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The C-Media audio controller offer eight-channel Intel HD compliant audio. All of the rear ports can be reconfigured for various output and input options by using the supplied software application. There is no S/PDIF option supplied, although there is a header on the motherboard that would enable this to be added via a rear bracket.
ECS hasn’t supplied any extra connectivity via rear brackets of any type though. There are a further two headers that would provide another four USB 2.0 ports so omitting the bracket ports seems quite stingy. By contrast, Biostar managed to supply at least one bracket with its budget boards. Even more disappointing is that you only get a single SATA cable and a single SATA power adapter. This means that you’d have to buy an additional three cables if you wanted to take advantage of all the SATA connectors in the future.
On the upside, the 915P-A is passively cooled and ECS has even fitted a heatsink to the ICH. Board layout is reasonably tidy and there are three spare fan connctors, not counting the four pin CPU fan connector. The only minor complaint is that to change the memory you would have to remove any PCI Express graphics card first.
Another advantage that AGP Express brings is that it (theoretically) gives you the option to use two graphics cards – one in the x1 PCI Express slot and the other in the AGP Express slot. It’s very important to note that only version 1.2a works with two graphics cards – and earlier versions can’t be made to work in this configuration even with a BIOS upgrade. However, even version 1.2a isn’t without its flaws, as during my testing I couldn’t get it to work with any combination of nVidia graphics cards. According to the technician at ECS I spoke with, this might be resolved in a future BIOS update, but currently you have to use ATI cards. Again, I didn’t have a one hundred per cent success rate with all the ATI cards I tried, but the chance that it will work is much greater.
Using a Radeon X800XL and then later an X300SE card in the PCI Express slot in combination with a Radeon 7500 in the AGP Express slot worked just fine. However, swapping the Radeon 7500 for a Radeon 9250 or Radeon 9550 was a failure. I could boot into Windows, which I couldn’t do with the nVidia cards, but neither of the 9000 cards were recognised in conjunction with a PCI Express card.