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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

ECS RS482-M is a very simple socket 939 motherboard based on ATI’s chipset with embedded graphics, Radeon Xpress 200 – which uses the same graphics engine from Radeon X300 –, supporting Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX and Athlon 64 X2 CPUs. We were very curious to benchmark Radeon Xpress 200 and compare its performance to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200, and also to its main competitor, NVIDIA’s GeForce 6100.

ECS RS482-MFigure 1: ECS RS482-M Rev 1.0A motherboard.

There is nothing special about RS482-M visual aspect. RS482 and SB400 chips that together form Radeon Xpress 200 chipset use passive (fanless) heatsinks.

ECS RS482-MFigure 2: RS482 north bridge and SB400 south bridge passive heatsinks.

Since it uses microATX form factor, its layout is very compact. It uses Taiwanese capacitors from OST, which are also used by ASUS, and some from G-Luxon, which don’t have a good reputation because of the infamous electrolytic capacitor leakage problem.

This motherboard has on-board video, audio and LAN using SB400 south bridge, bringing also four 150 MB/s Serial ATA ports (with RAID 0 and 1 support), but with no NCQ (Native Command Queuing) support.

It would be more interesting if this motherboard had only two Serial ATA ports but supporting SATA-300 and NCQ.

ECS RS482-MFigure 3: Four Serial ATA-150 ports.

It has two DDR-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 2 GB of DDR266/333/400 memory. Please pay very close attention here. ECS should have used different colors on the memory sockets to let you know that this motherboard supports DDR dual channel feature. You need to install two identical memory modules in order to achieve the maximum performance this motherboard can provide.

Of course people that buy a socket 939 motherboard knows that the CPU memory controller is capable of running under dual channel mode, but using the same color on both sockets may lead users to think that this motherboard uses single channel mode. Several users may install only one memory module on this motherboard because of this, reducing the PC performance.

So with this motherboard you need to always use two identical memory modules in order to use dual channel feature, which increases the system performance.

ECS RS482-MFigure 4: Detail of memory sockets.

Its on-board audio is controlled by SB400 south bridge together with 6-channel Realtek ALC655 codec; its on-board 10/100 LAN is controlled by Realtek RTL8100C chip; this motherboard also has eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets, which don’t come with the motherboard.

The reviewed model came with two FireWire (IEEE 1394a) ports controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, one soldered on the motherboard and another available through an I/O bracket, which doesn’t come with the motherboard. This feature is optional.

ECS RS482-MFigure 5: ECS RS482-M real panel.

Since it is a very simple motherboard, it doesn’t come with a lot of accessories: just one Serial ATA cable, one Serial ATA power adapter and one IDE 80-wire cable.

On the CD-ROM that comes with this motherboard you will find only the motherboard drivers and utilities.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]ECS RS482-M main features are:

  • Socket: 939.
  • Chipset: ATI Radeon Xpress 200 (PCI Express x16, ATA-133), RS482 north bridge and SB400 south bridge.
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8712F.
  • Parallel IDE: Two ATA-133 ports.
  • Serial IDE: Four SATA-150 ports controlled by SB400 south bridge (RAID 0 and 1).
  • USB: Eight USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets, which don’t come with the motherboard).
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394a): Yes, two ports controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, one soldered on the motherboard and another available through an I/O bracket that doesn’t come with the motherboard. This item is optional.
  • On-board audio: Produced by nForce 410 south bridge together with Realtek ALC655 codec (six channels, 16-bit resolution and 90 dB SNR).
  • On-board video: Yes, produced by Radeon Xpress 200 (Radeon X300 graphics engine).
  • On-board LAN: Yes, Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) controlled by Realtek RTL8100C chip.
  • Buzzer: Yes.
  • Power Supply: ATX12V v2.x (24-pin).
  • Slots: 1 PCI Express x16 slot and 3 PCI slots.
  • Memory: TwoDDR-DIMM sockets (up to 2 GB up to DDR400/PC3200).
  • Number of CDs that come with this motherboard: 1 CD.
  • Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities.
  • Extra features: None.
  • More Information: https://www.ecsusa.com.
  • Average price in the US*: USD 61.50.

