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Old September 8, 2010, 09:55 AM
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Default Overclocking Efficiency of the ECS’ Newest Black Series P55H-AK with 3-way SLI



Several newcomers have entered the motherboard market in recent years,
and thinking back on it, I actually miss the old days of intense competition between all the various motherboard manufacturers.
Nowadays consumers see fewer and fewer choices, many of which belong to the three major motherboard manufacturers.
At the same time, it seems that motherboard prices are getting higher and higher;
if there were a greater variety of manufacturers vying for customers within the market, consumers would be the true winners.

ECS has returned to the Taiwan market this year, and has put a lot of effort into giving its new motherboard products some exposure.
ECS seems to be on-par in terms of pricing, while ECS’ current OEM line of products are making strides in the high efficiency and overclocking realms,
resulting in an additional choice for high-level motherboards.

Intel has consistently set the LGA 1156-spec P55 chipset at the mid- to high-range portion of the consumer market.
Compared to the LGA 1366, the P55 lacks SLI support, multiple tasks PCI-E bandwidth support, and DDR3 technology support.
However, some high-level P55 products are able to connect external chipsets to strengthen the areas that are lacking.
The ECS P55H-AK I obtained is one of the few P55 products with high-level specs, which I will discuss more below.


First, looking at the exterior appearance of the P55H-AK, you notice that they use the less common colors of black, gray and gray-blue.
The product looks different from other motherboards since the colors used are very similar to one another,
resulting in a stately, solemn feel without seeming to overbearing.




Included Accessories
English manual, installation guide, driver CD, and a front panel USB 3.0 port


SATA cable, 2~3-way SLI Bridge


Lower left corner of motherboard
3 X PCI-E Gen 2.0 X16, supports 3-way CrossFireX and SLI technologies, bandwidth of X16+X8+X8
2 X PCI-E X1
1 X PCI
Realtek RTL8111E dual LAN chipset, supports Teaming


Lower right corner of motherboard
6 X white SATAII, P55 provides SATA2 specs, supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
2 X gray SATAIII, Marvell 9128 chipset provides, SATA3 specs, supports RAID 0, RAID 1
In the upper left is an external USB 3.0 Port interface, Power and Reset buttons and an internal Debug LED


Upper right corner of motherboard
4 X DIMM DDR3, supports 1066/1333/1600/1800(OC)/2000(OC)/2200(OC)/2400(OC), and DDR3 up to 16GB.
DDR3 1800 and above specs require overclocking to achieve; to the side is the 24-PIN power input.


Upper left corner of motherboard
LGA 1156 CPU installation area
The CPU pins are protected by a 15μ gold coating, providing 3x the durability and anti-oxidation and anti-scratch protection.
P55H-AK adopts a 12+2 power supply, which is a P55 power supply design that is among the top in the market.


IO
clr CMOS button
8 X USB 2.0(red/black)
2 X USB 3.0(blue)
2 X eSATA/USB 2.0 dual-usage red)
2 X RJ-45 internet port
1 X S/PDIF
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Old September 8, 2010, 10:10 AM
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USB 3.0 chipset uses NEC D720200F1


Second USB 3.0 chipset, designed as a front USB Port


The motherboard’s southbridge is an Intel P55 chipset, a single chip design that combines Intel Southbridge and Northbridge.
The silver heat sink below is a PLX PEX 8608, with an additional PCI-E bandwidth, allowing SATA3 and USB 3.0 to gain increased bandwidth.


The motherboard’s northbridge is an NVIDIA nForce200, whose major function is improving PCI-E bandwidth and supporting 2~3-way SLI technology.
The Black Series is ECS’ high-level motherboard, with Qooltech III design dual heat conductors.





Startup Screen


BIOS Main Page


M.I.B X functions to adjust timing, parameters and power supply
In this page you can adjust the CPU multiple frequency, CPU/DRAM frequency divider and DRAM parameters


More detailed DRAM parameters, CPU external clock adjustment and other overclocking functions


Voltage Page
CPU Core Voltage -0.900~+0.945V
CPU VTT Voltage -0.800~+0.630V
DRAM Voltage -0.800~+0.630V
PCH Voltage -0.800~+0.630V
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Old September 8, 2010, 10:14 AM
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Settings include two user profiles so that users can save their overclocking settings.


CPU-related Technology Options
C1E is a power-saving, frequency reduction function; when CPU usage is not high, it will automatically lower frequency and power


PC Health Status


The power supply functions and number of options in the P55H-AK’s BIOS isn’t bad, though if they added some power supply options it would be even better.
The above was my personal opinion, as I am using the CPU/DDR3 set at 210/1682;
those consumers with good constitutions or similar hardware sets could consider using these settings.
I hope this helps those of you who need to overclock.

