The Elitegroup PF88 Extreme: An Athlon 64 or Pentium 4 Motherboard

At CeBIT, ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) dished up a worthy subject for conversation. The company offered a select number of invitees a look at a new motherboard which is designed to work either with an AMD Athlon 64 or with an Intel Pentium 4 processor. A sister board that plugs into a special slot makes it possible to accommodate an AMD Socket 939 format, as user preferences may dictate.

Such adaptability begs many questions. For example :

  • Which chipset is used ?
  • Does it require extraordinary effort or cost ?
  • Which processor models will the CPU sockets accommodate ?
  • How future-proof is ECS’ masterwork ?
  • Does CPU flexibility exact performance penalties ?

This product hits the market during a tumultuous period for motherboards. Margins on motherboard sales are so tight that smaller motherboard vendors struggle to keep their core businesses profitable. Abit, Chaintech, DFI, FIC, Jetway, Soyo and various others can only stay afloat in the motherboard business by offering artfully chosen niche products. For the moment, in fact, it looks like many of them won’t be able to maintain the status quo because of strong downward pressure on motherboard prices that top gun vendors Asus and Foxconn exert.

Elitegroup is also one of the bigger players, which gives it leeway to fund experiments like the PF88 motherboard. But the pending introduction of dual-core processors from Intel and AMD in the second half of 2005 will bring new changes to this market, and create opportunities for all players to profit from clever innovations. It’s inevitable that ECS will do what it must to gain market share and strengthen its brand name. This probably explains why ECS was kind enough to send us one of its first prototype models of the PF88 for testing.

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