ECS KN1 SLI Extreme Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres e Daniel Barros on April 10, 2006


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

KN1 SLI Extreme is a high-end motherboard from ECS for socket 939 CPUs (Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 and Opteron) based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset. This is the first SLI-based motherboard from ECS that we reviewed, so let’s see how it performed.

 

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 1: ECS KN1 SLI Extreme Rev 1.0 motherboard.

Its design follows the same standard used on other motherboards from ECS Extreme series. Its metallic purple color really catches the eye and ECS decided to eliminate almost all silk-screen from the board (that small letters and coded printed on the motherboard), what gave a clear and even sophisticated look to this motherboard.

We have some criticism to this motherboard layout, however: its extra SATA ports can be blocked when two video cards are used and it is necessary to remove the main video card whenever you need to install or remove memory modules, what can be really annoying if your PC is already built.

On the positive side, ECS has finally used a quieter fan to cool down the chipset.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 2: nForce4 SLI chipset active heatsink.

As all motherboard from ECS Extreme series, KN1 SLI Extreme also has some high-brightness blue LEDs next to the PCI slots. These LEDs, called Doctor LED, indicate if the PCI slots are working correctly or not.

Another interesting feature from this motherboard is a duct with a fan inside installed on its back, which cools down the voltage regulator transistors and also removes hot air from the voltage regulator area. The only thing missing to make this system perfect was the installation of heatsinks on top of those transistors.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Back duct that helps on the motherboard cooling.

No special procedure is required to activate SLI mode on KN1 SLI Extreme. Just connect two compatible video cards and the SLI mode will be activated. It is necessary, however, to connect an extra power supply cable when SLI mode is used, and we recommend you to use a good quality power supply with at least true 450 watts.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 4: PCI Express slots.

As you can see in Figure 4, on this motherboard there is more room between the two x16 slots compared to older SLI motherboards. This helps the installation of bigger video cards and the system ventilation.

KN1 SLI Extreme has four DDR-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 4 GB RAM DDR266/333/400. ECS used blue color on sockets 1 and 2 and yellow color on sockets 3 and 4. To use DDR Dual Channel mode just install each module on sockets with the same color.

More Features

Now talking about its storage capacity, it has two ATA-133 ports and four Serial ATA II ports controlled by nForce4 SLI chipset. These ports support NCQ (Native Command Queuing) and NVIDIA RAID feature, which allows the use of up to eight hard disk drives (four Serial ATA and four ATA-133) under RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD.

The reviewed motherboard also has two extra Serial ATA II ports controlled by Silicon Image SiI3132, supporting RAID0 or RAID1.
It comes with four orange Serial ATA cables, one power adapter for up to two Serial ATA devices, two IDE cable (one 40-wire and one 80-wire) and one floppy disk cable, all black.

ECS also has included an adapter for installing a Serial ATA device outside the computer case, however the motherboard doesn’t come with any external Serial ATA power adapter, so you need to use an external power supply for this external Serial ATA device, which may not seem very practical.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Six Serial ATA-300 ports, four controlled by the chipset and two controlled by SiI3132 chip.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Cables and accessories.

On its networking side KN1 SLI Extreme has two LAN ports. One is Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps), controlled by the nForce4 SLI chipset supporting hardware-base firewall by NVIDIA and needing only one small chip for making the physical layer interface (in the case of this motherboard Marvell 88E1111 was used). The other one is Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps), controlled by Realtek RTL8100C chip.

This motherboard comes with a crossover networking cable, which can be used to connect KN1 SLI Extreme to other PC without using a hub, switch or home router.

Its on-board audio features eight channels (7.1 format) and is produced by nForce4 SLI chipset together with Realtek ALC650 codec, which has a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB.

As you can see in Figure 7, it has coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs and individual center, side, rear and subwoofer outputs soldered directly on the motherboard.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 7: KN1 SLI Extreme back connectors.

