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ECS Z87H3-A2X Extreme GANK Machine Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Conclusion

Performance

While ECS may not be the favorite brand for many enthusiasts, you cannot deny that their newer designs push the innovation boundaries. Whether or not all the gold plating actually helps with stock performance, the Z87H3-A2X Extreme performed brilliantly at stock speeds.

Pricing

As of August 31, the ECS Z87H3-A2X Extreme motherboard was available at Newegg.com for $219.99 after $20 mail-in rebate. The board was also available from other retailers such as Amazon.com for $239.99 with Prime shipping.

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Conclusion

Before continuing with our final thoughts on this board, we would like to take this opportunity to give our friends at ECS a hearty “Thank You” for giving us the opportunity and pleasure of reviewing their latest addition to the Golden board line, the Z87H3-A2X Extreme motherboard.

ECS did a great job with the design and layout of the Z87H3-A2X Extreme board. The gold-plated components accentuate the red and black theme giving a nice impression of the board from the start. For the price of the board, you cannot beat the amount of features and functionality built-in, including the 3-digit LED display, the 801.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, the included eSATA and mSATA ports, and the on-board buttons and voltage points to appeal to the more adventurous enthusiasts. Its design was carefully thought out with components placed for easy access and sufficient space. Adding the heat pipe cooling and the 12-phase power system was the cherry on top. Performance-wise, it performed on-par or better than the competing systems, further proving the board's value and worth. The BIOS design was simple, yet effective in its simplicity and layout.

There were a few shortcomings with the board, the biggest with its user manual. The manual seemed to go in to great detail in certain areas, while giving only the bare minimum in others (like the bandwidth of PCI-Express ports in multi-card use). The only other issue that caught my attention was the lack of Ring bus frequency adjustment settings. The BIOS offered plenty of ways to change the other bus and voltage settings, but hid the ability to modify the Ring bus speed. This could account for the stellar stock performance since the Ring bus speed could not be limited to match the processor speed. The other concern with this is in overclocking. Ring bus speed control is critical when attempting to overclock a Haswell chip.

Strengths

  • Stock performance
  • CMOS battery placement - accessible under most conditions
  • Board layout and design
  • Black and Red board coloration
  • Accessible PCI-Express x1 slot in most situations
  • User configurable 3-digit LED display

Weaknesses

  • CMOS battery blocked when board used in multi-GPU configuration
  • lack of on-board CMOS reset jumper
  • included information in manual for certain board functions
  • unable to control Ring bus speed in BIOS

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September 16, 2013 | 11:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sounds like a pile of gank to me.

September 16, 2013 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Lance Ripplinger (not verified)

Great review Morry. I just wanted to point out an error in your article: GIGABYTE includes only the bare minimum needed to get the board functional. Shouldn't "Gigabyte" say "ECS"? LOL

September 16, 2013 | 12:46 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Thanks for pointing that out...

September 16, 2013 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Daniel Masterson (not verified)

You just got *puts on sunglasses* ganked. YEEEOOOWWWW!

September 17, 2013 | 05:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I was really thinking this would be a good motherboard, until the picture showing the gfx card next to the cooler. This made me realise that the pcie slot is placed right at the top of the board.

Not only does this mean you can install some gfx cards with large backplates (think msi lightening with the addon board) but also it means on many cases you cant plug cables intot the gfx card as the space between the top of the cases surround of the expansion slots gets in the way (mainly due to thickness of cable connectors).

This will definately stop me from buying this, everything else seemed so great too. Oh dear.

September 17, 2013 | 10:07 AM - Posted by razor512

Whats with companies in putting nameplates on heatsinks designed for passive cooling. My old m4a78 plus got a 15c drop in temperature on the northbridge when I pried the name plate off.

The side panel fan then did a better job at cooling the motherboard.

Covering the top of a heatsinks only increases cooling performance when you have active airflow in the direction of the fins (eg taping some cardboard to the top of the xbox 360 heatsinks lowers the temperature)

But if airflow is coming from the top then it significantly reduces performance.

September 17, 2013 | 09:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are you Ganking my chain...I thought they were out of business...my first build 13 yrs ago was an ECS.

September 17, 2013 | 09:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD Athlon ! LOL

September 18, 2013 | 02:33 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

What a terrible name for a motherboard, it should be a big hit with 12 year old pant saggers.

September 18, 2013 | 09:33 PM - Posted by Penterax (not verified)

Indeed; the name puts this in the "will not buy I don't care how good it is" category.

September 27, 2013 | 07:25 AM - Posted by Activate: AMD (not verified)

Good piece, but the watermarks in the photos are incredibly distracting. I know you want to protect your property, but they're too much.

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