 August 2004, 00:00

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ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) are a company that surprised a lot of people at Computex this year. Their LGA775 designs for the new Intel PCI Express Pentium 4 platform generally broke the mould that everyone else was using, instead coming up with offerings that surprised, and in a good way. And with no ECS product ever having been reviewed at HEXUS before, I was hoping that we'd work something out to get their mainboards in for testing and review.

Subsequent analyis of the new P4 platform and the market forces surrounding it, in terms of product supply and demand, have made the platform a little less desirable than a lot of people were expecting. Lack of graphics card choice for the new PEG16X interconnect, lack of PCI Express peripherals to use in the slots that displace traditional PCI (now called PCI Conventional) slots and the fact that LGA775 CPUs are somewhat thin on the ground, or downright rare, have been the major downsides.

It's taken the sheen off things, and quite rightly so, but if you're prepared to give the platform misgivings the benefit of the doubt there's still some bits to get a little excited about. HD Audio and Intel's new Matrix Storage controller on the ICH6/R southbridge are the best bits of our misfit bunch, but they're arguably enough to tempt you into a platform shift if you're heavily into disk storage, or you want a high-quality on-board audio solution that's a cut above the usual Realtek ALC65x CODECs.

And it's thinking about a couple of ECS's mainboard designs for the new platform that's kept me interested in things as a whole. Because if they can come up with something that breaks the humdrum mould, others can too, and that gives me hope that the new platform won't be a complete dud.

So when we managed to grab ourselves a triplet of new ECS mainboards, two of which are for the new platform, it was time to bust out the DDR-II and the LGA Extreme Edition and go testing again. After the disappointment of the ABIT AA8/AG8 duo and Tarinder's muted but enthusiastic response to ASUS's offerings, are ECS any more up to the task of creating a compelling LGA775 mainboard for the enthusiast?

Let's find out by taking a look at their PF4 Extreme, a mainboard aimed at squarely at the usual HEXUS readership.