J&W is a motherboard manufacturer that we suspect many North Americans would not have heard of.  Based in Taiwan, they have put together an Mini-ITX 890GX + SB850 AMD package featuring USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, a Radeon HD4290 with 128MB DDR3 onboard memory, core unlocking, dual Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI/DVI-D/D-Sub ports, and a mini PCIe slot for WiFi Cards or SSD.

With onboard RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 (which supports the SATA 6Gb/s) and a PCIe x16 Gen 2.0 slot for a beefier graphics card, J&W have literally tried to fit everything possible in the small form factor.  As a result though, DDR3 SO-DIMM laptop memory is required, rather than standard DDR3. 

So, fancy a 6-core mini-ITX system, with USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, onboard RAID, and support for multiple video outputs?  Initial pricing is estimated at $180, which is quite a lot for a mini-ITX board, but few other mini-ITX boards can boast such an array of features.  There is also an issue of North American supply - J&W are fairly active in Europe and Asia, and could expand into North America if demand for their products is high enough.  A good product at the right price will always encourage demand, so we can't wait to see if this board performs as good as it sounds.



Winner of the Computex 2010 'Best Choice, IC and Components' Award, the A890GXM-AU from ECS is also a board worth considering for the future if you plan on an AMD upgrade route but want a full ATX sized motherboard.  Similar to the J&W, ECS combine a 890GX + SB850 platform with a HD4290 and 128MB GPU DDR3 onboard, core unlocking, 5x SATA 6GB/s with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 supported, and dual Gigabit Ethernet.

USB 3.0 however is supplied via a PCIe 1x card, and the back panel contains Display Port/HDMI/DVI-D/D-Sub connectors as well as 6 USB 2.0 ports.  The A890GXM-AU offers three PCIe Gen 2.0 slots in an x16/x16/x4 configuration, however the third PCIe is directly under the second.  Audio is supplied via a Realtek ALC892 HD Codec, with 7.1 Channel output through the rear panel.  This board currently retails at $120 (after a $15 Mail-In Rebate).  ECS also market this board with their ‘15 micron gold’ paraphernalia – this is in relation to the PCI/PCIe slots, which have 3x as much gold on the pin connectors than most other boards – according to ECS, this reduces the resistance between the connects, allowing for cleaner signals to travel through, as well as improving the longevity of the socket if components are being put in and taken out frequently.

Socket LGA 1155 - Intel
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  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    "ECS are desperately trying to break into consumer markets,"

    If they hadn't made nearly a decade of budget, sometimes complete garbage mainboards, I might consider them. Their past (some of it not that long ago) kills that.

    Even good boards on paper, like the vaunted K7S5A some years back, were plagued by quality control issues during manufacturing, furthering this perception. I saw way too many ECS RMAs. The fact that they haven't stopped making cheapo mainboards either also dilutes the brand.

    If ECS wants to succeed with the consumer or enthusiast market, they should create a new division dedicated to the quality gear, with a new brand name. Otherwise, their brand will continued to be marred by their low-end stuff, discouraging people from buying at the high-end.
  • jaydee - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    I bought a K7S5A new and it was quite a board for the money at the time (I sold the system to a friend, as far as I know it's still running). I know they don't have the best rep, but based on that one experience I've had with them, I'd have no problems going with them again. That being said, I've never been in the market, nor ever see myself going for top-end enthusiast boards (by any maker). But for a low-end, middle of the road, I'd trust ECS.
  • Samus - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Most of the problems ECS boards I ran into had were directly related to the use of VIA chipsets. The K7S5A was an exception to their poor quality because it was an SIS chipset which was undeniably more stable than VIA's competing chipsets and had far less IDE bugs. There was a great DMA patch SIS released to solve performance problems as well that worked like a charm.

    ECS boards based on nVidia and Intel chipsets have been equally as good as the SIS-based K7S5A. It's VIA that really tarnished their rep. When you look at the other brands from the VIA-era, in the end, they were all garbage. Few of them lasted more than a couple years before burning out or blowing caps. They were arguably never really stable. To pour salt on the wound, ECS traditionally used VIA's reference designs, too.

    I've had good experience with ECS' Intel-based boards. Except for the crappy BIOS support.
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Can't really blame the chipset for blowing caps, can you?
  • Operandi - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    I've built tons of systems around VIA chipsets and never had problem with stability or reliability. In fact a couple of them have been running 24/7 since I built them in 01 - 02.

    The chipsets were solid and reliable if not performance leaders, stability and longevity is up to the motherboard manufacture building a good board. In fact I've seen more dead motherboards based on Intel chipsets than I have VIA based boards.
  • Redcharlie - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    I bought a K7S5A new on Sept 11, 2001, and it ran well for years, although I did have to update the BIOS to use a 160GB drive. It was a great board at a great price. I finally replaced it in 2008.

    Since buying the K7S5A I've bought boards from DFI, Gigabyte, and Asus, but have never seen a particular ECS board that stood out enough to tempt me. Glad to see them back in the ring.
  • chrnochime - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Well my crappy ECS board that has Nvidia 6150 chipset that I got from Fry's with the E2200 has seen the CPU oc'd to 2.9GHz, been on for at least 5 hours each day, for the last 2 years without any hardware problem or BSOD in windows vista. That cobbled together rig is actually much more stable than the one I put together as a temp HT/game PC with the Asus P5q pro and E8400, which thus far has encountered a bunch of random BSOD. Might have something to do with me using the Ati Tray Tool in Vista for the 4870, but then the same setup worked with the ECS board with no problem at all.
  • bji - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    What a blast from the past. And present, I suppose - I bought an ECS K7S5A in 2002 and it performed very well for me. In fact, it is still going strong in that computer, which I gave to my mom in 2005, and which she still uses daily (with an Athlon XP 1800+). I really need to put together a new computer for my mom ...
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - link

    Hehe, just wanted to say that I owned a K7S5A with a 1800+ XP iirc. I had a great time with the board, never any problems, had my CPU overclocked with some silver paste and it ran as a 2200+. :D But I knew then that I was one of the few lucky ones and today I wouldn't go for them anymore, I'm a strong Gigabyte fan for overclocking and MSI for some budget boards. Asus let me down with my Q6600....
  • cactusdog - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    ECS need to improve their after sales if they want to sell performance boards. If a new CPU or component comes out ECS wont update the bios so users are stuck with no upgrade path.

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