With the launch of the overclockable Pentium G3258 processor, some motherboard manufacturers have been scrambling to get a cheaper product to market to be the centre point of a Pentium based build. We covered ASRock’s Z97 Anniversary launch and have an upcoming review of an $110 MSI motherboard aimed at the same market, but today ECS is announcing its Z97-PK (PK = Pentium K ?, even though Intel call it the Pentium AE). The main stand out feature of the motherboard is the ‘One Key OC’, which claims to boost the G3258 from 3.2 GHz to 4.7 GHz.

This an impressive claim, given the motherboard relies on a 2-3-phase power implementation with no power delivery heatsink – I would assume that ECS has performed enough testing on enough CPUs to make sure the 4.7 GHz value covers the majority of G3258 dies. Even though ECS lists a ‘One Key OC’ for this functionality, there is no actual physical button on board (like with MSI’s OC Genie), which makes me believe that this is either a software or a BIOS implementation. Ultimately I would have preferred a physical button due to the low number of home users who actually enter the BIOS or install the bundled software.

The motherboard is in the mATX form factor, offering a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot for graphics with a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot from the chipset. This means there is no SLI support but Crossfire is available at a reduced bandwidth for the second card. Like other lower cost motherboards there are six SATA 6 Gbps ports, with this layout affording two at right angles to the motherboard and four coming out of the PCB. There are only four USB 3.0 ports, with two of these coming from an internal header. Also of note is the DRAM slots which are not equidistant from each other; this could reduce signalling margins for overclocked memory unless ECS have engineered the board to compensate. That being said, the webpage only lists DDR3-1600 memory support.

Audio and networking is provided by Realtek, and integrated video outputs come via the VGA, DVI-D and HDMI outputs. This is interesting when comparing to the Z97 Guard-Pro, which uses VGA, DVI-D and DisplayPort instead to allow tri-monitor setups. Also on the motherboard for legacy connectors are a COM header, an LPT header and a TPM header.

The ECS Z97-PK might not win any aesthetic awards, but ECS usually aims at the super low pricing bracket which might pique some interest in mass production builds. We are awaiting information about release dates and pricing, although ECS is claiming that this motherboard and the G3258 in a bundle would cost less than an i5 processor by itself. The only downside with that comparison is that as our review and analysis showed, the i5 performs significantly better than an overclocked G3258 in multi-threaded tasks and multi-GPU gaming.

Source: ECS

Update: ECS has let me know that this motherboard should be available at the end of September, for a combo price with a G3258 for $100. The CPU alone is $70, making this motherboard $30 in the deal.  To be honest, for budget builds, that is a quite good price.

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  • xrror - Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - link

    A different era that was. In those days if you wanted a different textolite color for a given ECS mobo, you could just cross-reference the equivalent PCCHIPS version.
  • Computer Bottleneck - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    I hope this motherboard turns out well. My only criticism is that 4.7 GHz is going to require an aftermarket cooler. The aftermarket cooler, of course, take away from the value aspect of overclocking the Pentium G3258.
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Why someone would spend money on such a crappy solution is completely beyond me. Either you want cheap and don't care about the speed then you'd go for the cheapest possible Pentium or you want reliable performance then you'd go for a Core-i3 or i5, potentially even without paying more than for a special board, the AE and the cooler...
  • hojnikb - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Exactly. PentiumK beyond overclocking for fun makes little sense. And "expensive" boards also.
    Just shell a few bucks more and get i3. Or fx6300.
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - link

    Haswell OCing currently is incredibly overrated. I see people blindly recommending the 4690K all the time with expensive mobo/cooling when they can just simply use the same money for a 4790K and a cheaper mobo that already runs 4.2GHz minimum at stock speeds. You be lucky if you can make a 10% 4690K OC over the 4790K and you still don't get hyperthreading to boot.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, August 22, 2014 - link

    Well, I see the i5-46x0K usually around 100 to 300MHz faster at lower or similar voltages compared to corresponding i7-47x0K CPUs. And if all you do is gaming and you know you aren't playing any games that benefit from HT (I think there are only a handful, some strategy titles mostly), why bother with the ~70-80€ extra for the i7? And that the i5 needs better cooling compared to the i7 with the conditions I listed above is something I haven't heard, yet, either.
  • jrdroid - Sunday, September 6, 2015 - link

    This board and the processor combo is cheaper than the cheapest i3, but is capable of performance beyond the rest of the Pentium line. I don't see a lot of uses for it, but I think there are a few. One that comes to mind for me is a Plex server with no more than two streams at a time. This will do that for much cheaper than an i3, but it is a task beyond the rest of the Pentium line. The Athlons at the Pentium AEs price point don't have integrated graphics, so you have to add a graphics card's cost into it, which is something people not playing games on it wouldn't need with the Pentium.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    "Ultimately I would have preferred a physical button due to the low number of home users who actually enter the BIOS or install the bundled software."

    I'd expect the number of home users likely to enter the BIOS in order to overclock neatly intersects the number of home users willing to open the chassis and hunt down a button on the motherboard.
  • know of fence - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Maybe he refers to an actual TURBO button like the 468's and Pentiums 20 years ago. Considering that ECS is probably selling to an OEM anyway, a modern PC chassis with a TURBO button (and green MHz LCD) would be amazing, a real tribute to the Pentium.
  • colinstu - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    No mention of price besides that it'll be "cheap"?

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