What’s much more interesting is the Wi-Fi dongle optionally supplied with the ECS KN1 Extreme. Although with an Elitegroup label, the device is actually called ZyDAS ZD1211 and you can read its description here.
This gadget works across the USB 2.0 interface and supports the IEEE 802.11b/g wireless protocol that allows data-transfer rates up to 54Mbps. Using the software you receive with the device you can make it work in Ad Hoc as well as in the Infrastructure mode. The device can serve as a programmable access point for up to 31 clients. In other words, you can use this USB dongle to deploy a wireless network or to connect to existing ones. Again, it is an optional accessory to the ECS KN1 Extreme mainboard.
Interesting too are the ECS KN1 Extreme’s abilities in supporting hard disk drives. ECS considered the chipset capabilities insufficient and enforced them using an additional ATA RAID SiS180 controller. As a result, the ECS KN1 Extreme supports two Parallel ATA channels (for up to four devices) and four Serial ATA II channels (with a data-transfer rate up to 3Gbps) through the chipset. RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 is supported for all these channels. Added to that are one more Parallel ATA-133 and two Serial ATA-150 channels, implemented though the SiS controller. The drives attached to this controller can also be united into arrays of levels 0, 1 or 0+1. But like with the second network controller ECS decided to save on the cost and took an out-dated chip that has two drawbacks: SiS180 doesn’t support Serial ATA II and connects via the 32-bit 33MHz PCI bus instead of the PCI Express x1, which may negatively affect the speed of the RAID arrays.
We checked this out in practice, building a RAID 0 array out of Raptor WD360GD drives from Western Digital and attaching them to the chipset’s controller and then to the SiS180. Then we measured the performance of the array in the HDD Test Suite from Futuremark’s PCMark04.
NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra
XP Startup, KB/sec
Application Loading, KB/sec
File Copying, KB/sec
General HDD Usage, KB/sec
As you see, the SiS180 is by far inferior to the dual RAID controller integrated into the nForce4 Ultra in terms of speed, especially at copying files when the limited bandwidth of the PCI bus doesn’t allow the external RAID controller from SiS to show better results.
The ECS KN1 Extreme mainboard offers the user ten USB 2.0 ports the nForce4 Ultra chipset supports. You can find four ports at the back panel of the mainboard, and the remaining six are onboard pin-connectors. The two 400Mbps IEEE1394a ports implemented through the TI TSB43AB22A controller are also pin-connectors on the PCB. A back-panel bracket with two FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports is enclosed with the mainboard. The FireWire ports are different on this bracket (4-pin and 6-pin), but the main feature of this bracket is that you can use additional plastic housing to move these ports to the front panel of your system case.