Testing Configuration
CPU: Intel Core i7-875K
MB: ECS Black Series P55H-AK
DRAM: CORSAIR DOMINATOR-GT CMG4GX3M2A2000C8
VGA: GIGABYTE GTX260 OC 3-way SLI
HD: Intel X25-V 40GB RAID 0
POWER: CORSAIR TX950W
Cooler: Mega Shadow Deluxe Edition
OS: Windows7 Ultimate 64-bit


eBLU is a kind of BIOS that can update online, and is a relatively common addition to motherboards nowadays.


eOC is an overclocking software that allows you to set up power options and the external clock within the OS, providing faster overclock functions.
This software also allows you to see the motherboard’s current status


CPU with Intel Core i7-875K
Clocking at 2.93GHz, supports Turbo Boost, and can reach 3.6GHz
Four physical cores and Hyper-Threading technology can achieve eight simultaneous executions, called 4C/8T
45nm manufacturing with a L3 Cache that possesses 8MB; the above is currently the LGA 1156 platform’s best CPU specs


Overclocking Settings
CPU 210 X 21 => 4200MHz 1.308V
DDR3 1680 CL8 8-8-24 1T

Hyper PI 32M X8=> 14m 35.068s
CPUMARK 99=> 652


CrystalMark 2004R3 => 285653


CINEBENCH R11.5
CPU => 7.13 pts
CPU(Single Core) => 1.43 pts
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Old September 8, 2010, 10:22 AM
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PCMark Vantage => 16381


P55H-AK takes the CPU overclocking to 4.2GHz after passing numerous kinds of software stability testing,
while the power requirements are about the same as other P55 products.
In conjunction with the i7 875Kexternal clock, 210MHz can be achieved stably, which is a pretty good performance for the P55 level.
In terms of CPU voltage, we can only get statistics for default voltage during standby mode,
and can only achieve the voltage values of user-set BIOS settings at full speed.
During relatively larger overclocking, some negative effects was still seen; I hope ECS can improve this in the future.

DRAM Efficiency Testing
DDR3 1680 CL8 8-8-24 1T
Sandra Memory Bandwidth - 21889 MB/s
EVEREST Memory Read - 20980 MB/s


DDR3 2000 CL9 9-9-24 1T
Sandra Memory Bandwidth - 25067 MB/s
EVEREST Memory Read - 21868 MB/s


DDR3 bandwidth testing showed better results than other P55 motherboard products,
perhaps because the default parameters were tighter, or perhaps because the OEM fine-tuned it better.
The P55H-AK DDR3 bandwidth performed about as well as the LGA 1366 three-channel bandwidth tested.


3D effects Testing
Three GTX 260 were used for testing, P55H-AK is one of the few that support NVIDIA 3-way SLI P55 products

3DMark Vantage => P28536
CPU SCORE => 52795
GPU SCORE => 24746


Street Fighter IV Benchmark
1920 X 1200 8XAA => 132.97FPS


Devil May Cry 4
DX10 1600 X 1200 8XAA => 109.63/97.68/108.19/125.07 fps


Final Fantasy XIV
1920 X 1080 => 4008


Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty
Settings at High - 62


Lost Planet 2
DX9 1920 X 1200 TEST A - 44.9 fps


DX9 1920 X 1200 TEST A - 40.1 fps


3DMark Vantage and Final Fantasy XIV both support 3-way SLI, so the numbers are much higher than the single-chip GTX260.
However, the testing of other games, which did not support SLI, showed that they were unable to take advantage of its functions.
For many games, not only is there the problem of GPU SLI/CF support, but there is also a great deal of room for improvement for supporting four-core (or more) CPUs.
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Old September 8, 2010, 10:31 AM
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ECS Black Series P55H-AK
Advantages
1. High-level P55 motherboard products are rare in the market, and the external appearance and packaging are both well-done
2. Internal NVIDIA NF200 chip, 3D expanded to 3-way NVIDIA SLI / ATi CrossfireX
3. Uses newest USB 3.0 and SATA3 chips, improving the highest bandwidth for motherboard transmission interfaces
4. Added PLX PEX 8608 chip, increasing PCI-E overall bandwidth
5. DDR3 bandwidth performs better, excellent CPU external clock overclock range

Disadvantages
1. CPU voltage values are at default during standby mode
2. DDR3 2000+ stability has room for improvement
3. USB 3.0 performance sometimes drops



Efficiency ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Materials ★★★★★★★★★☆
Specs ★★★★★★★★★☆
Appearance ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Price ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The ideal CPU to match the LGA 1156’s P55 chipset would be the i5 750/760 or i7 860/870/875K.
After Intel lowers the price of CPUs, this platform’s C/P numbers will exceed that of the highest level X58.
In addition, every motherboard manufacturer is releasing quite a few P55 motherboard products, giving consumers many options.
Prices range from around NT$3500 (around US$110) to around NT$10,500 (US$330).
I suggest that before buying the LGA 1156 you look at your budget, and then buy a P55 motherboard product that suits your needs.



In terms of design and components, the P55H-AK meets the standards of major three-channel motherboard products,
which is something that is definitely worth noting.
Motherboards being sold for around NT$9500 (US$298) now are high-level P55 motherboards.
If the prices can be pushed down a little, I believe it will increase C/P values, and could become more acceptable to more consumers.

Since ECS has not entered the field of high-level overclocking products for very long, there are a few details that could be done better.
For example, increase BIOS options, or strengthen BIOS stability during extreme overclocking; this would increase the level of performance.
ECS is a major global motherboard manufacturer; if they can establish themselves in high-level overclocking products;
this would greatly improve their brand image.
When purchasing a motherboard, many consumers look for an option outside the major three manufacturers, and ECS is certainly worth consideration.
I hope that for future high-level products, like the modified X58 or the yet-to-be-released P67 chipset, ECS will be able to produce even better products. 

This article is also posted in my blog: WIND'S 3C
Welcome 3C fans to drop by.
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Old September 8, 2010, 12:55 PM
Bao Bao is offline
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Very nice looking board, thanks for the review.
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