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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [07.18.05]
Manufactured by: ECS


The Board

At the very least, the KN1 is eye-catching.

They had a good thing going with the purple PCB (the top layer doesn't show traces, giving it a very clean look) but to me, the designers went a little too extreme with the neon fan shroud and multi-coloured expansion slots.

The KN1 features two fans onboard, which is exactly two more than we'd ever want to see. Note to ECS: No matter how extreme you want a motherboard to look, we want LESS fans! Not more! And with that fan shroud clearly aimed at taking a chunk out of Abit's niche, you know we're going to put the CMOS to the task...

The KN1 is actually laid out superbly, once you get past all the fans. There are three USB headers, giving the KN1 a grand total of ten USB2.0 ports. There is also a FireWire controller. Most importantly, all the headers are lined along the bottom of the board, making cable routing a breeze.

I also appreciate the colour-coded front panel header. You know we're going to bite the head off any motherboard that doesn't have this feature by now.

What I don't appreciate is the placement of the SiS drive controller headers. The ATA/133 port is at the very bottom of the board, which would render it almost useless in many cases (same goes for the floppy header, but who uses a floppy drive these days?). Also, there is no indication on the board which SATA ports belong to the SiS controller, and which connect to the NF4 controller.

The remaining ATA headers fare better, lined up vertically along the edge of the board. Same goes for the 2x12 pin ATX header. It is placed well, and in the right orientation (some boards place it upside-down). The 2x2 header is tucked neatly out of the way, although it's a bit cramped where it is now.

The fan shroud.. well.. let me say now that there is nothing "Extreme" about the KN1 beyond its name. The electrolytic capacitors are all made in China, something no true overclocking board will use. Once you see how the CMOS looks, you'll realize that the only thing the shroud is good for is creating an awful lot of noise (during testing I had to unplug both it and the northbridge fan to get any work done - these buggers are loud, and will only get worse with time).

Because of the fan shroud, there is no printer port. I can't remember the last time such a printer was sold in stores, so we'll never hold that against a motherboard.

Note that the audio out is only the 6 channel version, using Realtek's ALC655 codec. You do get both types of digital output though.

Also note the dual ethernet. However, like with the audio, ECS skimped out here too. You do get a fully Active Armor accelerated NF4 Ultra Gigabit port, but the secondary is old fashioned 100 mb/s "Fast Ethernet". And to think, I used to get mad at a board for only including PCI gigabit controllers!

The KN1 is beginning to look less "Extreme" and more "Budget" every second.

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