KN1 SLI Extreme also carries 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard and six through the use of I/O brackets (this motherboard comes with just one adapter for two USB ports, so four ports are left unavailable) and two FireWire (IEEE 1394a) ports, controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip.

The motherboard comes with I/O brackets for two USB power and two FireWire ports (see Figure 8), one regular-sized and another miniature-sized. The FireWire bracket can be installed on the back of the computer or on its front, using a 3.5” bay adapter.

Because of the ventilation duct located on the back of the motherboard, there wasn’t room for the installation of the 25-pin parallel port connector on the motherboard. This connector, however, is available on an I/O bracket.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 8: More KN1 SLI Extreme accessories.

ECS also has included a BIOS protection copy called Top-Hat Flash. Its use is very simple. If the motherboard doesn’t turn on after a bad BIOS upgrade or a CIH/Chernobyl-like virus attack, just install Top-Hat on top of the original BIOS (which is soldered on the motherboard), turn the PC on, remove Top-Hat and then perform a BIOS upgrade. After the BIOS is correctly upgraded the motherboard will work just fine again.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 9: Top-Hat flash.

Main Specifications

 

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme main features are:

*Researched on Pricewatch.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 selected the following motherboards to compare to ECS KN1 SLI Extreme:

You can see the results on the chart below.

Motherboard

SYSmark 2004 -
Score

%

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

188

0

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

188

0

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

188

 

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

187

-0.53

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

187

-0.53

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

186

-1.08

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

185

-1.62

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

184

-2.17

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

183

-2.73

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

181

-3.87

On this test ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being a little bit faster than ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra).

Processing Performance

We measured processing performance using PCMark04 program. You can see the results below.

 

 

Motherboard

PCMark04
(Build 1.3.0)

%

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

4683

+0.28

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

4677

+0.15

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

4670

 

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

4669

-0.02

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

4653

-0.37

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

4656

-0.52

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

4638

-0.69

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

4609

-1.32

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

4598

-1.57

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

4595

-2.30

All motherboards achieved a similar performance on this test.

3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE

One of the best ways to measure the performance of a PC is through 3D games, since they usually pull the maximum power from the motherboard, memory, CPU, video card and hard disk drive. We chose five programs for measuring the 3D performance of the motherboard being reviewed: 3DMark2001 SE, 3DMark03, 3DMark05, Doom 3 and Quake III Arena. The motherboards with SLI feature were tested twice, one with SLI enabled and another without SLI configuration.

3DMark2001 SE simulates DirectX 8.1 games. We used this program to see how the motherboard being reviewed acts running games from this generation. You can find the results below.

Motherboard

3DMark2001 SE
(Build 3.3.0)

%

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

20573

+5.47

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19637

+0.67

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

19580

+0.38

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19506

 

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

19328

-0.92

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19314

-0.99

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

19302

-1.06

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

19284

-1.15

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

19265

-1.25

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

19115

-2.05

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

19054

-2.37

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

18988

-2.73

All motherboards achieved a similar performance without using SLI configuration.

We included ECS KN1 SLI Extreme results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. As you can see, the performance increased just a little bit on 3DMark 2001 SE when we activated SLI. This result was expected, since older games arenít optimized to use SLI.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16), which used a newer driver that isnít optimized for 3DMark2001 SE.

Motherboard

3DMark2001 SE
(Build 3.3.0)

%

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

20853

+1.36

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

20573

 

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

20545

-0.14

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

20004

-2.84

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

19668

-4.60

3D Performance: 3DMark03

3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9 games, which are the games available today on the market. So we used this software to see how the motherboard being reviewed acts running DirectX 9.0 games. You can check the results below.

 

Motherboard

3Dmark03
(Build 3.6.0

%

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

13831

+65.96

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8364

+0.36

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8353

+0.23

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

8348

+0.17

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8334

 

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

8327

-0.08

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

8322

-0.14

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

8312

-0.26

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

8283

-0.62

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

8239

-1.15

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

8167

-2.04

All motherboards achieved a similar performance without using SLI configuration.

