The PF5 Extreme is a very large PCB board and the components are nicely spread out across the board. Possible even too much as there’s a very large badge on the board that just seems to be there to occupy space. I’m not going to complain about it because there is a lot of room around the CPU so you should be able to mount what ever kind of monster CPU cooler you want on to the board.
The layout of the the board well thought out. The North Bridge chip set is actively cooled with a small cylindrical heat sink with a fan on top and the South Bridge is kind of passively cooled with a small metal covering with the word “Extreme” punched out around the sides. I’m not sure if there’s scientific principle about the word “Extreme” adding any kind of cooling benefit but that’s the route ECS has taken.
The IDE and FDD slots are high on the right side which is a nice idea. I would have liked to have them side mounted to the board (something that Abit has started doing with their boards) as it makes routing the cables a little easier but having the ports in that location does help that a bit. The location of the fan headers is also nice as ECS put one on either side of the bottom of the motherboard, in perfect position for front and rear fans in the case.
Setting the board up is pretty standard fare and helped greatly by the excellent color manual included in the box. ECS has put some small LEDs above the four memory units. When the LED is on, you should not remove the memory module. It’s a common sense thing but a nice reminder when you are up to your elbows working in side the case. There are also a set of LED’s next to each of the PCI cards that light up when a card is not present or unrecognized by the system. If a card is not installed the LED will blink on and off. It’s a nice debug tool and it kind of looks cool if you have a side window on your case.
ECS did a nice job with the driver installation. Instead of having to install a series of drivers, you run one program and it installs all of the necessary drivers and software. The process is automated enough where you can walk away and the system will reboot as necessary. This is the first time I’ve seen this on a motherboard install program and it’s a nice change from the “have to sit there and work my way through a list of install programs” that other companies have provided.
Installed with the drivers is ECS’s ESonic 2 application which allows you to overclock the motherboard, check the status of the hardware, flash the motherboard, and create custom boot-up logo’s. The real highlight of the package is the Logo utility which allows you to use your own logo’s for the boot-up image. I know it is a bit on the silly side but it is a fun feature that I really haven’t seen on a lot of other motherboards. (I'm sure Chuck's searching for a nice Columbus Bluejackets image to use right now. -John)
While I’m on the topic of software, ECS put in a second disc full of utilities in with the motherboard. They include WinDVD, WinDVD Creator, Winrip 2 (music ripping and storing application), DPU (a backup utility), InTouch (remote access software), Pro Magic plus, and ShowShifter (a DVR application). It’s a nice touch to toss these in and while you might not use all of them, you’ll probably end up using one or two of them.
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