Market Survey, Part 1: A Comparison Of The Latest Pentium 4 Motherboards

ECS/Elitegroup PF21 Extreme (Intel 925XE)

The PF21 Extreme board from ECS is equipped with a running light made up of five blue LEDs located between the PCI slots.

Board revision : 1.0

BIOS version : 1.0b (November 11, 2004)

The PF21 Extreme made by Taiwanese manufacturer ECS/Elitegroup is geared for sophisticated end users. Thus the 925XE chipset is the only option, which as we said earlier supports the fast 266 MHz FSB clock speed. The board’s array of features is quite decent too, including all of the following : dual gigabit LAN, 8-channel high-definition audio, a Firewire controller, and an additional Combo controller from SiS (SiS180). The board offers two SATA ports and one UltraATA/133 channel. All major connections are color-coded, making the board look cheerful, while providing for easy assembly.

To conduct the sometimes considerable CPU heat out of the system, ECS built in a type of suction device called a Cooling Accelerator. Using it in combination with the Northbridge fan, however, means the board no longer operates at a sub-audible level. Overclocking fans may be slightly annoyed by the term "Extreme" to describe the product, as modern P4 processors cannot be clocked to 2.8 GHz past the performance requirement bit, despite ample overclocking options. Memory speeds beyond DDR2-533 don’t exist either, and there is no way to configure the Northbridge’s voltage.

ECS includes an adapter in the package with an additional Flash chip that can be put on top of the BIOS Flash ROM if necessary, replacing it. BIOS updates can be performed conveniently in Windows using the WinFlash utility.

A USB WLAN module (802.11b/g) is included with the product. ECS was on the ball and also included a two meter USB extension cable with a clever socket (see photos next page). Reception thus should not be much of a problem.

The Cooling Accelerator provides for improved heat exchange between case and CPU.

The air is conducted through this narrow slit.

ECS PF21 Extreme (Rev. 1.0)
Platform Socket LGA775
Northbridge Intel 925X
Southbridge Intel ICH6R
BIOS 1.0b (11/11/2004)
Memory DDRII-400/533
Connectors onboard/panel
USB 2.0 4 / 2
IEEE1394/Firewire 1 / 1
Serial COM Port 1 / none
Parallel LPT Port none / 1
Game none / none
LAN 2 / none
WLAN none / 1
SATA 6 / none
Audio analog 8 / none
Audio digital 1 / 0
Connectors onboard only
PCIe 16x 2
PCIe 1x 2
IDE (PATA) 2 (4 channels)
Fan 4 pins (CPU) 1
Fan 3 pins (System) 2
Mass Storage Controller
ICH6R 2x IDE (ATA100)
4x SATA (RAID 0,1,0+1)
SIS180 2x SATA (RAID 0,1,0+1)
1x IDE (RAID 0,1,0+1)
Marevell 88E8001-LKJ PCIe 1x 1 Gbit/s LAN
Realtek RTL8100C 1x 100 Mbit/s LAN
C MEDIA CMI9880 HD-Audio AC97
VIA VT6307 2x 1394 (400 Mbit/s)
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