ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme £150
27th Jan 2011 | 12:58
Premium price, premium performance?
ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme review: Overview
Everybody's doing it and so is ECS, releasing its top-end Sandy Bridge motherboard, the P67H2-A Black Extreme.
ECS may not be as well known as some of its rivals, but it does seem to come out with some interesting boards, especially its Black Extreme series for the enthusiasts.
And the latest addition to this line is no exception.
It combines Intel's Sandy Bridge combination of the Socket 1155 CPU support and the P67 Express chipset with Lucid's Hydra graphics technology to support mix-and-match combinations of graphics cards.
That is to say you can use Nvidia and AMD cards together in the same board. While the jury may be out on the performance benefits of the technology itself, it's an interesting route for ECS to take.
There's also not one but two USB 3.0 controllers on the board, meaning you get four ports on the rear panel as well as an aluminium two port USB 3.0 front expansion adaptor. That adapter is bundled with the board and sits in any spare 3.5-inch panel at the front of any PC case.
ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme review: Benchmarks
This early version of the BIOS, although reporting a 100MHz base clock, was according to CPU-Z running at just under that at 99.8MHz, meant the processor was running at 3.39GHz instead of the 3.4GHz.
The same happened when it was over clocked to 4.2GHz – it ended up running at 4.19, which all sounds insignificant but is the reason by the board falls slightly behind the Asus P8P67-M Pro when it comes to the rendering benchmarks.
CPU Rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5 – Index: higher is better
Asus P8P67M-Pro: 6.71
Foxconn P67A-S: 6.69
ECS P67H2-A: 6.53
Cinebench R10 – Seconds: quicker is better
Asus P8P67M-Pro - 37
Foxconn P67A-S – 39
ECS P67H2-A - 39
x264v2 – FPS: higher is better
Asus P8P67M-Pro: 35.15
Foxconn P67A-S: 32.71
ECS P67H2-A: 33.21
x264v3 – FPS: higher is better
Asus P8P67M-Pro: 35.70
Foxconn P67A-S: 36.76
ECS P67H2-A: 32.71
1080p gaming performance
Just Cause 2 – FPS: higher is better
Asus P8P67M-Pro: 46
Foxconn P67A-S: 46
ECS P67H2-A: 45
ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme review: Verdict
Built on an ATX PCB, the P76H2-A has an impressive 14-phase power management design that includes solid capacitors and Ferrite chokes. All of that should mean stability when the board is being overclocked.
The P67 chipset and the MOSFETs sit under some fairly hefty passive heatsinks connected together by heatpipes, while the Lucid HydraLogix 200 chip sits all alone under a low profile heatsink, which again is passive.
One of the first things that you notice when looking at the ECS P76H2-A – apart from the striking black, white and grey colour scheme – is the collection of three PCI-E graphics slots.
The top two slots are positioned with enough distance between them so graphics cards with large coolers can be used together with out too many problems, but the third slot is positioned very close to the bottom edge of the board so any heftily cooled card will overhang the board.
This wont be a problem in most chassis, but generally any of the cards capable of three-way multi-GPU will be the high-end cards, which will usually have chunkier cooling arrays.
The top slot always runs at full x16 speed, while the second runs at x16 if two graphics cards are used (CrossFire or SLI) but the speed drops to x8 if three cards are used. That third slot will always run at x8 regardless of whether the two other slots are filled.
As well as graphics cards, if you've also got a lot of external devices to plug into your board, the ECS P67H2-A Black Extreme will fit the bill nicely.
Apart from the previously mentioned USB 3.0 ports, the board supports up to 14 USB 2.0 ports (six on the rear I/O panel and eight more through four motherboard headers) and there are two eSATA 6Gbps on the back panel along with two Gigabit LAN connectors.
ECS has taken a bold step by adding the Lucid technology to the board, and it does give a lot of flexibility when it comes to setting up the graphics.
The inclusion of the USB 3.0 panel is a nice idea too, because it allows you too add front USB 3.0 ports to a case, which are only just beginning to surface on the latest PC case designs.
The one real dislike about the board will only really concern you if you want to overclock it. We had an early version of the Aptio BIOS that had an unfinished look about it, which will hopefully improve with any upgrades coming down the line.