The Board - Layout
The ECS A990FXM-A comes in what is now a standard color scheme for the majority of ECS motherboards; grey metal heatsinks and matching grey and white slots nicely contrast with the black PCB. The layout is clean and simple, with very few distractions, both on the front and the back of the board. The back of the board is populated with several small MOSFET cooling strips, and there are quite a few protruding pins here and there, but overall the layout is very simple, and we did not notice anything that might interfere with mounting aftermarket cooling.
The socket area is fairly open, with very few surface-mounted components close to the socket, with the large MOSFET/Chipset heatsink close by. The socket itself, of course, is the new black "AM3b" socket that ensures support for the now released AMD AM3+ FX CPUs, which features slightly larger holes for the pins to drop into, but at the same time, provides a very secure grip on pre-existing CPUs. You can see that the socket itself is provided by LOTES, and its black color is part of what you want to look for to ensure that AM3+ CPU support. The back of the socket area, as we mentioned earlier, does have several MOSFET cooling strips and protruding pins nearby, however, our usual test fitting of a Corsair H50 backplate proved to show no problems in clearance with this design, as the metal backplate already covers the area most aftermarket options will occupy.
The bottom half of the motherboard is filled with just six expansion slots; three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (electrically two x16 slots and one x8 slot. The secondary x16 slot will split eight lanes off to the third to provide an x16/x8/x8 lane configuration when the third is populated), one PCI slot, and two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. The ECS A990FXM-A features four DIMM slots for up to a maximum of 32 GB of memory (4x 8 GB), and sports a single-phase power delivery system for the DIMMs.
The board's bottom edge carries a full complement of pin headers for everything; from front panel audio to front panel USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. On the south bridge side of the board, we find several USB headers, a Clear CMOS header, and right below we find the onboard ON/OFF and RESET switches. We also find a serial COM port as well as a fan header, and the front panel pin block. There are a total of three fan headers on the A990FXM-A, with only the CPU_FAN header supporting PWM control, while the remaining two are both the standard 3-pin type with RPM sense.
On the back plate we find at the top the Clear CMOS button, a combo PS/2 mouse and keyboard port, two eSATA ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a five-port analogue audio panel, a digital optical port, with dual LAN ports and a Bluetooth antenna rounding everything out. A total of six SATA 6 Gb/s ports are found on the opposite side, with all six internal ports driven by the SB950 chipset. There is also a PATA interface, provided via a Marvell chipset located just behind it. The PATA port is the first of several ECS-specific features that really help set this board apart from the rest.