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ECS Z87H3-A2X Extreme GANK Machine Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of ECS

  • 2-WAY SLI,3-WAY CFX multi-graphics solution
  • 12 Phase Power Design
  • Up to 200W Thermal Design Power support
  • 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 prevent computers from electrostatic discharge damage to enhance its durability and lifespan
  • 15µ Gold Contact (3 times extra protection) ensures motherboards longest lifespan, better reliability and excellent contact
  • 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
  • Supports Bluetooth allows electronic devices to communicate wirelessly
  • Supports Wireless LAN allows electronic devices to communicate wirelessly
  • Dual Gigabit LAN for a flexible network solution
  • Intel ® VRD 12.5 Ready
  • Supports DirectX® 11.1 to enhance graphical performance
  • ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eOC, eSF

Motherboard Layout

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The Z87H3-A2X Extreme board sports a sleek black and red color scheme with chrome accents, making for an appealing board unveiling. ECS' design and layout of the board was well thought out with no tight areas on the board and more than adequate space to work. The configurable 3-digit diagnostic display as well as the fan included on the upper VRM heat sink are both nice additions as well.

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While the back of the board does have some small components just under the CPU VRM chips, the area directly under the CPU is devoid of any components. This will minimize the risk of crushing any sensitive circuitry with the CPU cooler back plate in place.

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ECS included the following ports into the Z87H3-A2X Extreme's rear panel: four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two ASMedia-controlled eSATA 6Gb/s ports, dual Realtek GigE NIC ports, a Bluetooth transmitter, an 802.11n wireless adapter port, HDMI and DisplayPort video ports, a CMOS reset button, an optical audio output port, and 5 analog audio ports.

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The Z87H3-A2X Extreme was designed with a total of three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, a PCI-Express x1 slot, and a PCI slot (yes, that's right, they included a PCI slot). The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card seated,and  x8 bandwidth across two of the PCI-Express x16 slots. The primary and secondary PCI-Express x16 slots are oriented to accommodate dual slot sized video cards without interfering with other on-board slots. This leave the PCI-Express x1 slot usable unless a triple slot video card is used in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot.

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In the upper left quadrant of the board are the front panel audio header, the S/PDIF output header, the serial port header, and a system fan header.

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To the lower left of the PCI slot are the USB 2.0 headers and the BIOS Backup button. The CMOS battery is located to the lower right of the PCI slot. The BIOS Backup button is used to overwrite the BIOS ROM on the primary BIOS chip with that of the secondary BIOS chip. This can be used in cases where the primary BIOS ROM becomes corrupted. Simply quickly depress the BIOS reset button in the rear panel with the board powered off and then press the BIOS Backup button for at least 4 seconds. Once the status LEDs surrounding the button begin to glow, the BIOS ROM restore has started. Note that the grey colored USB 2.0 header (F_USB1) supports the EZ Charger technology. This provides approximately three times the normal power output to devices with the system powered off, allowing for fast charging of devices supporting this operating mode.

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The Intel controlled USB 3.0 header, the front panel header, on-board power, reset, BIOS reset, Boot to BIOS, 80P, and Quick-OC buttons, 3-digit diagnostic LED display, and an mSATA/mPCIe port are located in the bottom left corner of the board. The Boot to BIOS button is located to the right of the power button and forces the board to boot to the UEFI BIOS page on next system restart. The Quick-OC button is located to the right of the reset button with the 80P button just below it. The 80P button configures the information displayed on the 3-digit diagnostic display after system boot. The LED block to the right of the 3-digit display shows which display mode is currently active. The button toggles the display between BIOS post code, CPU temperature, CPU voltage, CPU power, and CPU VRM temperature.

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The Intel Z87 Express chipset is cooled by a finned, aluminum heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is branded with the L337 Gaming logo in black and red colors. It also acts as a terminating end point for the heat pipe cooling loop.

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There are a total of seven SATA 6Gb/s ports integrated into the board located just under the chipset cooler. The six Intel controlled SATA ports are the black colored, horizontally oriented ports with the ASMedia controlled port to the left of the port block.

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The integrated memory slots are located in the lower right corner of the board, directly underneath the CPU socket area. If using two memory modules, they should be placed in slots 2 and 4 to enable dual channel memory mode. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3000MHz.

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To the lower left of the DIMM slots are the 24-pin ATX power connector, the chassis intrusion and ME Unlock headers, and the Easy Voltage Measurement block. The ME Unlock header is a debug header used for inner-company debugging and testing. The voltage measurement points give easy access to direct voltage measurement using a voltmeter.

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To the upper left of the DIMM slots and just below the right side VRM sink is the CPU fan header.

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The space provided around the CPU is enough to accommodate even the larger air and water-based coolers. Along with its 12-phased power system, the Z87H3-A2X Extreme can keep pace no matter how hard you try to push your CPU.

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The VRM fan header is located to the upper left of the CPU socket. The fan itself is hidden under the lip of the upper VRM heat sink.

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To the upper right of the CPU socket and VRM heat sinks are a system fan header and the 8-pin ATX12V power connector. Notice in this shot how the upper and right side VRM heat sinks are not physically connected via the on board heat pipe. The sink to the right side of the CPU socket is a stand alone unit.

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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