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Elitegroup/ECS PHOTON PF3 Extreme

Intel's 865/875 Superior Performance Song Remains the Same
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BIOS Version : 1.1

ECS, aka Elitegroup, has been doing its utmost to change its image since the middle of last year. To that end, it has really pulled out all the stops in developing the Photon series : top-of-the-line components and a high-quality production process with 6 PCB layers. It has to be said that the results are impressive indeed.

What we have here is the 865PE, which is only slightly inferior to the 875P and yet costs far less. A real eye-catcher is the ultraviolet color, which has barely been used by other manufacturers up to now. The last time we got a motherboard with an unusual color was four years ago, when another manufacturer sent us a pink motherboard.

The yellow PCI slot is given more prominence and is therefore ideal for high-quality soundcards. But ECS has already equipped the Photon PF3 Extreme with a simple AC97 sound system - and fattened it up considerably with 6 channel sound and two digital outputs.

Also included is a SATA RAID controller from SiS (180), which provides an additional two ports besides the two SATA connections. Also on the board is a FireWire chip from VIA ; unfortunately, though, ECS did not include the right cable to reach the chip connectors inside the case.

And while we’re finding fault - the Northbridge fan with the board series logo is just a superfluous racket-maker. If you’re using a radial fan for your CPU, in our view you could remove the Northbridge fan. The only time this might not make sense is in overclocking scenarios where the Northbridge often really heats up. Unless of course you just think the blinking fan lights are cool.

The company website at ecs.com.tw takes a while to access via a 3 MBit DSL connection in Germany. But then the download speed makes up for that, once you’ve clicked through to the right link.

ECS displayed our memory modules’ SPD EPROM incorrectly as well, running them at a somewhat sluggish CL2.5-3-2-6. When we tried to activate the "turbo mode" in the BIOS Windows refused to boot. That’s not the end of the world, though, since this board’s performance is in the normal range. Windows wouldn’t boot with "CPC Addr/Control"" activated, either, whereas "Fast Chip Select" posed no problem. To be fair, we should mention that ECS cautions that all three options may produce instabilities.

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