The R&D and marketing team over at ECS recently started a new line in their product line-up of mainboard, The "Black Series" is targeted slightly more at you guys, feature packed mainboards, nice design, black PCB and even semi-decent overclocking options. All that with an affordable price tag in mind.
Just like opening up the 780G mainboard we recently tested the first though was, 'that looks like an enthusiast board'. The black PCB and colorful design are eye-catching, then you will notice a HDMI connector. Pretty cool, and when I checked the sales price ... I was .. no way. This thing is just really reasonably priced.
The ECS G8200A mainboard is a product based on a single chipset, you'll find one passively cooled NVIDIA MCP78S or (GF8200A) on the PCB. This product therefore is a direct competitor to AMDs 780G chipset. Both product target the same market with integrated graphics capable of managing HDCP/HDMI at 1080P decoding VC-1, H.264 (AVC), WMV, and MPEG-2 sources.
Processor support wise the G8200A can take all new offerings, the AMD Phenom X4 AM2+, AMD Phenom x3, Athlon 64 and Sempron processors. You'll also noticed that is has four DIMM sockets, ready for DDR2 up to 32GB can be installed on board.
We already mentioned it a couple of times, yet graphics wise the mainboard comes with an integrated DX10 unit, based on the low-budget GeForce 8200. While for decent gaming it's just really slow, the good thing is that this mainboard series takes advantage of Hybrid SLI. This allows the product to boost up the overall 3D performance by cooperating with the onboard integrated graphics. Unfortunately the highest speed supported graphics card is the 8500GT. Having the integrated GPU and a 8500 crunch games, is still very average. In the end for serious gaming you will have to purchase a real graphics card.
There is more to Hybrid SLI though, as it allows the user to flip between the two GPUs according to need. Need 3D performance for gaming? Activate the graphics card. The rest of the time: host the system's graphics on the lower-power integrated GPU. Switching between the two can take place on the fly, unlike past attempts to do this, all of which required a restart. Though the drivers where not ready at the time of writing this review, when you match the mainboard with a Hybrid Ready graphics card, inevitably you can turn on/off the second installed graphics adapter, preserving energy. A cool feature which we'll take a better look at pretty soon.
Let's take a peek at some of the features this 70 USD wonder has in store for us.
VGA connectivity wise ECS gives you a D-SUB connector (why not DVI?) and the afore mentioned HDMI interface. The HDMI port supports HDCP function to enjoy better quality with High Definition HDCP Encrypted content like HD-DVD and Blu-ray. You'll also notice that the mainboard has 6 USB ports (and 6 more can be connected by brackets), 5 SATA II ports, 1 eSATA port, (fake-raid for RAID 0,1,5,10,JBOD).
The G8200A also comes with a PCIe x16 port for the latest graphics cards. Then we'll see 3 PCI, 1 PCIe x16, 2 PCie 1x1 slots on board. A Gigabit Ethernet connector (Realtek), and IDT 7.1 channel audio.
IDT audio as something new for me. It's Audio, based on the chipset support for HD Audio and IDT 'Integrated Audio technology' 92HD206 codec, 7.1 channel audio, front line-ins/outs, S/PDIF-Out, and CD-In. It offers a really good GUI, sounds just fine ... don't expect X-Fi quality though.
Major lacking in connectivity however is an digital output for sound in the form of SPDIF or TOSLINK.
The full ATX board comes with a 4 phase power distribution, opening up the discussion of 125W TDP CPUs, please check the ECS website for processor support. We tested it with a Phenom 9850, without any issues. We even overclocked it a little by increasing the multiplier in the BIOS (you'll need a black edition Phenom processor for that option btw).
Memory wise we see support for four 240-pin unbuffered non-ECC DDR II SDRAM DIMM sockets with up to 4GB per DIMM; 32GB of memory can be installed on board. For AM2 processors, DDR2-533/667/800 is supported. For Phenom AM2+, memory supported is DDR2-667/800/1066.
This MCP chipset supports 12 USB connectors compliant with USB2.0 from embedded USB controller (6 connectors at rear panel). Anyway, enough tech gabble .. let's have a look at the product and then fire off some benchmarks at it.
ECS GF8200A black edition mainboard review The ECS GF8200A black edition mainboard is a 70 USD/EUR mainboard comes with Hybrid graphics, (integrated GeForce 8200), VGA output, HDMI output, HD audio integrated, Gigabit Ethernet, PCI-Express 2.0, Serial ATA (RAID 0,1,10) DDR2 memory up-to 1066 MHz and all that for a price hovering at roughly 70 bucks ! That's just electrifying. Say you want to build a HTPC capable of decoding 1080P Blu-Ray. Well, purchase this mainboard, slap some memory on it and get a budget processor. Because the integrated graphics core will handle the HDMI and even media VC-1/h.264 decoding for you (Blu-ray / HD-DVD). See this is just a very cheap alternative.