So far, ECS has announced three motherboard models based on the AMD A75 chipset for the new AMD A-Series of CPUs with integrated graphics chip (“APUs”), the A75F-A, a full ATX model, and the A75F-M and the A75F-M2, which are microATX models. Let’s take a look at the full ATX model.
AMD released two chipsets for the new socket FM1 platform, the A55 and the A75. Both are single-chip solutions. The A55 is an entry-level solution, supporting six SATA-300 ports, 14 USB 2.0 ports, and four x1 PCI Express lanes. The A75 is a high-end solution, with six SATA-600 ports, four USB 3.0 ports (making it the first chipset with an integrated USB 3.0 controller), eSATA port multiplier (“FIS-based switching,” which allows you to install more than one hard drive to a single SATA port), and the other features found on the A55. Click here to learn more.
We are glad to see that ECS took our constructive criticism very seriously. In the past, their motherboards used 300 different colors, looking more like a parade float than a motherboard. The A75F-A has a very sober appearance, with colors that match and make sense. For instance, they used three different colors on the PCI Express slots to differentiate their speeds, but instead of using their favorite colors such as red, yellow, and orange, they decided to use gray, black, and white, making the motherboard look much better, and giving ECS products a more professional appearance. Still, there are some colors that don’t match. The white used on the USB headers is brighter than the white used on the PCI Express slots, memory sockets, and power supply connector. The gray used on one of the USB headers is of a completely different hue than the gray used on the SATA ports and first PCI Express x16 slot.
The ECS A75F-A comes with two PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and three standard PCI slots.
The first PCI Express x16 slot is connected directly to the CPU integrated PCI Express controller, and it always works at x16 speed. The second PCI Express x16 slot is connected to four PCI Express lanes on the A75 chipset, so it always works at x4 speed.
If you install a dual-slot video card in the first PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” the first PCI Express x1 slot, and if you install a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” the second PCI Express x1 slot.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket FM1 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz under dual-channel architecture. However, ECS says the A75F-A supports memory up to 2,133 MHz through overclocking.
The ECS A75F-A has four memory sockets, and since DDR3 memory modules can now be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.
The first and third sockets are white, while the second and fourth are gray. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in the white sockets.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The AMD A75 chipset is a single-chip solution and is also known as an FCH (Fusion Controller Hub). This chip supports six SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, and 10). One of these ports was routed to the motherboard rear panel as an eSATA-600 port. The SATA-600 ports are located at one of the edges of the board and won’t be blocked by the installation of long video cards on any of the two PCI Express x16 slots.
There is no support for a floppy disk drive controller or an ATA-133 port.
This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also has four USB 3.0 ports, two available on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a front panel connector, all controlled by the chipset.
There are no FireWire (IEEE1394) ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. The main specifications for this chip include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, and 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog input.
The portrayed motherboard comes with independent 5.1 analog audio outputs, but if you want to install a set of 7.1 analog speakers, you will have to use either the “line in” or the “mic in” jacks. The ECS A75F-A has an on-board optical SPDIF output, and you can install a coaxial SPDIF connector using the available “SPDIFO” header.
This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E controller.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with a shared keyboard/mouse PS/2 connector, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI connector, VGA connector, DVI-D connector, clear CMOS button, one eSATA-600 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors), and shared analog 7.1 audio outputs.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The motherboard has a legacy serial port on a header labeled “COM” and a parallel port on a header labeled “LPT.” You will need to buy adapters if you want to use these ports. It also supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), which increases security by encrypting data that is handled by the system.
In Figure 6, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ECS A75F-A has three phases for the CPU main voltage (VDD a.k.a. Vcore) and one for the CPU VDDNB voltage (integrated memory controller). We couldn’t figure out how the CPU VDDP voltage (integrated video controller) is generated, and probably doesn’t have a separate voltage regulator. Therefore, this motherboard uses a “3+1” configuration.
This motherboard uses solid ferrite-core coils, which present less energy loss than iron-core coils (i.e., they improve efficiency), solid capacitors, and low RDS(on) transistors (i.e., higher efficiency).
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ECS A75F-A offers very few overclocking options, listed below (1.0 BIOS):
- CPU base clock: From 90 MHz to 200 MHz in increments of 1 MHz
- CPU core voltage: From +10 mV to +200 mV in increments of 10 mV
- Memory controller (“CPU NB”) voltage: From +10 mV to +150 mV in increments of 10 mV
- Memory voltage: From -300 mV to +500 mV in increments of 10 mV
For a better understanding of what these options do, please read our Understanding All Voltage Configurations from the Motherboard tutorial.
This motherboard also provides adjustments for memory timings.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ECS A75F-A motherboard include:
- Socket: FM1
- Chipset: AMD A75
- Super I/O: Fintek F71869ED
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Five SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, and 10)
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port controlled by the chipset
- USB 2.0: 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Four ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard, controlled by the chipset
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU; VGA, DVI-D, and HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 KHz sampling rate for both the inputs and outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs)
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x4), two PCI Express x1 slots, and three standard PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2133, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and two three-pin connectors for another auxiliary fan
- Extra features: Legacy parallel port, legacy serial port, TPM
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: http://www.ecsusa.com
- MSRP in the US: USD 80.00
The ECS A75F-A is clearly an entry-level motherboard for the new A-Series CPUs from AMD, using the ATX form factor instead of the microATX one. It comes with only the basic options provided by the chipset, which are more than enough for the average user, since this chipset provides USB 3.0 and SATA-600 ports. If you are looking for an inexpensive motherboard for an A-Series CPU from AMD using the ATX form factor, the ECS A75F-A is an excellent option.
However, if you need additional features such as FireWire (IEEE1394) ports, a better audio codec, and more overclocking options, you will need to look for a different (and more expensive) product.