ECS A785GM-AD3 Black Series Motherboard
Author: Zahn Funk
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 02-11-2010
Provided by: ECS

The A785GM-AD3 Black Series comes with a detailed user manual, driver/software DVD, I/O backplate, IDE cable and four SATA cables. The board and packaging is very reminiscent of the old A780GM-A Ultra Black Series but upon closer examination we note several distinct differences. For one, the chipset heatsink has been changed from the old copper-colored aluminum to more of a gunmetal gray, although this is solely an aesthetic change and they retain basically the same size and shape even down to the Black Series logo. However the VRM heatsink has been eliminated, nor would it be possible to install an aftermarket sink due to the mosfet interspacing. The phase power is also not as robust on the A785GM-AD3. While the A780GM-A Ultra featured a true all-solid capacitor design, the A785GM-AD3 has fewer than half of its caps as the solid type. Furthermore, the specifications call for a CPU limit of only 95W TDP, down from the Ultra's 160W TDP, effectively preventing use of any of the Phenom-II Black Edition quad core processors. Compared to the previous model this is disappointing for a so-called Black Series motherboard.

ECS makes a big deal of the 15 micron gold plated connections for the CPU socket and DIMM/PCIE slots. While 2-5 micron seems to be the average range for a gold-plated electrical contact, up to 50 micron does not appear to be unusual for a high-wear part, and there are many other factors such as hardness and application that determine how durable the plating is. Although AM3 processors are backwards-compatible in older AM2+ boards, the A785GM-AD3 is by design AM3/DDR3 only. PC3-1066 or 1333 memory is acceptable, and while PC3-1600 is an option, this is only officially supported on revision C3 processors, of which there aren't currently any that meet the 95W TDP limitation. The 785G chipset has integrated HD4200 video, a step up from the HD3200 found in the 780G, and the new SB710 supports two IDE and up to five SATA devices with RAID0/1/10, a bit of a downgrade from the SB750 which could handle six SATA and also RAID5.

In addition to the integrated power and reset buttons found on the A780GM-A Ultra, the A785GM-AD3 adds a CMOS reset button at the end of the board, beside the last PCI slot. This is a welcome upgrade over the 780's jumper header, particularly given its inconvenient location at the end of the 16x PCIE. In fact that was one of the things we complained about that board, so it's nice to see ECS address the issue. Three PCI slots are available in addition to the single 16x PCIE and two 1x PCIE, and the Realtek ALC 888S supports 8-channel HD audio. A 4-pin +12v CPU connector is used instead of the higher-rated 8-pin EPS style, however with the 95W TDP CPU limit this shouldn't be a factor. Two 3-pin SYS headers and one 4-pin PWM CPU fan header allow fan speed control directly from the motherboard. The 785G, like the older 780G, supports Hybrid Crossfire technology, which allows the onboard IGP to be used with an HD2400 PRO, HD3450 or HD3470 discrete graphics card to boost performance. The 785G adds support for DirectX 10.1 whereas the 780G offered 10.0 only.

The rear I/O panel features two PS2 keyboard/mouse ports, VGA and DVI video connectors, six USB 2.0, one eSATA, one Gigabit LAN and a total of six audio ports, 1x line-in, 4x line-out and 1x SPDIF optical out. It's nice to see we have a choice of VGA or DVI for connecting the monitor, although it's a bit surprising to still find PS2 ports on a modern motherboard, particularly since ECS has been leaving floppy controller connectors off for awhile now. It's probably only a matter of time before they disappear as well.

Now that we've reviewed the A785GM-AD3 specifications, let's get it ready for setup.

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