12 - The Conclusion
Okay, it's time to sum things up. The ECS X48T-A motherboard is nice piece of machinery. Definitely great looking, it ran absolutely stable, it was showing really good baseline performance. Yet I'm afraid that once you start looking past the baseline configuration this is a mainboard with a lot of compromises which leaves me a little puzzled about this conclusion.
Let me try to explain, this is Intels X48 chipset, it's their most expensive set of chips, for a very high-end enthusiast mainboard. So as a consumer I expect every feature on this mainboard maxed out. And though the board is beautiful looking and has all the baseline features I'm afraid any enthusiast end-user will see this product as an above average run of the mill mainboard. Allow me to throw some examples at you: in the BIOS I missed quite a number of options. For example unlocked processor or not, we want to be able to control the multiplier of the processor within the range the processors allows it (a locked Q6600 for example can switch at MP 6,7,8, and 9, not possible. I want to be able to run my DDR3 memory asynchronously from the FSB. Nope, we were forced to set pre-defined frequencies for the memory .. as a result our DDR3 2000 MHz - 700 USD costing memory could not even be clocked higher than 1066 MHz, completely tied to the FSB. These are compromises you need to be aware of. Also we need more control over the voltages in much smaller steps; I mean stepping from v1.40 towards v1.45 is a large step for the processor, and voltage control for the actual X48 chipset (north and Southbridge) obviously is a must, yet missing as well. And I'm sure they'll be fixed with future BIOS updates.
In the high-end segment I expect additional features and tweaking madness. Then simple stuff, ... only two fan headers on the mainboard are to be found. The passive cooling is great, but the heat-pipe being glued to it with some sort of composite glue ? I'd like to see micro-switches to reset/power on, a CLEAR CMOS switch. Um .. diagnostic POST LEDs ? All that kind of stuff we want as an enthusiast consumer. Also the bundle ... when you offer a premium priced mainboard with 6 SATA connectors, you just need to include six SATA cables .. not four. When there are three extra USB headers on the mainboard, at the very least include an extra USB HUB cable you can connect to it.
So while the board performs really great within it's defined baseline it misses out a lot of extra's you expect in this category. Our overclock results were real somber as well; you are forced to overclock solely on the FSB, yet you won't go high either. This mainboard runs in to too many limitations too quickly, for the high-end segment.
The positive thing however is the price. This mainboard sells for 199 USD, making it the cheapest one I could find (x48 that is). But again, you just might as well pickup an X38 or X45 mainboard for equal or even less money that offers better tweaking options. With such boards you'll get the same stuff except FSB 1600 support, which works on these mainboards fine as well, it's just that it's not officially labeled as such. If you already are on a P35/38 based chipset, you just do not need to upgrade. Flash a new BIOS and you are good to go with any 1600 MHz FSB processor.
The X48 chipset seems to be made with one thing in mind, support for that 1000 EUR costing QX9770 processor, and that's just a very slim market.
Critique aside, the mainboard offers a pretty decent feature set. Pretty okay audio & good connectivity, six SATA connectors, passive silent cooling and quite honestly it really is a great looking mainboard with good layout. If you don't plan to overclock, this for sure can be a great piece of machinery for you as hey, you can even use it for Crossfire (using multiple ATI graphics cards to render games) gaming. So yeah, the lack of grand additional features does have a good positive point, in the USA expect a sales price of 199 USD, here in Europe we see a 160 EUR price tag .. and that's just heaps less than the competition at 299 USD / 250 EUR.
So in all fairness, the ECS X48T-A is a bit of a dilemma for me because while being a really nice mainboard at a really good price, it's just not out there and does not have enough weaponry reach to penetrate that exclusive enthusiast segment.
The ECS X48T-A can be positioned as a somewhat cheaper to afford lower placed product in the high-end mainboard segment. In the end if you come from a low-end mainboard and need something with some more muscle, this product might be the one for you, one thing is a certain fact, it's stable, has everything you'll need and seems to be made with splendid components
We do recommend the product with one limitation in mind, you need not plan to overclocking your system, and that's just a big contradiction for a X48 based mainboard. But hey, fact remains it's the cheapest X48 mainboard that you can find, it is aesthetically very pleasing, you can pick up the ECS X48T-A for 199,- USD.
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