We heard a surprise rumbling from the direction of ECS recently, from its P55H-AK
. With a new and rather tasty aesthetic design, and the promise of hitting 5GHz with a K-series CPU got us wondering if ECS had made a board that was.. well, worth buying.
(it's not yet available in the UK) out of the starting blocks there's already a hefty weight on it for a P55 board, even if it does have extra NF200 and PLX chips to add more PCI Express lanes.
Unperturbed, we still wanted to have a gander at its overclocking capabilities, so we requested a board for a quick test. Once we had it in our mitts we dropped it on the review block (it's a cold piece of granite that bares the scars of previous torture), with a Core i5-750, some 2,200MHz Elpida Hyper and a Titan Fenrir.
Unfortunately, our first attempts were met with a solid wall at 160MHz base clock. This was the same whether pushing the board via the BIOS or ECS' eOC in-Windows overclocking software. Clearly that's a very poor show, and it was made worse by the fact that the voltage changes in the BIOS remained even after the board self-reset after overclocking failure and sometimes even after a CMOS reset. This meant we constantly risked overvolting the CPU. In the end we found the trick was to enter the BIOS, use the reset to default option, F10 save, re-enter the BIOS
start again. Convoluted would be an understatement.
ECS' BIOS follows the Intel-spec for '+' voltages, which only adds to the pain in the arse factor to be honest - we'd much rather be able to type in the exact voltage we want, like other enthusiast P55 boards.
After tearing our hair out for a few days, we went down to ECS' HQ, where the folks there had setup another P55H-AK for us to look at. They weren't getting the same 160MHz limitation - in fact, their setup with the same BIOS, but with their in-house hardware hit ~193MHz base clock. OK, that's better, but not great - even boards a third of the cost crack 200MHz.
Click to enlarge
So then we tried our i5-750 and memory to see if there was a difference and two minutes later we were riding 215MHz base clock and 4.3GHz! Much
OK, so after all that effort the ECS P55H-AK can
overclock well, and combined with its new look is a better outlook for a company not many enthusiasts took seriously. That said, it still needs a better BIOS - in both design and features - to rival Gigabyte and Asus before it can challenge the top two though. ECS is getting there slowly, but will it ever be fast enough?