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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

ECS RS485M-M is one of the first socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video, based on the new Radeon Xpress 1100 chipset from ATI. Costing very little and targeted to the entry-level market, we were very curious to compare its performance to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200. Let’s see how RS485M-M performance looks like.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard ReviewFigure 1: ECS RS485M-M motherboard.

After we installed the latest drivers from ATI, the chipset was recognized as “Radeon Xpress 200.” So we wanted to make sure that this motherboard was based on Radeon Xpress 1100 (codenamed RS485) and not on Radeon Xpress 200 (codenamed RS482), so we removed the north bridge passive heatsink to take a look at the chip. As you can see in Figure 2, this motherboard really uses RS485 (Radeon Xpress 1100) even though its drivers recognize it as Radeon Xpress 200.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard ReviewFigure 2: RS485 north bridge (Radeon Xpress 1100).

The main difference between RS485 and RS482 is the clock used by their graphics engine. ATI doesn’t disclosure what is the clock rate used by RS482 (Radeon Xpress 200), but they say RS485 (Radeon Xpress 1100) runs at 300 MHz and that it provides a 33% performance increase over RS482 (Radeon Xpress 200), so we can assume that RS482 runs at 225 MHz. The rest of the specs are just the same. Both use the same graphics engine as Radeon X300 but having only two pixel shader pipelines (instead of four like Radeon X300) and full DirectX 9.0 (i.e., Shader 2.0) hardware support.

The south bridge used on this motherboard, SB460, brings four SATA-150 ports supporting NCQ (Native Command Queuing). It is important to note that these ports are labeled as SATA II because they support NCQ but they aren’t SATA-300. This south bridge provides 10 USB 2.0 ports, against eight on the standard SB400 south bridge used on Radeon Xpress 200 (this motherboard, however, provides only eight ports). On the bad side, this south bridge provides only one ATA-133 port, against two on the standard south bridge used on Radeon Xpress 200 (SB400).

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard ReviewFigure 3: Four SATA II ports (150 MB/s with NCQ).

This motherboard also has on-board LAN, controlled by Realtek RTL 8100C chip, and on-board 6-channel audio, produced by the chipset together with Realtek ALC655 codec.

It has two DDR-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 16 GB of DDR2-400/667/800 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 AM2 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.

This motherboard also has one x16 PCI Express slot, allowing you to install a real video card on it when you get tired of the performance of its on-board video. It also carries one x1 PCI Express slot and two standard PCI slots.

Even though SB460 south bridge provides 10 USB 2.0 ports, this motherboard has eight ports; ECS “killed” two of them. Also, paying close attention to the PCB layout we could find a place where ECS could add a FireWire (IEEE1394) controller, probably a Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip – even though ECS does not offer this option right now. This guess comes from the fact that the design of this motherboard is very close to RS482-M’s, which provides this optional feature.

While motherboards based on PCI Express require 24-pin power supplies (ATX12V 2.x), this motherboard still accepts 20-pin connectors (ATX12V 1.x), as it has a sticker closing the four extra pins, as you can see in Figure 4, being a good option if you are upgrading your PC and want to keep your old power supply and case in order to save some bucks.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard ReviewFigure 4: This motherboard still accepts 20-pin ATX power supplies.

Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

ECS RS485M-M main features are:

  • Socket: AM2.
  • Chipset: ATI Radeon Xpress 1100 (PCI Express x16, ATA-133), RS485 north bridge and SB460 south bridge.
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8716F.
  • Clock Generator: ICS 951416
  • Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 ports.
  • Serial IDE: Four SATA-150 with NCQ ports controlled by SB460 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): No.
  • On-board audio: Controlled by SB460 south bridge together with Realtek ALC655 codec (six channels, 16-bit resolution, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio).
  • On-board video: Yes, produced by Radeon Xpress 1100 (Radeon X300 graphics engine).
  • On-board LAN: Yes, Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) controlled by Realtek RTL8100C chip.
  • Buzzer: Yes.
  • Power supply: ATX12V v1.x (20-pin) or ATX12V v2.x (24-pin).
  • Slots: One x16 PCI Express, one x1 PCI Express and two PCI slots.
  • Memory: Two DDR-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR2-800/PC2-6400).
  • 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 67.50.

* Researched at Shopping.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

Software Configuration

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

Driver Versions

  • ATI IGP driver version: Catalyst 6.6
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 84.21
  • Audio driver version: Realtek A3.86.

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 ran this software in two scenarios. First using its on-board video. Then we disabled its on-board video and installed a GeForce 7800 GTX from XFX to compare it with an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, which is a high-end socket AM2 motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce MCP 590 SLI chipset. Our idea was to see if this motherboard would achieve the same performance level of a high-end motherboard when we installed a high-end video card on it.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

With its on-board video enabled ECS RS485M-M achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with a GeForce 7800 GTX installed.

When we installed our GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed motherboard, its overall score increased 3.40%, making it to achieve an overall score 4.29% higher than ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe. In this scenario the reviewed motherboard was 3.56% faster on the Internet Content Creation batch and 5.14% on the Office Productivity batch that ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe. We were quite amused by these results and we ran SYSmark2004 again on both motherboards, with the same results. We will discuss more about this in our Conclusions section.

