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ECS GANK DRONE Z87H3-A3X Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of ECS

  • Supports 3 independent displays
  • 6 Phase Power Design
  • Supports Intel® K Series unlock CPU
  • Applied 100% Solid capacitor design to maximize component reliability
  • ECS Durathon Technology ensure the stability, reliability and performance of system.
    (Triple Density PCB; Extreme Temp Resistance; 1.5K Marathon Test; Superior Solid CAPs)
  • ESD Protection prevents computers from electrostatic discharge damage to enhance its durability and lifespan
  • ECS EZ charger provides a fast way to charge your smart devices, even if the PC is off
  • Supports ECS EZ BIOS for tweaking BIOS in graphical user interface within a multi language environment
  • ECS MIB X - A friendly interface for overclocking, especially for gamer
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Certified
  • Intel® 22nm Multi-Core CPU support
  • Supports DirectX® 11.1 to enhance graphical performance
  • Supports NVIDIA® SLI Technology to Intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple NVIDIA® graphics
  • Supports ATI® CrossFireX™ to expand your system’s graphics capabilities.
  • Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
  • Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology ( resolution up to 1920X1200 ) and HDCP function
  • Supports Sound Blaster Cinema technology to deliver cinema-quality picture and sound to home environments
  • Supports Intel® Smart Response, Smart Connect and Rapid Start Technology
  • Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9, Muzee, Google Chrome, Magix with trial version
  • ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eOC, eSF

Motherboard Layout

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The ECS Z87H3-A3X motherboard features a dark brown colored PCB with gold accents on the capacitors and heat sinks. Because of the board's stripped down feature-set, there is more then sufficient space around all integrated components. ECS does include enhanced heat sinks to maximize the heat sink transfer capabilities without using existing in-case airflow.

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The back of the board contains nothing but trace-lines and solder points, minimizing passive from case or CPU cooler install.

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ECS designed the Z87H3-A3X with the following ports integrated into its rear panel: a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA 6 Gb/s port, an Intel GigE NIC port, a VGA video port, a DVI-D video port, an HDMI video port, an optical S/PDIF audio output port, and 5 analogue audio ports.

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The Z87H3-A3X motherboard has a total of six device ports - two PCI-Express x16 slots and four PCI-Express x1 slots. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card and x8 bandwidth with cards in the primary and secondary slots. Notice that ECS designed the boards PCI-Express slot layout so with a PCI-Express x1 slot to the right of the primary z16 slot so that an x1 slot remain available. Further, the x16 slots support video cards with up to tri-slot coolers without impeded board function or case fitting.

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In the upper left corner of the board are the S/PDIF input header, the front panel audio header, the parallel port header, and the serial port header.

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Along the lower left of the second PCI-Express x16 slot are the trusted platform module header, the chassis intrussion header, the speaker and front panel headers, the USB 2.0 headers, a system fan header, the CMOS battery, and CMOS reset jumper. If using multiple video cards in the system, you may have a hard time accessing the CMOS battery and/or CMOS reset jumper. The grey colored USB 2.0 header, labeled F_USB1, can be used in conjunction with the EZ Charge technology to fast charge an attached device. Ports attached to this header are rated to provide 3x the normal current output.

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The six on board SATA 6 Gb/s ports are located in the lower left corner of the board. The SATA ports are placed so that the cables will sit perpendicular to the plane of the board which could be problematic when using a full length video card with a large cooler in the secondary PCI-Express x16 slot. Note that the grey colored port is disabled when a device is plugged into the eSATA port in the board's rear panel.

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The Intel Z87 Express chipset's cooler is a large, low profile aluminum heat sink just in between the PCI-Express x16 slots and the bottom edge of the board. The heat sink is gold colored with the ECS L337 Gaming logo prominently displayed. The heat sink is finned with is fins situated at an angle to increase the surface area for heat dissipation. To the lower right of the chipset is the USB 3.0 header.

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The on-board DDR3 memory slots are located just below the CPU socket in the lower right quadrant of the board. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in slots 1 and 3 or slots 2 and 4 with slots 2 and 4 being the primary memory slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3000MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. In between the memory slots and the board edge are the Intel Z87 chipset controlled USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and a system fan header.

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To the upper right of the DIMM slots are two fan headers that can be used for the CPU cooler fans or a header powered water pump.

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The CPU socket is clear of obstructions with the power circuitry and VRM heat sink located above the socket. While the power chokes and upper capacitors look to be close in proximity to the socket, there was no issues encountered mounting any of the test coolers to the board. The included VRM heat sink is a large and solid chunk of aluminum with air channels cut int to it to increase surface area. The heat sink itself appears to spell the work L337 if looked from straight on.

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To the upper left of the CPU socket and to the left of the CPU VRM heat sink is a system fan header.

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The on-board 8-pin ATX12V power connector is located to the upper right of the CPU socket and to the right of the power chokes and VRM heat sink.

January 21, 2014 | 03:08 PM - Posted by BiggieShady

Why don't we call Intel GigE NIC port what it is, a RJ-45 port? Calling it 'a thing we stick our UTP cable into' would be better.

January 21, 2014 | 05:48 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

The top-down shot of the motherboard looks like diarrhea. Still can't get over the terrible name either.

January 22, 2014 | 07:02 AM - Posted by mLocke

no promo shots of it covered in dust?

January 24, 2014 | 12:08 PM - Posted by irdmoose

I don't think you can count giant slabs of copper as heatsinks. There just isn't enough surface area. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the underdog, but when the company that was renowned for making Fry's house brand boards where every boot was a flip of the coin where heads was it booting and tails was it exploding into a puff of magic smoke and taking every component connected to it with it, they really need to step up the game with their design.

My thoughts:
Board color - Meh. Never really cared about board color.

Component layout - Decent enough, except for that giant block of copper. Looking at the pictures, I doubt you'd be able to fit a high-end air cooler on there like a Noctua or a Zalman CNPS series cooler. Plus, I don't see how that giant block of copper will cool very well, there just isn't enough surface area.

The heat shield between the CPU and the memory looks like a clever idea. I could see where that might be useful to help lower memory temperatures. Whether or not it helps in reality is a different story, but I think this is a good design choice. Plus it can be used to help cool the PCB.

I/O Panel: VGA? Seriously? They couldn't have put display port on a "Leet" board? How are users supposed to take advantage of the triple display capability of current gen Intel graphics with a VGA port?

There's a good amount of USB 3.0 ports there, but I would have liked to see thunderbolt on a board with this branding.

Based on the specs and features listed here, and the design, I'd be surprised if the MSRP was much above $150.

January 26, 2014 | 11:19 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Page 3 of the review shows how the Noctua NH-D14 fits on the board - there were absolutely no fit related issues with this cooler, so any other cooler should fit the board without issue (the Noctua cooler is one of the larger air coolers I've encountered).

As far as the MSRP, the board retails for $119, but can be found cheaper.  Check the last page of the review for links to retailers.

Thanks...

April 13, 2014 | 02:23 PM - Posted by Ryan O (not verified)

Thank you for doing a thorough review of this board. Yours is the best and most comprehensive that I've been able to find. It gives me confidence to pull the trigger on this board. It seems like a no-brainer with the included Intel NIC and higher quality audio that is absent on pricier boards.

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