ECS L4S5MG Motherboard Review

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
March 28, 2002
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65957
The L4S5MG is based on the SiS 650 Chipset. This is a great board and ECS shows much potential.
Tags CPU

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Page 1
<b>Preface</b>:

I want to begin by saying this: I will never, ever let a company control the view of this website. What does that mean? A number of sites on the net have this bias that is glaring because of the sponsors they have. While I know it is hard to keep a site running and they need these sponsors, but the sites should not say a company is great just because they give them money or products. This is just wrong, and if it is ever done here, I give you permission to find me and give me a virtual slap in the face. Anyway, enough of the ranting.



<b>Introduction</b>:

<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/smallcpu.jpg">

What a nice CPU, tiny too</center>



Welcome to the first review at ASE Labs that I didn't pay for the products. Well, that's not entirely true, but I digress. ECS was kind enough to send me not one but two motherboards based on the Pentium 4 socket 478 cpu. The two motherboards I received were the P4IBMS and the L4S5MG, based on the i845 and the SiS 650 chipset respectively. Since this was the first Pentium 4 review, and will be my first Pentium 4 cpu, I'll be using this as the base for everything else. You will see the slew of benchmarks I've used and I hope you will give me comments on which I should include and exclude. I chose to buy the 1.6a Ghz Northwood. I paid around $150 for it. Anyway, the reason I bought this were two fold, the price and the overclocking. More on that later. I later decided to separate this into two reviews, and chose not give a score because I cannot compare it to other boards so my score would be messed up.



<b>Features</b>:

L4S5MG

PROCESSORS

Intel® Pentium® 4 processor (478 pins)



CHIPSET



SiS®650 & SiS®961 Chipset

SiS®650 Host/Memory controller with AGP4X North Bridge Single Chipset

Built-in High Quality 3D Accelerator

SiS®961 MuTIOL Media I/O

LPC I/O - IT8705F

System Hardware Monitor: Built-in IT8705F

LAN: RealTek 8100/B (Optional)

AC97 Audio Codec

Compliant with AC97 2.1 specification



MEMORY



Two 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets for 2.5V DDR SDRAM (DDR200, DDR266)

Maximum: 2GB



SYSTEM BIOS



Award 2MB Flash EEPROM

Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, AMP 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI

Full Support for ACPI revision 1.0 specification



I/O INTERFACE



Supports Plug and Play function

PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse connectors

Dual USB Ports and LAN connectors

One - EPP/ECP mode parallel port

One - 16550 high-speed serial I/O ports

VGA Connector

Audio Ports (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in, CD-in and game port)

Dual PCI IDE interfaces - support four IDE devices (PIO mode 4, DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA 66/100)

Supports 360K~2.88M Byte, 3 Mode FDDs or LS120

ATX12V Power Supply Connectors

ports, Headers and Others:

IrDA header (STR)

Front Panel MIC/Line-out header

COM2 header

Four Extra USB header (LUSB1 and LUSB2)

Temperature read header

Smart Card Reader Header

Modem-In header

HDD LED, Reset Switch, Power Switch headers

CPU, Power and Case Fan headers

LAN Card Wake Up / Modem Ring Wake-Up Headers



RTC & BATTERY



SiS® 961 built-in 256 bytes of CMOS SRAM

With CMOS SRAM hardware clear jumper



EXPANSION SLOTS



3 PCI slots, 1 AGP slot, 1 CNR slot



FORM FACTOR



microATX (244mm*220mm), 4 Layers
Page 2
<b>Layout</b>:

<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/boxes.jpg">

Nice boxes, though doesn't tell you what's inside</center>



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/openboxes.jpg">

Just the basics, the L4S5MG is on the left</center>



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/parts.jpg">

Parts laid out, he L4S5MG is on the left</center>



As you can see, the boxes are non-descriptive so be sure to inspect the one your buying. On the insides of the boxes you can see the IDE and floppy cables and the manuals and the install CDs. ECS doesn't give you any extras, but that is what keeps the cost down. The manual itself is easy to follow and gives you what you need to install the board. It isn't brain surgery though (Hey, I installed it).



The software CD contains the drivers and some other programs. Some are the usual things like PC-cillin, but there is also PCDJ (http://www.pcdj.com). It also includes CD ghost, which is a CDrom DVDrom virtual thingy. Hard to explain, but it allows the reading of 23 virtual drives at the same time.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4top.jpg">

Here we have the top view of the board. Small little thing isn't it?</center>



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4s5mgmemsocket.jpg">

2 Dimms, The power is near the cpu socket as is the floppy.</center>



Here we see the Dimm sockets, there are only two. I only use one 256MB stick so that won't phase me much but for some users, this may be a big consideration when they need the memory space. The SiS 650 chipset supports DDR Ram.



The area around the CPU, well, I don't think it matters much really as the P4 cpu heatsink mechanism makes sure that a heatsink will fit, and tight. I like the Pentium 4 heatsink retention mechanism, much better than the AMD socket counterpart.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/sidel4s5mg.jpg">

Different layout of I/O</center>

I like this board. Since the board has a different I/O placement than normal ATX boards, ECS included a faceplate. You lose a COMM port, but gain a video port. The integrated video is okay for 2D, but not for 3D.



