ECS P55H-AK Overclocking

Posted on 26th Sep 2010 at 10:12 by Richard Swinburne with 4 comments

Richard Swinburne
We heard a surprise rumbling from the direction of ECS recently, from its P55H-AK. With a new and rather tasty aesthetic design, and the promise of hitting 5GHz with a K-series CPU got us wondering if ECS had made a board that was.. well, worth buying.

At $300 (it's not yet available in the UK) out of the starting blocks there's already a hefty weight on it for a P55 board, even if it does have extra NF200 and PLX chips to add more PCI Express lanes.

Unperturbed, we still wanted to have a gander at its overclocking capabilities, so we requested a board for a quick test. Once we had it in our mitts we dropped it on the review block (it's a cold piece of granite that bares the scars of previous torture), with a Core i5-750, some 2,200MHz Elpida Hyper and a Titan Fenrir.

Unfortunately, our first attempts were met with a solid wall at 160MHz base clock. This was the same whether pushing the board via the BIOS or ECS' eOC in-Windows overclocking software. Clearly that's a very poor show, and it was made worse by the fact that the voltage changes in the BIOS remained even after the board self-reset after overclocking failure and sometimes even after a CMOS reset. This meant we constantly risked overvolting the CPU. In the end we found the trick was to enter the BIOS, use the reset to default option, F10 save, re-enter the BIOS and then start again. Convoluted would be an understatement.

ECS' BIOS follows the Intel-spec for '+' voltages, which only adds to the pain in the arse factor to be honest - we'd much rather be able to type in the exact voltage we want, like other enthusiast P55 boards.

After tearing our hair out for a few days, we went down to ECS' HQ, where the folks there had setup another P55H-AK for us to look at. They weren't getting the same 160MHz limitation - in fact, their setup with the same BIOS, but with their in-house hardware hit ~193MHz base clock. OK, that's better, but not great - even boards a third of the cost crack 200MHz.

ECS P55H-AK Overclocking Tails of ECS P55H-AK overclocking
Click to enlarge

So then we tried our i5-750 and memory to see if there was a difference and two minutes later we were riding 215MHz base clock and 4.3GHz! Much better!

OK, so after all that effort the ECS P55H-AK can overclock well, and combined with its new look is a better outlook for a company not many enthusiasts took seriously. That said, it still needs a better BIOS - in both design and features - to rival Gigabyte and Asus before it can challenge the top two though. ECS is getting there slowly, but will it ever be fast enough?


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docodine 26th September 2010, 18:22 Quote
Hopefully this is a step in the direction of making ECS a brand worth buying, good for them.
Infiniti 27th September 2010, 10:17 Quote
im sure on there web site they over clock an i5 to 5ghz on air.... seemed a bit far fetched to me...
Bion1c 29th September 2010, 01:34 Quote
"fter tearing our hair out for a few days, we went down to ECS' HQ, where the folks there had setup another P55H-AK for us to look at."

What a joke. you tested an independent board in your own office and it reached a pathetic 160 base clock. Then you go to their office where they have a hand picked board for you and it couldnt even reach 200 with a cherry picked sample!!!

This review is far too positive for a board thats supposedly high end. Crap bios, crap overclocking performance + high price.. yeah.. great..
Bindibadgi 29th September 2010, 04:46 Quote
Firstly, it's not a review, it's a blog about our experiences specifically because we couldn't put together a full review.

While I understand your extreme cynicism, I'll happily fill out the rest of the story to explain it just isn't as you allude ;).

It was after about 20 emails back and forth that I suggested I'd drop by to have a face to face chat about it. ECS weren't there to woo and demonstrate to me how awesome they really were, it was a session with 3 FAEs to test, take notes and debug their hardware with mine vs theirs and my overclocking techniques vs their own. It would have been a complete waste of everyone's time to work on a board that wasn't representative of what people buy. Essentially ECS got a free FAE (me) for an afternoon and got to know what hardware I tested with = value for them. That hardware will change by the time I test another ECS board though :D

FAEs simply aren't marketing people - they are paid to get stuff to work and frankly, ECS simply isn't that, uhh, 'cunning'. Lovely people buy don't really get the OC scene still.

The fact our own hardware used on their board got better than what they setup for us to test only reinforces this fact. Our point about the BIOS issues remains though and ECS know this - took notes and if they decide to update it it's up to them. We certainly don't recommend the P55H-AK and we can't say for certain whether the issue we had was isolated or not, but we appreciate it can overclock.

And anyway, if we're talking cherry picking, think about any review on the net that gets sent stuff from manufacturers. It just doesn't really happen - the editorial-manufacturer relationship is more important to companies than trying to con a single review with special hardware. Special BIOS' (which is why we download the latest from the manuf. website and reflash it) or special hardware would be too obvious and too time consuming given the extremely tight schedules the computing industry has to deal with.

@Infiniti - it was with a K-series, so they just ramped up the multiplier. THAT is a cherry picked CPU as part of a video advertorial ECS produced. K-series requires little from the motherboard apart from reliable power - there's no base clock adjustment so everything else stays within tolerances. You just crank the voltage and whack on a massive heatsink. Job done.
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