We included ECS KN1 SLI Extreme results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had a 65.96% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

3Dmark03
(Build 3.6.0

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

14075

+1.76

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

13835

+0.03

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

13831

 

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

13820

-0.08

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

13801

-0.22

3D Performance: 3DMark05

3DMark05 measures performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0 model. This programming model is used by games like Far Cry. This programming model is used by GeForce series 6 and 7 from NVIDIA and Radeon X1000 series from ATI. You can find the results below.

 

Motherboard

3Dmark05
(Build 1.2.0)

%

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

6354

+79.75

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

3600

+1.84

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3597

+1.75

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

3595

+1.70

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3589

+1.53

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3535

 

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

3529

-0.17

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

3509

-0.74

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

3427

-3.15

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

3317

-6.57

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

3276

-7.91

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

3111

-10.09

On this test ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P) and all motherboards based on ULi chipset.

We included ECS KN1 SLI Extreme results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had an 79.75% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

3Dmark05
(Build 1.2.0)

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

6397

+0.68

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

6354

 

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

6346

-0.13

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

6339

-0.24

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

6262

-1.47

3D Performance: Doom 3

Doom 3 is one of the heaviest games available today. We run this game at 1024x768x32 resolution at high quality. We run demo1 four times and wrote the obtained number of frames per second. The first result we discarded at once, since it is far inferior than the other results. This happens because at the first time we run the demo the game must load all textures to video memory, fact that doesnít happen from the second time we run the demo on. From the three results left, we consider as our official result the middle result, i.e., we discard the highest and the lowest values. Curiously almost all times the values obtained at the second round on were the same.

A very important detail that we must mention is that Doom 3 has an internal FPS lock: it is only capable of generating 60 frames per second, even if your PC is able to produce more frames per second than that. This is done in order to make the game to have the same ďplayabilityĒ sensation independently from the video card installed on the PC. This lock, however, is disabled in the game benchmarking mode.

For further details on how to measure 3D performance with Doom 3, read our tutorial on this subject.



Motherboard

FPS

%

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

101.3

+21.46

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

83.7

+0.36

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.6

+0.24

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.5

+0.12

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83.4

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

83

-0.48

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

82.1

-1.58

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

81.4

-2.46

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

81.3

-2.58

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

79.5

-4.91

ULi AP9567A (Uli M1695)

78.3

-6.51

ULi AP9567A (Uli M1695) - AGP

77.6

-7.47

On this test ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to the majority of motherboards we tested, being faster than all motherboards based on ULi chipset.

We included ECS KN1 SLI Extreme results with SLI for you to compare the performance difference you may expect when enabling SLI on this motherboard. Enabling SLI we had a 21.46% performance increase on this test.

Comparing the results among SLI-enabled motherboards (see table below), ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to other motherboards we tested.

Motherboard

FPS

%

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI)

101.9

+0.59

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

101.3

 

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

100.6

-0.70

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

100.1

-1.20

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

100

-1.30

3D Performance: Quake III

Even though this is an old game its importance comes from the fact its engine is used by several other games, like Jedi Knight II and Medal of Honor, and also because this game is very sensitive to any changes on the hardware configuration. So we used this game to check how the reviewed motherboard acted running old but popular games.

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.

Check the results below.

Motherboard

FPS

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16) Normal

357.5

+9.26

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) Normal

345.6

+5.62

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

330.2

+0.92

ULi AP970A (ULi M1697)

329.2

+0.61

Foxconn WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS (nForce4 Ultra)

328.5

+0.40

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI) Normal

327.2

 

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI) Normal

326.2

-0.31

Sapphire PI-A9RX480 (ATI Xpress 200P)

325.2

-0.62

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695)

324.4

-0.86

ULi AP9567A (ULi M1695) - AGP

321.2

-1.87

ECS KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra)

315.5

-3.71

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

279.8

-16.94

On Quake III under normal mode ECS KN1 SLI Extreme was beaten by DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI) and by MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16), this one using a newer video driver and because of this achieved a better performance than other motherboards. ECS KN1 SLI Extreme achieved a performance similar to the other motherboards we reviewed, being a little bit faster than KN1 Extreme (nForce4 Ultra).

