Final words and conclusion
Final Words & Conclusion
With the P67H2-A Black Edition motherboard ECS manages to bring an impressive product to the market. ECS strives to improve at all levels compared to a couple of years ago. Who still remembers the Purple PCB OEM like products? A difference between night and day.
The sheer design has had a massive upgrade, nice black PCB with strictly a three tone coloring schema (black/grey/white). Though taste of course differs it is by a beautiful to look at P67 motherboard. ECS went not one step further, no they took three steps with the new product series as they absolutely stuffed and loaded the motherboard with all kinds of nifty little gadget like the Diagnostic LED, power/on/cmos buttons, a second Ethernet jack, four USB 3.0 ports on the backside and then the chip is connected through an onboard hub allowing you to use two extra USB 3.0 ports at the front side with the help of the included front panel bay.
The motherboard itself has plenty of manageable fan header, power-phase leds en a lot of card ports like the three PCie x16 slots (physical).
Then of course there's the integration of the Lucid Hydra (LT24102) IC, we stated it already... we're not a fan of this technology at all. You can fool and play around with a combination of graphics cards but in the end the Lucid solution is massively driver dependant and almost always disappointing. The Lucid Hydra (LT24102) IC also adds another problem, increased costs. This motherboard will run towards 250 USD which is just a lot of money in this segment of the market. Regardless whether or not you'll use Hydra as a multi-GPU solution, which we doubt, it does bring extra PCie lanes towards this product.
Overall baseline performance is on par with any other P67 motherboard out there. It's all positive there. Overclocking wise we where able to get the Core i7 2600K towards 4.6 GHz on all cores at 1.35V. After that (on the Intel stock cooler) we ran into all kinds of issues.
The BIOS then, with such a motherboard I had hoped to see an EFI implementation, but ECS sticks to the traditional BIOS for now. That BIOS still has some bugs, for example it refused to pick up the XMP profiles for memory properly (GSKILL Ripjaws 2133 MHz) forcing us to run it at 1600 MHz. Mind you, this is a Sandy bridge optimized XMP ready kit that can run 2133MHz at CAS7. We also noticed smaller BIOS bugs in terms of voltage control. Example you set the CPU Voltage at 1.35V and after a reboot the voltage was still stock while the register mentions a +200Mv increase. The BIOS from ECS has improved heaps over the past two years, but always has small issues for whatever weird reason.
What we also have to mention a lot with ECS reviews is the diagnostic post LED, it displays status codes that can help you solve a problem. Again in the manual however there's no description of the status codes to be found. We also spotted this line at the ECS website: "only shows debug code that makes troubleshooting simple and easy but also displays the system temperature in real time after the motherboard has completed posting for monitoring and thermal state of the system" Um, no it doesn't once booted into windows it is displaying AA and nothing else. And I know, it's very small stuff to mention, but still ECS... why does stuff like that still happen?
The good stuff then, you're nothing short of anything, you get all the basics and then a some more. We very much like the fact that two NEC USB controllers + integrated HUB IC are to be found on this board, and ECS includes the extra USB 3.0 frontpanel bracket where the competition has left it out. Good stuff. SATA wise you'll receive four SATA2 and four SATA3 (6G) connectors of which two are eSATA ports at the back IO panel, that is good for sure.
Component usage is done in a durable style and includes quality mosfets, capacitors etc on that printed circuit boards. The baseline performance is on par with the reference Intel motherboard, give or take a few random occurrences. Overclocking wise we reached 4.6 GHz and after a future BIOS update we expect that result will become even better.
All the extra components do make this motherboard consume a little more power, add another 10-15 Watts over the more common motherboards. New is the EuP feature by the way, we like it. When powered down or in sleep mode the PC will utilize close to nothing, we measure less then a Watt of power consumption in both power states.
The P67H2-A Black Edition motherboard has a very nice feature set. Connectivity wise you are set and good to go, that rear IO panel is just chucked full with connectors. The feature set is good as well, the baseline performance again good. We did expect an EFI BIOS however ECS stuck to the original BIOS. Overclocking, it was okay, but is can be better, the overall design definitely caters a good tweak alright. Speaking about overclocking, bare in mind, to do what we did today you'll need a K model Sandy Bridge processor with the unlocked multiplier.
The Hydra implementation as far as we are concerned could have been left out as it increases product pricing to much, if end-users like to pursue multi-GPU setups they'll stick to Crossfire of SLI anyway.
This board as shown today will cost you roughly 250 USD. It's not cheap alright, but you do get a lot of kit for your money combined with a really nicely designed motherboard. As such we like to recommend the ECS P67H2-A Black Edition as an appealing and very feature rich motherboard.