Motherboard Guide

ECS C19-A SLI review

ECS C19-A SLI (NVIDIA nForce4 SLI XE)

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Features

Features

Although the C19-A SLI is based on the nForce4 SLI XE chipset, it is still a pretty spartan board feature-wise. The board comes with features that are standard to the chipset, but nothing more. Storage options include two dual channel Ultra ATA-133 and four SATA 3.0Gbps connectors on board. These fully support NVIDIA's MediaSheild technology and RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and RAID 5 array creation. The board naturally makes use of the nForce4 SLI XE's built-in MAC for network function and is paired with a Marvell 88E1115 Gigabit Ethernet PHY. From the PCB, we've noticed that ECS has reserved a spot for an additional network controller, but the C19-A SLI should only ship with one port by default.

one other change to the nForce4 SLI XE chipset is reduction of USB 2.0 ports available from ten to eight. The C19-A SLI retains support for all eight ports, but since there are no brackets provided, you'd only get to access four out of the box. FireWire support is missing as well and although ECS' website mentions this as an optional feature, we doubt that there will be separate SKUs of the board that includes FireWire.

The most evident addition to the nForce4 SLI XE chipset is the support for HD Audio. Both the nForce4 SLI and SLI X16 Intel Edition chipsets previously only supported AC'97, which was a disadvantage considering all Intel chipsets have had HD Audio support for nearly two years.. The C19-A SLI uses Realtek's ALC883 HD CODEC for audio playback supporting 8-channel audio plus an extra independent stereo stream. The ALC883 is a new CODEC, but after digging around, we found that it is actually the 'Value' version of the long standing ALC882. While both CODECs have similar features, the ALC882 has higher quality ADC/DACs resulting in better SNR.

Layout

ECS has gotten quite a bit of practice with layout design ever since they introduced their Extreme series and since the C19-A SLI isn't an Extreme motherboard, ECS seems to have suddenly found a whole lot of space on an ATX PCB. The board has a very clean and spacious layout, with staggered PCI Express slots and low profile capacitors, making installation a breeze. We even like how they use two different sets of clips to differentiate DIMM slot channel.

However, there are some slight complaints. ECS separated the two IDE ports placing the primary connector right at the bottom of the board and the secondary near the DIMM slots. This layout makes some sense if you exclusively use the primary IDE for HDDs, but would have been more ideal towards the middle.

Overclocking

  • FSB Settings: 1066MHz to 1300MHz (266MHz to 400MHz)
  • RAM Frequency: 400MHz to 1300MHz
  • PCIe Frequency: 100MHz to 148MHz
  • CPU Voltage Settings: 1.200V to 1.600V (in 0.0125V steps)
  • Memory Voltage Settings: 1.80V to 2.10V (in 0.05V steps), 2.2V
  • LDT Frequency: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x (default)
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

The Intel Editions of the nForce4 SLI chipset have always been exceptional overclockers, pushing 310MHz FSB on average. The C19-A SLI however, missed the target. The board comes with a standard Award BIOS and features a decent array of frequency controls, but isn't too comprehensive with voltage options.

Overclocking is fairly easy with the C19-A SLI and we did managed to boot into Windows with a 300MHz FSB, but stability wasn't there. In the end, we had to step it down to 298MHz resulting in a PSB of 1190MHz, just shy of the 1.2GHz claim of the original nForce4 SLI Intel Edition.