The performance of this motherboard is simply unbelievable. We’ve never seen a motherboard with on-board video achieving this level of 3D performance. On older games (DirectX 8.1) the performance was similar to a low-end video card (GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64-bit memory interface and 64 MB) and on DirectX 9.0 this video card wasn’t a lot faster. We had never seen this happening before. Usually motherboards with on-board video achieve a 3D performance far lower than the “worst” add-on video card available at the market.
Of course if you want to play games you will probably buy at least a mainstream motherboard and an add-on card. But when a “real” video card is installed on this motherboard it achieves the same performance level of a P35-based motherboard, which is impressive.
So you can do a great deal buying this motherboard if you don’t have the money today to buy a motherboard based on Intel P35 chipset plus an add-on video card: you can buy this motherboard and use its on-board video for a while until you have the money to buy a good video card. Like we said, with an add-on card installed the performance of your system will be exactly the same of an Intel P35-based motherboard. For just using Windows Vista’s new 3D interface, Aero, the performance provided by this motherboard is more than enough.
Also, Intel G33 only steals the necessary amount of RAM from the system. If you are just running 2D programs the on-board video will steal only 4 MB from the system RAM (if you are using 1024x768x32), and not 128 MB or 256 MB like other motherboards with integrated graphics, thus providing a higher performance for 2D programs.
Once again we want to congratulate ECS to be finally using solid aluminum and Japanese capacitors on the voltage regulator circuit from this motherboard. The other caps are from Taiwanese vendors, but at least this is a good start for a manufacturer addicted to low-end components.
Having four memory sockets is another great feature, as if you want to add more memory in the future you won’t need to remove your old modules to install new ones; all you will need is to install two more modules on the two empty sockets. We say “two” because this motherboard features dual-channel technology and doesn’t make sense using less than two modules and adding less than two modules in the future.
This motherboard has some flaws, though. The main flaw is the absence of a parallel IDE port. On this motherboard you can’t install an IDE optical drive – e.g., an IDE DVD/CD burner. You will need a SATA drive, which isn’t as common as IDE models.
Secondly, the audio input quality isn’t good enough for today’s standards. This board provides only 85 dB signal-to-noise ratio on its audio input and you need at least 95 dB there. For this reason, avoid this motherboard if you want to build a system to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting VHS tapes, cassette tapes, LPs, etc to digital format).
In third place, this motherboard does not have on-board SPDIF connectors and even though the board provides a header for SPDIF, it doesn’t come with an SPDIF bracket, making it hard for users willing to connect their PCs to their home theater receivers. It should either have SPDIF connectors soldered on the motherboard or come with this bracket. On the other hand this motherboard provides full 7.1 analog outputs on its rear panel, allowing you to hook a 7.1 or 5.1 analog speaker system without killing the mic in and line in inputs.
If the flaws listed above aren’t a problem for you, this motherboard is surely the best socket LGA775 motherboard with on-board video around.
Even with its terrific performance, we think the absence of a parallel IDE port is inexcusable, thus we can’t give our Golden Award seal to it, and that is why we are awarding it with our Silver Award.