On MSI K8N Diamond Plus we had to use a newer driver because nForce4 SLI X16 chipset only works with newer video drivers. The ideal scenario would be benchmarking all the motherboards with the same newer video driver, but several of the motherboards included on our tests werenít available anymore.

Under SLI mode, excluding MSI K8N Diamond Plus that was using a newer video driver, ECS KN1 SLI Extreme was beaten only by DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI).

But keep in mind that on Quake III SLI decreases the system performance instead of increasing it (see previous table).

Motherboard

FPS

%

MSI K8N Diamond Plus (nForce4 SLI X16)

335.2

+19.80

DFI LANParty UT nF4 SLI-D (nForce4 SLI)

294.3

+5.18

Albatron K8SLI (nForce4 SLI) Normal

281.3

+0.54

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme (nForce4 SLI)

279.8

 

ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (nForce4 SLI)

276.8

-1.08

Overclocking

For our overclocking tests we used an Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2 GHz) with 512 KB L2 memory cache based on Venice core, which has a better overclocking capability than our Athlon 64 3800+ used on our benchmarking.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme BIOS V.1.12 overclocking options:

KN1 SLI Extreme has very basic overclocking options. Its clock multiplier with 0.5x steps called our attention, however this option is hidden under “Power Management” menu.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 10: Overclocking options on KN1 SLI Extreme.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 11: Its clock multiplier is hidden on Power Management menu.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
click to enlarge
Figure 12: Basic memory timings settings.

On Figures 13 and 14 you can check the overclocking we could achieve with this motherboard.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
Figure 13: HTT configured at 367 MHz, an excellent result.

ECS KN1 SLI Extreme
Figure 14: Our 2.2 GHz CPU running at 2,868 MHz (286 MHz x 10).

With KN1 SLI Extreme we could put our CPU running stable at 2,868 MHz (286 MHz x 10), an increase of almost 30% on its internal clock rate, an excellent result.

To achieve this overclocking we had to change the HyperTransport bus multiplier to 3x, the memory voltage to 2.80 V, the CPU voltage to 1.5 V and keeping the memory clock always below 250 MHz.

Conclusions

As you can notice by reading our results there is almost no performance difference between socket 939 motherboards. This occurs because Athlon 64 has an embedded memory controller, so the chipset doesnít play any drastic role on performance on this platform. The decision on what socket 939 motherboard one should buy must be based on extra features, price and overclocking.

The main KN1 SLI Extreme advantage over competition is its excellent cost/benefit ratio, since it has the same performance and the same features of more expensive motherboards based on the same chipset, but costing less.

Contrary to other ECS motherboards we have tested, KN1 SLI Extreme was very good on overclocking, surpassing models from brands with more reputation on overclocking than ECS.

Of course ECS KN1 SLI Extreme isnít targeted to radical overclockers, but from the evolution we saw on Extreme series we can say that ECS is on the right track.

If you donít mind having a motherboard from a non-traditional high-end maker but at the same time want a board with a different look, great features and good overclocking, ECS KN1 SLI Extreme wonít let you down.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ECS-KN1-SLI-Extreme-Motherboard-Review/312


© 2004-13, Hardware Secrets, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Total or partial reproduction of the contents of this site, as well as that of the texts available for downloading, be this in the electronic media, in print, or any other form of distribution, is expressly forbidden. Those who do not comply with these copyright laws will be indicted and punished according to the International Copyrights Law.

We do not take responsibility for material damage of any kind caused by the use of information contained in Hardware Secrets.