* Researched at Pricewatch.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

  • BIOS version: 1.2C – April 25th, 2006.
  • Motherboard revision: 1.0A.
  • Processor (performance benchmarking): Athlon 64 3800+ (2.4 GHz) with 512 KB L2 cache, NewCastle core.
  • Processor (overclocking): Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2 GHz) with 512KB L2 cache, Venice core.
  • Cooler: AMD In-a-Box.
  • Memory: Two Corsair PC4000 TWINX1024-4000PRO modules with 512 MB each, installed on DDR Dual Channel configuration (3-4-4-8 1T timings).
  • Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint SP0411N (7,200 rpm, 40 GB, ATA-133).
  • Video Cards: Geforce 6600 GT 128 MB (Leadtek), Geforce 6200 128 MB (Leadtek)and GeForce 6200 TurboCache 64 MB 64-bit (XFX).
  • Video resolution: [email protected]
  • Power Supply: Seventeam ST420BKV-03F.

Software Configuration

  • Windows XP Professional installed using NTFS
  • Service Pack 2
  • DirectX 9.0c

Driver Versions

  • NVIDIA video driver version : 84.21 WHQL.
  • NVIDIA nForce driver version: 6.86 WHQL (nForce 4 Ultra).
  • NVIDIA nForce driver version: 8.25 WHQL (nForce 6100 + NF410).
  • ATI driver version: Catalyst 6.6.
  • Audio driver version: Realtek 3.89.

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”Overall Performance”]We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

  • Internet Content Creation: Simulates the authoring of a website containing text, images, videos and animations. The following programs are used: Adobe After Effects 5.5, Adobe Photoshop 7.01, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Discreet 3ds Max 5.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Flash MX, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.
  • Office Productivity: Simulates the use of an office suite, i.e., simulates sending e-mails, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. The following programs are used: Adobe Acrobat 5.05, Microsoft Office XP SP2, Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1, NaturallySpeaking 6, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We selected the following motherboards to compare to ECS RS482-M: Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) and WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410).

The motherboards were tested two times. One with their on-board video enabled and another using a GeForce 6600 GT 128 MB installed in order to see if their on-board video played any role on the motherboard processing performance. We also used this configuration to see how was the performance of the reviewed motherboard compared to a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset with a GeForce 6600 GT installed.

The results published on this review cannot be compared to the results from other reviews we published, as the BIOS and drivers we used were newer ones.

You can see the results on the chart below.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

SYSmark 2004 – Score Score  Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT  189 +7.39%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board 180 +2.27%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) + GeForce 6600 GT  180 +2.27%
ECS RS482-M (ATI Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) + GeForce 6600 GT   178 +1.14%
ECS RS482-M (ATI Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 176  

On SYSmark 2004 ECS RS482-M achieved a performance similar to the other motherboard with on-board video we tested, WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410), and the on-board video didn’t have any influence on the performance of the reviewed board.

A mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset (Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS) was 7.39% faster than the reviewed motherboard, achieving a good advantage at Office Productivity suite.

Of course this comparison isn’t fair, but just for you to have an idea of the performance difference between an entry-level motherboard and a high-end one on SYSmark2004.

[nextpage title=”Processing Performance”]Using the same methodology of the previous test, we measured processing performance using PCMark04 program. PCMark04 score is influenced by the vídeo card used. Thus the motherboard with the best on-board video will achieve the highest score on this program.

You can see the results below.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

PCMark04 (Build 1.3.0) Score Difference
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) + GeForce 6600 GT 4568  +11.17%
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT 4563 +11.05%
ECS RS482-M (ATI Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) + GeForce 6600 GT  4511 +9.78%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board  4162 +1.29%
ECS RS482-M (ATI Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 4109  

With its on-board video enabled ECS RS482-M achieved a performance similar to the Foxconn motherboard using GeForce 6100 chipset.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, the reviewed motherboard achieved a performance similar to Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE”]

One of the best ways to measure the performance of a PC is through 3D games, since they usually pull the maximum power from the motherboard, memory, CPU, video card and hard disk drive. We chose five programs for measuring the 3D performance of the motherboard being reviewed: 3DMark2001 SE, 3DMark03, 3DMark05, Doom 3 and Quake III Arena.

Similarly to what we’ve done on our WinFast 6100K8MA-RS review, we compared ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200) on-board video performance with the performance of other video cards we had available here in our lab: GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits from Leadtek), a GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit interface from Leadtek) and a GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface (from XFX).

Of course we compared the performance of Radeon Xpress 200 with its main rival, GeForce 6100 from NVIDIA.

