|ECS GF9300T-A Black Series GeForce 9300 Motherboard
The ECS GF9300T-A Black Series GeForce 9300 motherboard is hopefully a BIOS update away from being an incredible motherboard. It seems well conceived and well designed, but there are just too many issues and limiting factors to get overly excited about it as is. The performance was respectable in many tests anyway, and it makes me wonder just how good this board could be (at stock speeds or overclocked) if it wasn't being held back.
The main problems revolved around the system memory, where at least four big issues were noted. The first issue I noted was that the memory defaulted to 667MHz and would only run at 800MHz if the FSB was manually overclocked from 1333MHz to 1600MHz. Except for several options for CAS latency, the BIOS included no memory timing features, and a kit of 800MHz DDR2 rated for 4-4-4-12 timings would only run with pitiful 15-15-15-63 timings (at either 667MHz or 800MHz). The FSB:Mem ratio in the BIOS seemed to be reversed, and only 1:1 was usable. Instead of having memory run at reasonable DDR2 speeds between 800MHz and 1066MHz, the system would reference a 1333MHz FSB and try to set the memory to unrealistic speeds around 1600MHz to 2000MHz. The memory voltage settings are limited to just four choices between 1.88V and 2.18V, which won't help you run high speed kits generally rated for 2.3V, but that is four more choices than you have on the CPU voltage.
The integrated video was supposed to be the star of the show, and once the BIOS issues are cleared up I believe the graphics on the GF9300T-A will make this a very appealing motherboard. You still can't count on an integrated solution for even light game play, but you could build a great desktop or HTPC with this board, and save a bundle by eliminating a dedicated graphics card. HD audio and video are available onboard, and an HDMI connection makes connecting to your home theater a breeze.
The physical layout initially struck me as being a bit funky, but as I used the board I really liked it. There is plenty of room around the CPU socket to allow for even the largest of coolers, and the six SATA connections may be in an unusual orientation, but they will not be blocked by any expansion cards. And perhaps two of the coolest features on the board are the integrated power and reset buttons found right next to the front panel connections.
This board is just being released, so solid numbers on a price aren't available. Despite shifting to more enthusiast oriented features with their Black Series, ECS still manages to keep prices competitive. The most expensive Black Series boards are under $100 at Newegg.com, and ECS expects this one to be right there, too.
If they can work the kinks out, this will definitely be a worthwhile selection! I am hoping for a BIOS update or some kind of develop to come along soon, and if it does I will be sure to revisit this board with some more testing.
» Integrated power and reset buttons
» Extremely low power consumption
» ECS M.I.B. utility is a step in the right direction for enthusiast features
» CPU multiplier and FSB adjustment for overclocking
» Can reserve 32MB, 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, or 512MB of system memory for frame buffer
» Supports Hybrid SLI and GeForce Boost
» Integrated video capable of DirectX 10 and HD output, including HDMI
» 3D Graphics performance is very strong for an integrated solution
» Plenty of room for an oversized CPU cooler
» No drivers available for Windows Vista 64-Bit
» Chipset gets blazing hot, cooler surface hits 75C under normal use
» PCI Express x16 slot release mechanism difficult to operate
» DVI connection would be prefered over the 15-pin VGA connection
» BIOS options for optimizing are limited or flawed:
» No CPU voltage adjustment
» Limited memory voltage options (four choices between 1.88V and 2.18V)
» Could only get memory to 800MHz by overclocking FSB from 1333MHz to 1600MHz
» BIOS FSB:Mem ratio settings are reversed and most are unusable
» No memory timing adjustments except for CAS latency
» Terrible default memory timings (4-4-4-12 800MHz modules ran at 15-15-15-63)
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