Impressions & Conclusions
Seeing that this is ECS’ first big push into the enthusiast PC market, they have done a good job at executing the product. While it’s not really a board suited for the hardcore overclocker, it is a great board for those consumers looking for something with a little more punch than a mainstream product.
The KN1 Extreme has very good connectivity that surpasses many of its competitors even in higher price ranges. It supports up to ten USB 2.0 ports (six usable out of the box), has two Firewire ports, four SATA-II and two SATA connections (all of it RAIDed), and three (yes three!) ATA-133 channels. Let’s not forget Gigabit and Megabit LAN controllers, and SPDIF output.
The board itself boasts the cleanest design I have seen in a long time. It is uncluttered, color-coded, and has all the connections in the right places. It’s clear that ECS’ designers gave some serious thought to ergonomics and it shows. To give the board a little more “Extreme”, they’ve seasoned it with a big beefy MCP cooler and exhaust fan to cool your hot bits.
The accessories package has some of the most useful items I’ve seen in a box. The 3.5″ USB/IEEE1394 bay are very useful in nearly every situation, and Top-Hat Flash is a real life saver (and RMA saver) when your BIOS goes bad. These things are functional, so leave your rounded cables at the door please! 😉
This question is in the forefront for many of you and I can tell you that the ECS KN1 Extreme is not the best candidate out there. The board itself had issues overclocking past 222MHz with a 5x HT multiplier, and somehow couldn’t even get over 690MHz HTT on a 3x multipler. Some other review sites ran into a similar problem, while other sites did not.
The BIOS lacks some basic controls like a chipset voltage adjustment, and there aren’t any odd-number clock settings above 230 MHz. The software support for overclocking features is poor as the bundled ECS software wouldn’t even run when installed. This means that you won’t be able to monitor your PC health status from Windows unless you use some 3rd party software.
Where Does the KN1 Stand? Where is it Going?
I know ECS has full intention into bringing to the market more mature overclocking products, but I think the current design of the KN1 Extreme is very good. If I didn’t know any better, I would be tempted to say that ECS should keep the Extreme product the way it is and focus on packing good features and accessories at a very aggressive price. Who cares if it doesn’t overclock like its competitors if it’s priced right with an awesome accessory package. Not every computer enthusiast is an overclocker. I certainly think there’s room in the market for such a product, but I guess the marketing minds at ECS has different plans.
Now here’s a little predicament for ECS… In order to improve the Extreme product line to be better in overclocking, are they going to compromise features to maintain an aggressive price or will they price it higher and risk alienating consumers looking for value? Will they reduce the quality of accessories and risk appearing a generic overclocking motherboard?
As it stands right now, the KN1 Extreme is a great board, with great set of accessories and connectivity options that surpasses offerings by more expensive competitors. It may not overclock well, but that’s not always a requirement. For a general consumer looking for something more special than a generic mainstream item, the KN1 Extreme has a lot going for it.
For stock speed consumers the ECS KN1 Extreme is a very strong contender.
A Silver Award… but Conditional
I had a real tough time determining if this board is in fact good enough for a Silver recommendation. On one hand, the overclocking was poor, the BIOS controls are a bit limiting, and the software package is in a very sad state. On the other hand, it is the best full-featured ECS board to date. There is an amazing amount of connectivity, a useful set of accessories, great board design, and above all a very good price. As a non-overclocking board, it does extremely well.
Despite its shortcomings, ECS is lightyears away from their mainstream products and I think their efforts should be recognized. ECS is in a tough position of directing a new product line to market relevance and I wish them all the best in this endeavour.
(See explanation above)
Go ahead! I know you’re curious… use our Pricegrabber service to find the lowest price on the KN1 on the web and get it shipped to your door.