3DMark2001 SE measures 3D performance by making DirectX 8.1 simulations.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS482-M. We also included the results for Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

3DMark2001 SE (Build 3.3.0) Score  Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT 18916 +235.81%
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits)  18715  +232.24%
GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128 bits)  13088  +132.35%
GeForce 6200 TurboCache (64 MB, 64 bits) 9101 +61.57%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board 5658 +0.44%
ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 5633  

As you can see, Radeon Xpress 200 achieved a performance similar to its main competitor, GeForce 6100.

All tested video cards beat Radeon Xpress 200 on-board video used by ECS RS482-M.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, ECS RS482-M achieved the same performance of Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is, as we mentioned earlier, a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark03″]

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but now running 3Dmark03. Keep in mind that 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9.0 games, which is fully supported by GeForce 6100 and by Radeon Xpress 200.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS482-M.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

3Dmark03 (Build 3.6.0)  Score Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT  8387 +457.65%
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits)  8377 +456.98%
GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128 bits) 4069 +170.55%
GeForce 6200 TurboCache (64 MB, 64 bits) 2485 +65.23%
ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 1504  
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board 1412 -6.52%

On this test on-board video from Radeon Xpress 200 (RS482) was 6.52% faster than the on-board video from the WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100).

All tested video cards beat Radeon Xpress 200 on-board video used by ECS RS482-M.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, ECS RS482-M achieved the same performance of Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is, as we mentioned earlier, a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark05″]

We again followed the same methodology described previously, but now running 3DMark05. This program measures 3D performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0. This programming model is used by the latest games and is supported by GeForce 6100 but not by Radeon Xpress 200 (RS482).

It isn’t fair to use this program to evaluate 3D performance of motherboards with on-board video, as they achieve a very low score on this program. We ran it anyway, basically to see the performance ECS RS482-M achieved using a real video card installed.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS482-M.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

3Dmark05 (Build 1.2.0) Score Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT 3561 +414.60%
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits) 3358 +385.26%
GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128 bits) 1435  +107.37%
GeForce 6200 TurboCache (64 MB, 64 bits) 1035 +49.57%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board 695  +0.43%
ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 692  

As you can see, Radeon Xpress 200 achieved a performance similar to its main competitor, GeForce 6100.

All tested video cards beat Radeon Xpress 200 on-board video used by ECS RS482-M.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, ECS RS482-M was 5.7% slower than Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is, as we mentioned earlier, a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Doom 3″]Doom 3 is one of the heaviest games available today. We run this game at 1024x768x32 resolution at high quality. We run demo1 four times and wrote the obtained number of frames per second. The first result we discarded at once, since it is far inferior than the other results. This happens because at the first time we run the demo the game must load all textures to video memory, fact that doesn’t happen from the second time we run the demo on. From the three results left, we consider as our official result the middle result, i.e., we discard the highest and the lowest values. Curiously almost all times the values obtained at the second round on were the same.

A very important detail that we must mention is that Doom 3 has an internal FPS lock: it is only capable of generating 60 frames per second, even if your PC is able to produce more frames per second than that. This is done in order to make the game to have the same “playability” sensation independently from the video card installed on the PC. This lock, however, is disabled in the game benchmarking mode.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS482-M.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

Doom 3 – Demo 1 Score Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT  84.5 +849.44%
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits)  80.3 +802.25%
GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128 bits)  39.3  +341.57%
GeForce 6200 TurboCache (64 MB, 64 bits)  17.1 +92.13%
ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 8.9  
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board 8.7 -2.30%

As you can see, Radeon Xpress 200 achieved a performance similar to its main competitor, GeForce 6100.

All tested video cards beat Radeon Xpress 200 on-board video used by ECS RS482-M.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, ECS RS482-M was 5% slower than Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is, as we mentioned earlier, a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake III”]We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default conFiguretion and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS482-M.

ECS RS482-M  Motherboard Review

Quake III – demo four Score Difference
Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce 4 Ultra) + GeForce 6600 GT  331.8 +231.80%
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB, 128 bits)  313.7 +213.70%
GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128 bits)  268.5 +168.50%
GeForce 6200 TurboCache (64 MB, 64 bits)  196 +96.00%
Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS (GeForce 6100 + nForce 410) on-board  107.7  +7.70%
ECS RS482-M (Radeon Xpress 200 – RS482 + SB400) on-board 100  

On this test the on-board video produced by Radeon Xpress 200 (RS482) was 7.70% slower than the on-board video produced by GeForce 6100 (WinFast 6100K8MA-RS).

