ECS RS485M-M is one of the first socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video, based on the new Radeon Xpress 1100 chipset from ATI. Costing very little and targeted to the entry-level market, we were very curious to compare its performance to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200. Let’s see how RS485M-M performance looks like.
After we installed the latest drivers from ATI, the chipset was recognized as “Radeon Xpress 200.” So we wanted to make sure that this motherboard was based on Radeon Xpress 1100 (codenamed RS485) and not on Radeon Xpress 200 (codenamed RS482), so we removed the north bridge passive heatsink to take a look at the chip. As you can see in Figure 2, this motherboard really uses RS485 (Radeon Xpress 1100) even though its drivers recognize it as Radeon Xpress 200.
The main difference between RS485 and RS482 is the clock used by their graphics engine. ATI doesn’t disclosure what is the clock rate used by RS482 (Radeon Xpress 200), but they say RS485 (Radeon Xpress 1100) runs at 300 MHz and that it provides a 33% performance increase over RS482 (Radeon Xpress 200), so we can assume that RS482 runs at 225 MHz. The rest of the specs are just the same. Both use the same graphics engine as Radeon X300 but having only two pixel shader pipelines (instead of four like Radeon X300) and full DirectX 9.0 (i.e., Shader 2.0) hardware support.
The south bridge used on this motherboard, SB460, brings four SATA-150 ports supporting NCQ (Native Command Queuing). It is important to note that these ports are labeled as SATA II because they support NCQ but they aren’t SATA-300. This south bridge provides 10 USB 2.0 ports, against eight on the standard SB400 south bridge used on Radeon Xpress 200 (this motherboard, however, provides only eight ports). On the bad side, this south bridge provides only one ATA-133 port, against two on the standard south bridge used on Radeon Xpress 200 (SB400).
This motherboard also has on-board LAN, controlled by Realtek RTL 8100C chip, and on-board 6-channel audio, produced by the chipset together with Realtek ALC655 codec.
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.
This motherboard also has one x16 PCI Express slot, allowing you to install a real video card on it when you get tired of the performance of its on-board video. It also carries one x1 PCI Express slot and two standard PCI slots.
Even though SB460 south bridge provides 10 USB 2.0 ports, this motherboard has eight ports; ECS “killed” two of them. Also, paying close attention to the PCB layout we could find a place where ECS could add a FireWire (IEEE1394) controller, probably a Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip – even though ECS does not offer this option right now. This guess comes from the fact that the design of this motherboard is very close to RS482-M’s, which provides this optional feature.
While motherboards based on PCI Express require 24-pin power supplies (ATX12V 2.x), this motherboard still accepts 20-pin connectors (ATX12V 1.x), as it has a sticker closing the four extra pins, as you can see in Figure 4, being a good option if you are upgrading your PC and want to keep your old power supply and case in order to save some bucks.
Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.