ECS AMD690GM-M2 is a socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video based on the latest chipset from AMD/ATI, AMD 690G, also known by its codename RS690. This is the first chipset coming from the collaboration between AMD and ATI, after AMD bought ATI. We were very curious to compare its performance to the previous on-board video solution from ATI, Radeon Xpress 1100, to its main competitors, GeForce 6100 and GeForce 7025 from NVIDIA, and also to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200. Let’s take a look at the performance and features of ECS AMD690GM-M2.
As you can see in Figure 1, ECS AMD690GM-M2 uses a layout almost identical to the one used by ECS RS484M-M, which is based on the Radeon Xpress 1100. It seems that ECS used the same project only replacing the chipset and making minor adjustments.
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Figure 1: ECS AMD690GM-M2 motherboard.
Two chipsets were released based on the RS690 core, AMD 690G and AMD 690V. The first is based on Radeon X1250 graphics engine supporting HDMI, while the second is based on Radeon X1200 graphics engine with no HDMI support. Even though the name of these engines are in the “1000” range, they are still Shader 2.0 engines (DirectX 9.0), not Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c).
AMD 690G graphics core runs at 400 MHz and has four pixel shader processors and four vertex shader processors. Competing products from NVIDIA (i.e., GeForce 6100 and GeForce 7025/7050 families) have only two shader processors and two vertex shader processors, but they run at a higher clock rate (425 MHz on GeForce 6100, 7025 and 7050 and 475 MHz on GeForce 6150 – except LE and SE models) and are Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c). The previous integrated graphics solution from ATI, Radeon X1100, runs at 300 MHz.
Even though in theory AMD 690G brings HDMI support (HDMI is a new digital audio and video connection type used by HDTV sets, click here to learn more about it), you need to have an add-on card installed on the x16 PCI Express slot to have the HDMI connector available, plus S-Video, Component Video, RGB and Composite video outputs and also SPDIF coaxial connectors. This card does not come with the motherboard and it seems that ECS does not manufacture it.
On the other hand, this motherboard has a TV Out header (S-Video output), but the adapter needed does not come with the product.
The good thing about AMD 690G is that it has two independent video controllers inside, providing two video outputs on-board. ECS AMD690GM-M2 comes with two video outputs: one standard VGA output and one DVI output, allowing you to connect two video monitors to your computer at the same time without needing to install an add-on video card. This is simply great, especially if you think that the primary target of this motherboard is digital home PCs.
Of Figure 2 you can see the connectors present on the motherboard rear panel: PS/2 mouse, PS/2 keyboard, VGA, DVI, four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port and analog audio inputs and outputs. There is no parallel port on this motherboard, not even through an I/O bracket. On the other hand a serial port is available through an I/O bracket, which comes with the board.
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Figure 2: Rear panel connectors, notice the two video outputs.
Also, AMD 690G is the first chipset with on-board video from AMD/ATI to support Avivo, which is the name given by ATI to their set of 2D-enhancement technologies, like de-interlacing. Click here for a detailed explanation about Avivo. The equivalent technology on NVIDIA world, PureVideo, is available on all current NVIDIA chipsets with integrated graphics but on GeForce 7025.
As you can see in Figure 1, this motherboard provides one x16 PCI Express slot for you to install a “real” video card in the future. It also has one x1 PCI Express slot and two regular PCI slots.
This motherboard has four SATA-300 ports and one ATA-133 port, all controlled by the chipset. The SATA ports support RAID 0, 1 and 10.
It has 10 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard) but no FireWire ports.
It also has Gigabit Ethernet, controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC chip. This chip is a complete controller, so this motherboard does not use the chipset south bridge chip to control its network interface. This chip is connected to the PCI bus (and not to PCI Express) and since it has a maximum transfer rate of 132 MB/s – which translates to 1 Gbps – achieving 1 Gbps on the Gigabit Ethernet port of this motherboard is very unlikely, as it would be working at the PCI maximum transfer rate.
On the audio section, this motherboard has eight channels provided by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC883 codec. While this codec provides a good output quality (95 dB signal-to-noise ratio and 192 kHz sampling rate), it does not provide a good input quality for today’s standards (85 dB signal-to-noise ratio and 96 kHz sampling rate). Thus this motherboard isn’t recommended for professionally capturing and editing analog audio. For this kind of application look for a motherboard with at least 95 dB SNR on its input. This is really a pitty, since this motherboard is targeted to digital home PCs, where the user may want to capture and edit his (or her) own audio and video files.
On the other hand, this motherboard provides full 7.1 analog audio jacks on the rear panel, feature not found on all AMD 690G motherboards around. So you can easily hook an analog 5.1 or 7.1 set of speakers to this motherboard. But this motherboard does not have any on-board SPDIF connector, which is also a shame. As it is targeted to digital home PCs, it should have at least one coaxial SPDIF out to enable users to connect the motherboard directly to a home theater receiver using digital connection. The motherboard has a SPDIF out header, but the board doesn’t come with any SPDIF bracket to use it.
This motherboard has two DDR2-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 4 GB of DDR2-400/667/800 memory. This is probably the major problem with this motherboard. First, in order to achieve the maximum performance possible you need to install two memory modules. Secondly, if in the future you need to add more memory, you will need to remove your old modules and install new ones, as adding more memory keeping the old modules isn’t possible.
The electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are Taiwanese. In the voltage regulator circuit ECS used six capacitors from Toshin Kogyo (TK, a Japanese vendor that uses rebranded Taiwanese capacitors, from OST), and the capacitors on the rest of the motherboard are from OST and G-Luxon, including three on the voltage regulator that are from OST.
In Figure 3, you can see everything that comes with the motherboard.
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Figure 3: Motherboard accessories.
Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.