ECS P6EXP-Me Review
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Designed For The Value PC Market!

Introduction
Designed with a feature set tuned for the value PC market segment, the Intel® 440EX AGPset based ECS P6EXP-Me mainboard balances the Intel® Celeron™ processor system performance with a list of included features capable of creating cost-effective PCs with the added performance feature of the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP).  Based on the core technology of the Intel® 440LX AGPset, the Intel 440EX AGPset allows support for popular multimedia computing graphics and applications on volume-priced value PC platforms. Cost cutting is optimized by the limitation to the 66MHz bus but still is capable of functioning at near Pentium II levels.

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Packaging
Simply packaged this micro-ATX mainboard ships with IDE and floppy ribbon cables, an ECS Installation CD and an excellent User's Manual.  The manual walks you simply through a step-by-step procedure for quickly setting up the system board with a minimum of fuss.

Features
The P6EXP-Me has 3 DIMM slots each of which can accept up to 128MB EDO or SDRAM though the EX chipset can only support a maximum of 256MB.  PC100 SDRAM is not required for this mainboard but it will function just fine at 66MHz..  The highly integrated design of this board uses the Intel 82443EX North bridge for CPU, memory addressing and AGP support while the82371EB South bridge offers ACPI, USB and RTC functions.  Winbond's W83977EF Super I/O is a single chip I/O solution and hardware monitoring is handled by theGL520SM chip.  I/O ports include PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, 1 ECP/ECC capable parallel port, a pair of serial ports and two USB ports.  The P6EXP-Me also offer onboard sound in the form of Elite's PCI-Audio-CMI8338 3D audio controller which offers speaker, microphone and and stereo-in ports as well as full duplex Sound Blaster 16 compatible audio with added support for Microsoft's DirectSound and Aureal's A3D interface..  Drivers for which can be found on the installation disk.   In addition to the AGP port, the P6EXP-Me also offers 3 PCI and 1 ISA expansion slots, SB Link,  Wake on LAN, modem and keyboard functionality.

Setup
The P6EXP-Me sets up easily as the core logic used means that there aren't any jumpers to worry about.  All CPU setting are either automatic or set through the BIOS.  On the small side the board is tight but much less cramped than the typical AT style system board so everything connects up easily in just minutes.

Test Configuration for ECS P6EXP-Me

Mainboard ECS P6EXP-Me
Chipset Intel EX AGP set
L2 Cache 128kb on-chip
Processor(s) Intel PPGA370 Celeron 300MHz
Intel PPGA370 Celeron 400MHz
Memory 1x64MB PC100
Corsair CM 654S64-BX2
Hard Drive Quantum Fireball EX
6.4G Ultra ATA/33
Graphics Adapter Diamond Viper 550 16MB AGP
Operating System Windows 98

Performance
A bit slower than your average LX based mainboard but you should keep in mind the target market for this mainboard.  Bumping the FSB up to 75MHz seemed to produce a decent increase in performance but we put the board through it's paces using Ziff-Davis' Winstone 99, Futuremark's 3DMark MAX 99 as well as did some real life gaming tests with Quake II and Unreal.  Outfitted with higher performance hardware than one would expect to find on a value-based system board the benchmark scores produced by the P6EXP-Me were fairly average as seen below.  ( Scores reflect an average over three runs of each test... )

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Conclusion
All in all the P6EXP-Me offers pretty average performance at a pretty average price.   The system was thoroughly stable and the onboard sound, while adequate, wasn't anything to write home about.  The board scored big points in my book for the ease of setup and excellent documentation which accompanies it.  But to be quite honest, this one is better left to systems integrators and OEMs.  You can eke out better performance for the same money with more finely tuned LX and ZX based Celeron mainboards.

May, 14, 1999
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