ECS GeForce6100SM-M is a socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video, based on the latest version of GeForce 6100 chipset from NVIDIA, MCP61S. Costing very little and targeted to the entry-level market, we were very curious to compare its performance to its main competitor, Radeon Xpress 1100 from ATI, and also to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200. Let’s see how GeForce6100SM-M performs.
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Figure 1: ECS GeForce6100SM-M motherboard.
This new version of GeForce 6100, MCP61S, is a single-chip solution, while other GeForce 6100 versions use two chips. It is also known as “GeForce 6100-405,” as you can see from what is marked on the chip and also after installing the video driver the chipset is recognized as “GeForce 6100-405” on Windows. On NVIDIA’s website, you will find this chipset listed as “GeForce 6100 + nForce 405.”
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Figure 2: GeForce 6100 MCP61S chip.
This new chipset combines the functionalities of a GeForce 6100 (C51) north bridge and a nForce 410 (MCP51) south bridge in just one chip, however this new GeForce 6100 version is capped: while the original GeForce 6100 supports one x16 PCI Express slot, the new GeForce 6100-405 offers only one x8 PCI Express connection.
So, even though this motherboard provides one x16 PCI Express slot for you to install a “real” video card in the future, this slot works at x8, not at x16. We will see on our benchmarks how this impacts the performance of the motherboard.
There are some other minor technical differences between GeForce 6100 + nForce 410 and GeForce 6100-405. The two-chip solution supports two ATA-133 IDE ports and only one x1 PCI Express connection, while the single-chip solution supports only one ATA-133 IDE port but up to two x1 PCI Express connections – on the reviewed motherboard, ECS implemented only one x1 PCI Express slot.
All other technical specs are the same, including the graphics engine clock, which is of 425 MHz, and native support for Shader 3.0 programming model (Radeon Xpress 1100 is Shader 2.0). Just to put things into perspective, Radeon Xpress 1100’s graphics engine runs at 300 MHz.
In Figure 3, you can see the motherboard rear panel. There you will find one serial port, one parallel port, one PS/2 mouse connector, one PS/2 keyboard connector, four USB 2.0 ports, one Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) LAN port and the on-board audio connectors. Even though the on-board audio provides 6 audio channels, there are only three jacks, meaning that mic in (pink) and line in (blue) connectors are shared with the rear and center/subwoofer channels, so you can’t use these functions at the same time.
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Figure 3: Rear panel.
The Serial ATA ports of this motherboard are SATA-300, which is great. The motherboard based on Radeon Xpress 1100 we reviewed, ECS RS485M-M, was based on SB460 south bridge, which only provides SATA-150 ports. As already mentioned, this motherboard has only one ATA-133 port.
This motherboard also provides eight USB 2.0 ports, four of them soldered directly on the motherboard, as already mentioned. It provides two standard PCI slots, one x1 PCI Express slot and one x16 PCI Express slot that runs at x8 speed, as explained before.
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.
Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.