All tested video cards beat Radeon Xpress 200 on-board video used by ECS RS482-M.

When we installed a GeForce 6600 GT, ECS RS482-M was 5.77% slower than Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS, which is, as we mentioned earlier, a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset

[nextpage title=”Overclocking”]

For our overclocking tests we used an Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2 GHz) with 512 KB L2 memory cache based on Venice core, which has a better overclocking capability than our Athlon 64 3800+ used on our benchmarking.

Even though it is an entry-level motherboard with on-board video, ECS RS482-M has some overclocking options.

ECS RS482-M (BIOS version: 1.2C – April 25th, 2006) overclocking options:

  • External frequency: Can be adjusted from 200 to 250 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • Clock multiplier: Can be set from 4x to 11x (processor-limited) in 1x steps.
  • HTT bus multiplier: Can be set from 1x to 5x in 1x steps.
  • CPU voltage: 0,825 V to 1,550 V.
  • Memory voltage: Can be set from 2.55 V to 2.7V in 0.05 V steps.

This motherboard from ECS has basic overclocking options, but its base clock (HTT clock) goes only up to 250 MHz, while on its competitor from Foxconn we can configure it up to 450 MHz.

However for an entry-level product a 250 MHz limit would be a very reasonable one. Using our CPU that has an 11x multiplier, we could reach up to 2,750 MHz (250 MHz x 11), a 20% increase on its internal clock rate.

The whole problem is that this ECS motherboard wasn’t stable even configuring only 205 MHz, what was a big deception and prevented us from performing overclocking tests with this motherboard.

Another issue is the available timing settings. ECS only provided two adjustments: one for CAS latency and another for memory speed (100, 166, 200 and 250 MHz). In order to enable these options, you need to change this motherboard from “auto” mode (which uses the memory SPD to adjust memory timings), but when we changed this setting our motherboard became extremely unstable on our tests. What a bummer.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Who has the best on-board video, NVIDIA or ATI? ATI was better on 3DMark03 and NVIDIA on Quake III. On the other tests they were tied. We can say they are technically tied. NVidia has a GeForce 6100 running at a higher clock rate, called GeForce 6150, which should achieve a higher performance than standard GeForce 6100 and Radeon Xpress 200. However, this isn’t important, as both achieved a lousy 3D performance and you can’t run modern games on them.

Talking about the chipset technical specs, SB400 south bridge used on ATI Radeon Xpress 200 is far inferior than NVIDIA nForce 410 south bridge – and keep in mind that nForce 410 is the simplest south bridge from NVIDIA nowadays.

Even though SB400 brings four Serial ATA ports, they are from previous generation, not supporting SATA-300 and NCQ. To make things worse, SB400 USB ports have a lousy performance compared to other chipsets available on the market.

ECS RS482-M presented a performance equivalent to its competitor, WinFast 6100K8MA-RS from Foxconn, which uses the competing chipset from NVIDIA, GeForce 6100.

When we installed an add-in video card on this motherboard it achieved a performance between 5% and 6% below the performance achieved by Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS – which is a mainstream motherboard based on nForce 4 Ultra chipset – on 3DMark05, Doom 3 and Quake III.

This was expected, since ECS RS482-M is a simple and low cost motherboard. But its main competitor, Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS, achieved the same performance level of our mainstream nForce 4 Ultra-based motherboard when we installed a “real” video card on it (except on Doom 3), surpassing the reviewed motherboard from ECS on those tests.

Another deception was on the overclocking capability of this motherboard. Even though it has some overclocking settings, this motherboard was unstable (i.e., hanged, froze, etc) even when we tried to configure a very light overclocking. The memory timings adjustments are incomplete and also made our system very unstable whenever we select anything other than “auto”.

We don’t understand why ECS made such incomplete work on RS482-M BIOS.

Of course to demand a high overclocking capability and memory timing settings from a low-end motherboard is too much, but its main competitor, Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS, brings all this and it is cheaper than this model from ECS.

So if you don’t care about overclocking and memory timing adjustments that can improve your system performance, ECS RS482-M is a reasonable option.

However if you want to overclock your low-cost motherboard, a better performance when you install a “real” video card and more memory configurations, buy Foxconn’s model.