The AGP covers one of the memory sockets, so be sure to insert it before the graphics card. The 2 IDE channels are right near the memory, but the power (ATX and 12v) and floppy connectors are in the center of the board, I don't like that. IT clutters the area around the CPU socket and inhibits air flow. The board also includes 1 AGP slot, 3 PCI slots and 1 AMR slot (useless).
Page 3
<b>BIOS</b>:

<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4oc.jpg"><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4dram.jpg">

The Overclocking and the Dram timings</center>



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4adv.jpg"><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4int.jpg">

The Advanced chipset features and the Integrated peripherals</center>



I was surprised to see overclocking options in the BIOS. I'm glad to see that ECS is striving to favor the overclocker and not just the regular user. The overclocking options still need work though, like 1 Mhz increments. And voltage adjustments weren't there. But it is a start. The L4S5MG includes the other basic stuff. Nothing big to write home about.



<b>Stability</b>:

The L4S5MG never crashed, not even at 2.13Ghz. Can't complain about that.



<b>Testing</b>:

Well, this is the part that is the most challenging to write up for. I tried to include as many benchmarks as I could, including the new PCMark 2002.



Test System:

L4S5MG

1.6a Ghz P4

256MB DDR Set at ultra and fastest settings

20GB 60GXP IBM HDD

8x DVD and 16x10x40 CDRW

Floppy

Ati Radeon 8500 (Retail speeds)



The L4S5MG was built for speed. I'll let the numbers show you. I included benchmarks at 2.13Ghz (133/133/33). This is the board this is in my system now.
Page 4
<b>The Benchmarks</b>:



The Purple color bars indicate the L4S5MG overclocked to 2.13Ghz. The Yellow indicates the K7S5A with an Athlon 1 Ghz and the blue bar is the L4S5MG with the normal 1.6Ghz.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/3dmark.gif"></center>

First up is the ever popular 3DMark 2001SE. As you can see, the L4S5MG handles this very well. I included my K7S5A as a baseline basically, it only has a 1 GHZ Athlon but it can keep up with the 600mhz difference of the P4. Where the P4 shines is the overclock. We have a 900 point jump at 1024x768.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/pcmark.gif"></center>

PCMark 2002 is MadOnion's new benchmark to measure the performance of the total system. I think it is a bit biased toward the Pentium 4. I thought it was interesting that the HDD stayed the same (It should). I agree with the memory benchmarks because the P4 can utilize the bandwidth much that than the Athlon.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/glmark.gif"></center>

I don't play anything below 1024x768 so I won't usually include less than that resolution. Above that your graphics cards become the bottleneck. But you can see the difference that the CPU speeds give in this benchmark regardless. The L4S5MG is very fast.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/glexcess.gif"></center>

Next up we have GLexcess also based on OpenGL. You'll notice that the Athlon is keeping pace with the Pentium 4 until it goes to 2.13ghz. Remember, clock speed isn't always a good measure of performance.
Page 5
<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/dronz.gif"></center>

DronZmark also is based on a game engine. The Graphs in this look pretty similar to the other ones, the 2.13ghz in the lead.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/spec.gif"></center>

Some things in Spec are still graphics card limited and some are cpu limited. I still don't understand Spec that well, but you get the picture that the L4S5MG is on top with the 2.13ghz.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/cliebench.gif"></center>

Clibench measures basically CPU performance. You can see by the graphs that the trend continues, as it should.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/scimark.gif"></center>

Sciencemark measures the Memory and CPU subsystems. Nothing different here.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/superpi.gif"></center>

Super Pi calculates PI up to 32Million digits, but I only chose 1 Million. Lower is better in this. Times are in seconds.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/quake3.gif"></center>

I included full Quake 3 benchmarks because of the fabulous tool Quake 3 bench. Other than the 2.13Ghz is the fastest, there isn't anything more to say.



<center><img src="http://www.aselabs.com/images/articles/march02/l4s5mg/l4graphs/sandra.gif"></center>

Sandra confirms everything. Nothing that I have can keep up with the 2.13Ghz of the Pentium 4 paired with the L4S5MG. Of course, if I had other companies boards, maybe that would be different.
Page 6
<b>Price</b>:

A quick check on pricewatch and I confirmed this with ECS, the L4S5MG is around $80. For the price, the L4S5MG is a great deal, and if you need a highly integrated board, you should buy this one.



<b>Conclusion</b>:

The L4S5MG is a great board for the price. The numbers and the features of this board are better than the K7S5A that I have (also made by ECS). ECS is making progress with their boards and I hope they continue to do so. I'm not giving the board an overall score, but I do recommend it. If I wanted a board, I would definitely consider purchasing this one. I'd like to thank ECS for sending me this board.



L4S5MG

<table width='100%'><tr><td>Pros</td><td>Cons</td></tr>

<td>Cheap

Fast

DDR Ram

Highly Integrated Motherboard

Overclocks well</td>

<td>Bad positions for power and floppy

Memory socket hits AGP card

No heatsink fan on the northbridge

AMR slot

2 Dimm sockets</td></tr></table>



So far, this L4S5MG is my choice for my board as of now. If I were to give a score to this board, it would be relatively high up.

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