ECS has harbored ambitions of breaking into the top ranks of motherboard manufacturers and its enthusiast series, the Black Extreme, has often been close to achieving it with its numerous high-end features and impeccable hardware. It's just that so far, the software and the BIOS have not matched its improvements in hardware and the A990FXM-A looks to follow in a similar vein.
First, the hardware. A massive heatsink, albeit low-profile, at the CPU socket area, with heatpipes running through that caught our attention, along with a nice, polished 'Black' series logo on the Southbridge heatsink. And then there's the IDE port. Yes, ECS has thrown in a curveball with its support of this legacy interface. Meanwhile, we also find a Bluetooth module onboard, something that we had previously only seen on ASUS boards.
At a glance, this ECS board does little wrong with the layout; it helps that it only has three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots compared to the four we have seen on other boards. Then again, three is a realistic number considering the PCIe bandwidth available. Besides, the three on the ECS board are spaced exactly to support dual-slot graphics cards.
As for the BIOS, it's from American Megatrends and identical to what we have seen on ECS' Intel P67 boards. While it's responsive enough, it's not one where you can use your mouse or with fancy graphical elements. Overall, we don't agree with some of ECS' choices here, but there's little to criticize the implementation, at least in terms of hardware quality and the layout. If the price is right, this board could be excellent value.