3-way AMD A75/A55 Llano motherboard shootout
To take a look at each board in its own right, we will start off and analyze the same part of all the boards at the same time. So the first part will be the CPU socket area and CPU VRM analysis, first the ASUS board, then the GIGABTYE board, and then the ECS board will have their CPU VRMs analyzed. We feel that this way it is easeir for the reader to compare each board's features.
CPU Voltage Regulators
ASUS F1A75-V Pro:
With AMD it seems that all manufacturer's stay with the AMD spec, and that is 8 or 4 phases per board. ASUS is using their Digital 8-Phase CHiL 3828 which has been re-branded as the EPU. Each of the eight CHiL 8510 drivers drive a pair of NXP TrenchFETs, which are low RDS(ON) MOSFETs commonly used on most ASUS boards. We have solid capacitors on the output, and 8 individual inductors. A single 8-Pin power connector is used to power the CPU VR. The CPU socket area of this board is filled with fan connectors as well.
GIGABYTE uses an analog Intersil ISL6324A PWM for the CPU power. This PWM has 2 integrated drivers, and then two extra ISL6609 drivers are used. There are a total of 4 drivers and 4 phases. Here is the interesting part, GIGABYTE chose to use enough MOSFETs for an 8-Phase VR, infact their 8-phase VRM on the A75-UD4H has the same amount of drivers and MOSFETs, just extra inductors to help with output. In the case of this board there are two high-side and 2 low-side MOSFETs per phase, which is double the standard, this helps with output stabilization. GIGABYTE uses ON Semiconductor PowerPAK MOSFETs which are also Low RDS (ON) MOSFETs. Solid Japanese capacitors are used on the output. In the case of this board GIGABYTE only chose to use the 4-Pin 12v power connector.
ECS has chosen a 4 phase VRM, infact a very standard 4-phase VRM. A 4 phase Analog Richtek RT8871A which has 4 integrated drivers is used. ECS uses three Nikos MOSFETs, these are not the Low RDS(ON) that we see on most boards now, so their efficiency will be lower than the other two boards we have seen. Richtek does infact upgrade part of their VR, by using two low-side MOSFETs and a single high-side MOSFET. This also helps stabilize the output, and we see this 3-FET technique used on many ASUS boards on the Intel side, but with higher grade FETs.
Now let's move onto the memory areas of the boards.
ASUS F1A75-V Pro:
ASUS is using the new 2-piece heatsink hold down, and we do see this on the other two boards as well. This board has 3 fan connectors around the CPU socket alone, two are located above the PCI-E slots and 1 is a 4-pin PWM fan connector. The memory on this board is driven by a single phase VR, using the Nikos MOSFETs, same as the ECS CPU VRM, just different spec. What intrigues us are the 3 switches located next to the 24-pin connector. One them is a Mem-OK button that helps users configure their memory if there is some compatibly issue. Then we have two switches, one for enabling EPU power saving, and another for the TPU power saving. The EPU refers to the PWM, which can help better regulate the phases for better efficiency, and the TPU is ASUS OC Chip, which can help reduce CPU frequencies for better power saving. We can also see that ASUS decided to move the USB 3.0 internal header north to make it easier for users to reach a USB 3.0 front panel.
GIGABYTE is really good at matching blue on blue, but that is if you enjoy the blue. GIGABYTE is using a single phase VR for the memory, but with higher quality MOSFETs than the other two boards. The low RDS (ON) MOSFETs that they use for the CPU VRM are also used here which should result in higher efficiency for the memory VR. GIGABYTE didn't move their USB 3.0 internal header north, which we like to see; instead we have a Parallel Port and TPM header! Imagine that, a parallel port header! A single 4-pin PWM fan connector is located above the CPU socket.
ECS enjoys their gray/black/white color scheme, and its actually pretty sleek. They are using the tri-FET design with a single phase VR for the memory. We see no front panel headers moved north, and this board doesn't have USB 3.0 anyways because the A55 FCH doesn't support it. We do have a single 4-pin PWM fan connector for the CPU fan.
All the boards seem to have the same exact standard spacing between the CPU socket and the DIMMs. Now let's move to the area of interest for many, the FCH area.
ASUS F1A75-V Pro:
We already mentioned the USB 3.0 internal header, but we also have some extra SATA6GB/s that ASUS provides located north of the 6 white SATA6GB/s ports which are angled. We can also see four internal USB 2.0 headers, for a total of eight extra USB 2.0 ports. You can also notice the BIOS ROM which is replaceable in case of BIOS corruption during OC or update. This is great for those of you who don't want to ship your board in if OC goes wrong, and it’s more cost effective than putting dual BIOS onto a board. A TPU IC and its BIOS are located a bit west of the BIOS ROM, and this IC support ASUS’s overclocking support and some power saving.
We immediately see that our SATA connectors are all straight angled, and that one of them seems to be missing. That extra SATA6GB/s port is actually re-routed to the back panel for eSATA SATA6GB/s. This being a mATX board, it really isn't missing many ports that a full sized board has, the USB 3.0 connector is along the bottom of the board, like the rest of the internal USB connectors. What we do like is that the front panel headers are color coded.
ECS chose the straight SATA connectors as well, and once again we only have 5, but the last one is missing. This being a A55 chipset board, it doesn't have SATA6GB/s not USB 3.0, and we don't see any of those expensive controllers to add support for either specification. What is surprising is that this board is loaded with USB 2.0, it has a total of 4 internal USB 2.0 headers to support 8 extra USB 2.0 devices.