[nextpage title=”Processing Performance”]

Using the same methodology of the previous test, we measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. This program gives the results in a specific unit and since it includes video performance on its score, the motherboard with the best video will achieve the best results.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

Since we didn’t have any other socket AM2 motherboard with integrated video to include in this comparison, we cannot directly compare the results achieved by RS485M-M using with on-board video enabled to motherboards using add-on video cards.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on ECS RS485M-M it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed, meaning that you will achieve the same performance of a high-end motherboard by installing a real video card on this motherboard.

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

To evaluate Radeon Xpress 1100 3D performance we installed two low-end video cards on ECS RS485M-M: GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface (from XFX) and GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit interface (from Leadtek).

We also installed a high-end video card, GeForce 7800 GTX, on it and compared its performance to a high-end motherboard with the same video card installed, ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe.

We ran several programs, as you will see in the next pages.

The first one, 3DMark2001 SE, measures 3D performance by making DirectX 8.1 simulations, and the results you can see below (we ran it using its default configuration). All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS485M-M.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

On 3DMark2001 SE the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 54.58% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 133.24% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, a surprise: it was 8% faster than ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed. We will discuss more about this in our Conclusions section.

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

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but now running 3DMark03. 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9.0 games, which is fully supported by Radeon Xpress 1100.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS RS485M-M.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

On 3DMark03 the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 63.27% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 70.43% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, it achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

[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 but it isn’t supported by Radeon Xpress 1100.
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 RS485M-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 RS485M-M.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

On 3DMark05 the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 73.95% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 145.02% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, it achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

[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 configuration 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 RS485M-M.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

On Quake III the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 97.10% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 157.57% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

This time when we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it didn’t achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: the motherboard from ASUS was 28.34% faster.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake 4″]

Quake 4 is very heavy game that uses the same engine of Doom 3. We used the id_demo001 available on version 1.2 of Quake 4 to make our benchmarking with this game. We run this demo four times at 1024x768x32 resolution and image quality settings on “low”. The results shown on the chart is an arithmetic average of the collected data. The results are in frames per second. For more information on how to use Quake 4 to benchmark a PC, read our tutorial on this subject.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard Review

On Quake 4 the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 129.67% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 359.61% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it didn’t achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: the motherboard from ASUS was 8.71% faster.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking”]

ECS RS485M-M has only a few overclocking options, as it is normal with entry-level motherboards.

ECS RS485M-M (BIOS version: 1.0c – May 19th, 2006) overclocking options:

  • Base clock (HTT clock): Can be adjusted from 200 to 500 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • On-board video clock: Auto or 200/250/266/300/333/350 MHz.

As you can see, it doesn’t provide any fancy option like increasing the CPU voltage. On the other hand, it allows you to increase the video clock (Radeon Xpress X1100 default clock is 300 MHz) and also provides a myriad of memory adjustments, as you can see in Figure 5.

ECS RS485M-M Motherboard ReviewFigure 5: Memory adjustments available on ECS RS485M-M.

With this motherboard we were able to configure the base clock of our Athlon 5000+ CPU to run at 218 MHz, making its internal clock 2,834 MHz, a 9% increase on its internal clock rate. With this overclocking Quake 3 performance increased 3.21% and PCMark05 performance increased 4.69%. We could configure HTT clock up to 220 MHz, but the system wasn’t stable enough.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

This is an entry-level motherboard for the socket AM2 platform, clearly targeted for the new socket AM2-based Sempron CPUs. From this motherboard specs and performance, we don’t recommend it to be used with an Athlon 64, at least while the Athlon 64 models available for the socket AM2 are still above the USD 100 range.

This motherboard will run old games with a reasonable performance, however it isn’t good enough for running the latest titles. Actually, no motherboard with integrated video is. Its on-board video is worse than GeForce 6200 TurboCache 64 MB with 64-bit interface, which is one of the most low-end video cards available on the market.

The good news is that you can, in the future, disable its on-board video and install a real video card on its x16 PCI Express slot. In fact, this motherboard achieved a good performance when installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on it, surpassing ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe in some tests.

We were very intrigued how ECS RS485M-M could achieve a better score than ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe when installed this video card on SYSmark2004 and 3DMark2001 SE. We double-checked everything, including checking if its base clock was really set at 200 MHz (on some motherboards the CPU base clock is set a little bit higher than 200 MHz – 201 MHz, for example – when you configure it as “auto” on the motherboard setup). Everything was set right.

Even though this motherboard achieved a better score on these two programs, on Quake III and Quake 4 ASUS motherboard was faster, showing us which motherboard is really the high-end one. On the other programs the two motherboards achieved the same performance level.
Talking about its specs, we missed SATA-300 support and more overclocking options.

We could find ECS RS485M-M costing between USD 65 and USD 70 in the US market on the day we published this review, with Newegg.com selling it by USD 45, an amazing low price, making it a terrific platform for assembling a low-cost Sempron socket AM2 PC.

If you are on budget and want to assemble an entry-level PC using a Sempron CPU based on the new socket AM2, this motherboard is a great choice, as it allows you to upgrade your CPU to a socket AM2 Athlon 64 in the future without changing the motherboard and also allows you to install a real video card as soon as you get tired of the low performance of its on-board video.

This motherboard is also a great choice for office PCs using socket AM2 Sempron CPUs.

Because of its great cost/benefit ratio for the entry-level market, we are giving this motherboard our “Golden Award” seal.

But as we said, if you are willing to assemble an Athlon 64-based system, we’d recommend you to go for a better motherboard, especially because this motherboard lacks SATA-300 support.