ECS GeForce6100SM-M Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres on January 5, 2007


Introduction

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.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M
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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.”

ECS GeForce6100SM-M
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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.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M
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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.

Main Specifications

ECS GeForce6100SM-M main features are:

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

Overall Performance

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We ran this software in two scenarios. First using the motherboard on-board video, comparing its performance to ECS RS485M-M, which is based on ATI Radeon Xpress X1100.

Then we disabled the board on-board video and installed a GeForce 7800 GTX from XFX to compare it with an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, which is a high-end socket AM2 motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce MCP 590 SLI chipset. Our idea was to see if this motherboard would achieve the same performance level of a high-end motherboard when we installed a high-end video card on it.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

With its on-board video enabled, GeForce6100SM-M achieved the same performance level of ECS RS485M-M. It also achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with a GeForce 7800 GTX installed.

When we installed our GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed board we saw no performance increase on SYSmark2004.

Processing Performance

Using the same methodology of the previous test, we measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. This program gives the results in a specific unit and since it includes video performance on its score, the motherboard with the best video will achieve the best results.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

On PCMark05 ECS GeForce6100SM-M was 13.42% faster than ECS RS485M-M, which is based on Radeon Xpress 1100.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on ECS GeForce6100SM-M it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed, meaning that you will achieve the same processing performance of a high-end motherboard by installing a real video card on this motherboard.

3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE

To evaluate GeForce 6100-405 3D performance we installed two low-end video cards on ECS GeForce6100SM-M: GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface (from XFX) and GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit interface (from Leadtek).

We also installed a high-end video card, GeForce 7800 GTX, on it and compared its performance to a high-end motherboard with the same video card installed, ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe.

We ran several programs, as you will see in the next pages.

The first one, 3DMark2001 SE, measures 3D performance by making DirectX 8.1 simulations, and the results you can see below (we ran it using its default configuration). All the listed video cards were installed on ECS GeForce6100SM-M.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

On 3DMark2001 SE Radeon Xpress 1100 was 14.95% faster than GeForce 6100-405. It was also beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 77.68% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 168.11% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, a surprise: it was 12.65% faster than ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

3D Performance: 3DMark03

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but now running 3DMark03. 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9.0 (i.e., Shader 2.0) games, which is fully supported by both Radeon Xpress 1100 and GeForce 6100-405.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS GeForce6100SM-M.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

On 3DMark03 Radeon Xpress 1100 was again faster than GeForce 6100-405, this time by 18.08%.  It was also beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 92.79% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 219.32% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it achieved the same performance of our ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

3D Performance: 3DMark05

We again followed the same methodology described previously, but now running 3DMark05. This program measures 3D performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0. This programming model is used by the latest games and supported by GeForce 6100-405, but it isnít supported by Radeon Xpress 1100.

It isnít fair to use this program to evaluate 3D performance of motherboards with on-board video, as they achieve a very low score on this program. We ran it anyway, basically to see the performance achieved by ECS GeForce6100SM-M using a real video card installed and also to compare it to ECS RS485M-M.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS GeForce6100SM-M.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

This time the on-board video provided by GeForce 6100-405 was faster than the one provided by Radeon Xpress 1100, as expected, since GeForce 6100-405 supports Shader 3.0 and Radeon Xpress 1100, doesnít. The performance difference was of 8.52%.

But it was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 60.30% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 217.93% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, it achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

3D Performance: Quake III

We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default configuration and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on ECS GeForce6100SM-M.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

This time GeForce 6100-405 and Radeon Xpress 1100 achieved the same performance level.

The 3D performance of the reviewed board was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 95.47% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 155.45% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

This time when we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it didnít achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: the motherboard from ASUS was 19.08% faster.

3D Performance: Quake 4

Quake 4 is very heavy game that uses the same engine of Doom 3. We used the id_demo001 available on version 1.2 of Quake 4 to make our benchmarking with this game. We run this demo four times at 1024x768x32 resolution and image quality settings on ďlowĒ. The results shown on the chart is an arithmetic average of the collected data. The results are in frames per second. For more information on how to use Quake 4 to benchmark a PC, read our tutorial on this subject.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M

On Quake 4 the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was one more time faster than GeForce 6100-405, this time by 17.69%. GeForce 6100-405 was again beaten by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 170.31% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 440.92% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it didnít achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: the motherboard from ASUS was 11.59% faster.

Overclocking

ECS GeForce6100SM-M has only two overclocking options, allowing you to increase the CPU base clock up to 300 MHz in 1 MHz increments and the PCI Express clock up to 150 MHz in 1 MHz increments. Of course didn’t expect that an entry-level board to carry too many overclocking options, like voltage adjustments.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M
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Figure 4: Overclock adjustments available on ECS GeForce6100SM-M (October 16th, 2006 BIOS).

This board provides a very few memory-related adjustments, but no memory timings settings, as you can see in Figure 5.

ECS GeForce6100SM-M
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Figure 5: Memory adjustments available on ECS GeForce6100SM-M (October 16th, 2006 BIOS).

With this motherboard we were able to configure the base clock of our Athlon 5000+ CPU (which runs at 2.6 GHz) to run at 216 MHz externally, making its internal clock 2,808 MHz, an 8% increase on its internal clock rate. With this overclocking Quake 3 performance increased 5.25% and PCMark05 performance increased 5.72%.

Conclusions

This is an entry-level motherboard for the socket AM2 platform, clearly targeted for the new socket AM2-based Sempron CPUs. From this motherboard specs and performance, we donít recommend it to be used with an Athlon 64, at least while the Athlon 64 models available for the socket AM2 are still above the USD 100 range.

We were very disappointed with the performance of GeForce 6100-405. We expected much more from it, especially because its engine runs at a higher clock rate than Radeon Xpress 1100 (425 MHz vs. 300 MHz) and is Shader 3.0 while its competitor is Shader 2.0. GeForce 6100-405 was faster than Radeon Xpress 1100 only on 3DMark05, and they achieved the same performance level on Quake III. On all other 3D programs Radeon Xpress 1100 was faster.

But if you wonít play games, this motherboard can be an interesting option, as on PCMark05 it achieved a higher performance than RS485M-M, which is based on Radeon Xpress 1100. But if you are really not going to play any games at all, you may think of buying a very low-end motherboard, like the ones based on chipsets provided by SiS for your low-end socket AM2 Sempron system.

Like weíd expect for a motherboard with on-board video, you will be able to run old games with a reasonable performance, however it isnít good enough for running the latest titles. Its on-board video is worse than GeForce 6200 TurboCache 64 MB with 64-bit interface, which is one of the most low-end video cards available on the market.

The good news is that you can, in the future, disable its on-board video and install a real video card on its x16 PCI Express slot, which runs at x8. That is another problem with this motherboard. You wonít achieve the same performance of a high-end motherboard by simply installing a ďrealĒ video card on it because its main PCI Express slot runs half-speed. On Quake 3 and Quake 4 our GeForce 7800 GTX installed on ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe was respectively 19.08% and 11.59% faster than this same video card installed on ECS GeForce6100SM-M.

Even though ECS GeForce6100SM-M achieved a lower performance than ECS RS485M-M, its Serial ATA ports are SATA-300, while RS485M-Mís are SATA-150.

As ECS GeForce6100SM-M and ECS RS485M-M cost practically the same thing,  the final decision is yours: do you want SATA-300 ports or a better 3D performance?

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ECS-GeForce6100SM-M-Motherboard-Review/411


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