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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.13.05]
Manufactured by: ECS


Ethernet Performance

NTTCP was used to test peak ethernet throughput and CPU utilization. The host system was an Abit AN8 SLI with NF4 Gigabit Ethernet.

All the boards in this roundup have PCI-E based Gigabit Ethernet controllers, and thus are roughly equal in performance.

With different drivers and chips however, CPU usage varies by a wide margin. The Marvell 88E1111 used by the PF88 can't stand up to even the basic version of NVIDIA's NF4 Ethernet.

Data Transfer Bus Performance

We're taking another step in streamlining these tests, by including SATA, USB2.0, and FireWire performance all in one graph. HDTach was used to find the peak burst data transfer rate on each bus. CPU usage was also checked for issues, but no graph is included unless anomalies show up (which in this case, they did not).

The SATA speed on the SiS 965 Southbridge is nothing short of atrocious. Luckily, it is backed by the very capable SiI 3132 SATA2 controller, which is PCI-E based. Everything else performed as expected.

To me, the ECS PF88 Extreme Hybrid is the perfect example of a solution without a problem. There is no denying that some impressive work went into designing this thing, but ECS should ask themselves; are people really looking for a Pentium 4 board that can be changed to a Socket 939 board? The SiS chipset being used is already a little behind the competition, so the 'future proof' argument holds little weight.

I have yet to find any SIMA cards in the market, but when they show up, ECS expects them to retail for around $50. In this case, would it not be better to buy a low priced motherboard instead? ECS' own KN1 Extreme retails for just around $100, and it is based on the far superior NFORCE4 Ultra chipset. Because the P4 side of the PF88 uses DDR2 memory, you'll need to buy new memory too.

On the other hand, the PF88 may come in handy in future reviews. I am working on getting some mobile chips in here to compare on an even field. That's tough to do with retail notebooks.

One other thing the PF88 has going for it is price. Although we could only find it at one store, it is selling for just $85 at Page Computers, at the time of publication.

But aside from curious webmasters, who else is this motherboard for? I don't think ECS is even sure. Much like what we saw with Gigabyte's 2-video-chips-on-one-card 3D1, it's interesting to look at, but people aren't exactly going to tear down store walls trying to get one to use.

They get huge points for innovation, that's for sure! In fact, we are working on new graphics for our award logos right now - when one is final, we will be awarding the PF88 with our new Innovation Award. Gigabyte's 3D1 will receive this as well.

Discuss this article in the forum!

  • Innovative engineering - something to brag about!
  • Works without a hitch, which is impressive in itself
  • Good choice for extra SATA controller - SATA2 and PCI-E based
  • Very well priced

  • Has an 'early prototype' feel, with the 24 jumpers and CMOS chips
  • Individual platforms perform better than the SiS chipsets used here
  • SIMA availability is sketchy at the moment