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ECS Z97-PK Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of ECS

  • 2-Way multi-graphics solution
  • Supports 3 independent displays
  • 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.
  • ESD Protection prevents computers from electrostatic discharge damage to enhance its durability and lifespan
  • Supports ECS EZ BIOS for tweaking BIOS in graphical user interface within a multi language environment
  • ECS MIB III - A friendly interface for overclocking
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Certified
  • Intel® 22nm 4th generation Multi-Core CPU support
  • Intel ® VRD 12.5 Ready
  • Supports DirectX® 11.1 to enhance graphical performance
  • 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 Intel® Smart Response, Smart Connect and Rapid Start Technology
  • ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eSF
  • Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9, Muzee with trial version

Motherboard Layout

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ECS kept the design and looks of the Z97-PK motherboard plain and simple, going with the standard brown PCB with black, grey, and white ports. Keeping with this mantra, ECS included a small cooler for the Intel Z97 chipset and no cooling for the CPU power circuitry. However, this did not seem to adversely affect the board's performance potential in the slightest. The surprising thing with the board's design is the amount of space provided for using the integrated ports and headers. There is more than enough room to access all ports even with the board's micro-ATX form factor.

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ECS designed the Z97-PK without any circuitry or chips on the board's back, surprising given the board's size. As a result, you should have not problems mounting a cooler back plate to the board.

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ECS integrated the following ports into the Z97-PK's rear panel: PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, an RJ-45 Realtek GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a VGA video port, a DVI video port, and six analogue audio ports. ECS opted to include full support for 8.1 audio instead of including an optical output in place of one of the analogue audio ports.

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The Z97-PK motherboard has a total of three device ports - two PCI-Express x16 slots and one PCI-Express x1 slot. For the PCIe x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card and x16 / x4 bandwidth with cards in the primary and secondary slots. The CMOS battery is located to the right of the primary PCIe x16 slot, in between it and the CPU socket.

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In the upper left corner of the board are the the front panel audio header, the serial port header, the CMOS reset jumper, a consumer infra-red device header (CIR1), the S/PDIF output header, and the on board speaker header.

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Along the lower left of PCIe x16 slot 2 are the the parallel port header, the trusted module port header, and a USB 2.0 header.

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In the bottom left corner of the board are the three USB 2.0 headers, four SATA III ports, and the front panel header.

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The Intel Z97 Express chipset is covered by a dark chrome aluminum, low profile cooler just below the PCIe X16 slots.

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ECS integrated a total of six on-board SATA 6 Gb/s ports into the motherboard, the primary and secondary ports in a front facing block and the other four (slots 3-5) mounted directly to the board's surface to the left of the port block. To the right of the SATA port block is an additional Intel Z97-controlled USB 3.0 header. All integrated SATA ports are controlled by the Intel Z97 chipset controller. The ME Unlock header is located in between the SATA port block and the USB 3.0 header. Note that the ME Unlock header is a debug header used by ECS for internal board validation and testing.

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The four integrated DDR3 memory slots are located just below the CPU socket in the lower right quadrant of the motherboard. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in like colored slots with the white colored slots being used for the primary DIMM set. 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. Just below the memory slots is the 24-pin ATX power connector.

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The 4-pin CPU and system fan headers are located to the upper right of the DIMM sockets, along the board's right edge.

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The area surrounding the CPU socket is fully devoid of obstructions, making it very easy to use even the larger CPU coolers with ease. ECS chose to leave the CPU power circuitry naked, relying on direct air cooling via the CPU cooler or system fans. By not putting any heat sinks in close proximity to the CPU socket allowed ECS to open up significant space in this area. Better yet, we found that the lack of upgraded cooling for the CPU power circuitry had no impact on the board's overclocking potential. The CMOS battery is located to the upper left of the CPU socket, making it accessible even with multiple video cards installed in the board.

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The 4-pin ATX12V power connector is located to the upper right of the CPU socket, just below the rear panel video ports.


April 24, 2015 | 12:26 PM - Posted by derFunkenstein

$80 for a Z97 board is killer. Don't really need H97 boards if Z97 can be so cheap (and it's not alone, with the PCMate from MSI being a nicer board for $20 more). The layout is weird, though - what's with the Ghost of PCI Past? If they were going to leave any of the slots without an actual slot, it should have been the one below the primary x16 slot, since it's always blocked by a dual-wide cooler anyway.

Also, typo on page 2 - you identified the CMOS battery as being to the left of the primary slot when it's to the right.

April 24, 2015 | 04:46 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Thanks for pointing out that oversight. Fixed...

April 24, 2015 | 12:49 PM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla

Lack of M.2 or Sata-express on a value oriented Z97 motherboard cannot be a con at all. Most of the people purchasing these motherboards dont really care for the additional connectivity of storage devices in form of m.2 or Sata express. They are more than happy with 6 Sata ports available to connect 1SSD/HDD they will be using in their PC.

April 24, 2015 | 01:17 PM - Posted by Jabbadap (not verified)

Lol i7@4.7GHz with that vrm, I don't think that would work very long before those fets are fried(what is that 2 or 3-phase anyway?)... maybe decent mobo for pentium g3258, but I would not oc i5 or i7 on that.

April 24, 2015 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Cyclops

Nice review but honestly, who's gonna buy this? 3 Phase power and a 4 pin? No heatsink for mosfets?

Yeah price is nice but for who?

You want to overclock the G3258, you grab something like the H81M-P33 which is 45 bucks. You want to overclock an i5 or i7, you grab something more suitable.

This is honestly a garbage product. I don't care how inexpensive it is. There is a limit to how much you can skimp. I would pay 20 dollars more for something like the Gigabyte Z97-HD3 for piece of mind.

April 25, 2015 | 12:22 AM - Posted by madhatter256 (not verified)

I wouldn't put an I-7 on this board, no sirree!

At the most I'd put in an I-5, but not a K series as overclocking makes the TDP go higher than what the bare minimum VRM can handle.

Probably ideal for a budget gamer who wants intel over AMD and wants a z97 chipset...

April 25, 2015 | 08:23 AM - Posted by derFunkenstein

I agree, but a $330 CPU on an $80 mobo doesn't make much sense anyway. The motherboard is like the cardiac system. Too big a brain (CPU) would result in cardiac arrest. :lol:

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