ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden ReviewRHKCommander959 -
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ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden Introduction:
Motherboards come in various sizes and shapes, along with feature sets ranging from low to high. The better the feature set equates to a higher price. The same trend follows for quality — the better a board is the more it will cost, generally. ECS is fairly popular with budget builds, but has been pushing into the enthusiast sector more and more. The name might be a mystery to some as it uses slang in the name. L337 is defined by ECS as "L337 (leet): The term leet is used as an adjective to describe formidable prowess or accomplishment, especially in the fields of online gaming." The new GANK series is for enthusiasts and gamers. GANK is a slang word that is sometimes used in gaming where it means to gang up on, or have a substantial advantage over an opponent. In this case the latter definition makes more sense. So in layman's term this series is supposed to perform over and above the competition, with many features targeted at gamers.
The ECS L337 GANK Domination Golden Z87H3-A3X is the latest in the line of performance motherboards from ECS. ECS categorizes its performance line of motherboards with three denominations — at the top is Domination, Machine in the middle, and Drone in the lower division. Intel has two categories listed; GANK is the currently available group while Killsteal is yet to be released. Aggro is the name given to the AMD group.
With this motherboard it looks like ECS is trying to push into the high-end enthusiast sector while targeting gamers. The naming scheme is odd and the full denomination is quite long — read the review to find out if the gold color and gaming lingo-naming scheme is a gimmick, or if the board really is as good as we are lead to believe.
ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden Closer Look:
The packaging reflects the Golden variety of this motherboard. The box is primarily yellow and black, as is the motherboard itself. The box has very little mention of the ECS brand; instead you will find the L337 Gaming brand being presented much bolder as if to distance this line from the main ECS products. The front of the box has the full name listed: GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden. Personally I think L337 Domination sounds better than L337 GANK Domination. Along the bottom are brands that are supported inside, including features such as the dual Killer E2200 Gigabit LAN ports, Virtu MVP, and Creative Sound Core 3D onboard audio.
Flipping the box around to the back reveals over a dozen pictures of different features on the motherboard. The key specifications at the top state that it has 6.0 Gbps SATA ports, Generation 3 PCI-Express ports, 64GB maximum of DDR3 up to 3000+ MHz OC, USB 3.0, Dual Gigabit Ethernet LAN plus WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and 10G Thunderbolt. The first three pictures show the Southbridge, power heat sinks, and CPU socket. The CPU socket pins are plated 15µ of gold. Gold is also apparently plated throughout the board elsewhere. The gaming technologies include thermo-chromatic display on the Southbridge heat sink — it's two strips of paint, essentially, that turn from brownish to yellow at 40 °C and then yellow with red at 50 °C. The largest heat sink labeled QoolTech V and has a small fan built into it to help keep temperatures lower. The motherboard supports 3-way CrossFireX or 2-way SLI, and also utilizes Virtu MVP for using onboard graphics with a discrete video card. Creative Sound Core 3D is built into the board with specialized audio caps and EMI interference blocking. Thunderbolt is provided with two ports and thus allowing connectivity of up to 12 devices, plus three digital displays at 10Gbps bi-directional and dual channel.
The top of the box has a typo — "GANK DMINATION". The width of GANK and DMINATION is even, so some time was obviously spent here. The barcode sticker is here along with a handle for carrying the box, but the handle is also to pull the inside case out from the outer sleeve. Minimal damage occurred during shipping, but the contents were safe thanks to the amount of layers ECS chose to use. The bottom of the box cautions users that the motherboard is static-sensitive. Next to that it is explained that ECS is using environmentally-friendly inks and recycled materials for the packaging. The bottom row explains what the different ECS software programs do, and that the BIOS is multi-lingual.
The sides are similar to the rest of the packaging, this time with larger ECS brand logos. The whole box is covered in either gold pigment or holographic rainbow foiling, so at an angle you see different colors; definitely eye-catching. The second side is actually a flap that has Velcro holding it shut. Opening the flap reveals over a dozen more images and on the other side a large image of the motherboard itself. The first side lists features that are supported by the board including: EZ Button Control Center — EZ LED Display (for showing Post Codes), EZ Duo BIOS, EZ Click OC, EZ Enter BIOS, EZ Measure (Voltage Measurement Points), EZ Clear CMOS, and EZ Reset/Power. ESD Protection/Anti-Static helps to avoid damage to the motherboard from sudden high voltage spikes that could be caused by LAN, USB, or Video Input. SBX Pro Studio Cinema aims to give cinema quality sound through features such as SBX Surround, Crystallizer, Bass, Dialog Plus, and Smart Volume.
All of the CPU, Memory, and PCI-Express x16 slot pins are gold plated with 15µ of gold for better stability and connectivity — whereas other boards typically only use 5µ. The ECS Extreme Power Module Design gives a 90% power efficiency increase with Dual-Sided Cooling MOSFETs, Ice Crystal Chokes that provide 1.5x greater stability and 13% heat reduction, and Golden Solid Capacitors, which offer up to 6x longer lifespan than standard electrolytic capacitors — up to 200,000 hours. Intel Xtreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU) is a supported program from Intel for monitoring and tuning performance settings.
The second side shows the motherboard and highlights two dozen features. For front panel USB there are three USB 3.0 headers and two USB 2.0 headers — one of which is gray to indicate it is the EZ Charger header. The rear I/O panel has an additional four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports. Two Thunderbolt connectors exist on the board; one exiting the I/O panel while the other sits nearby, but for internal use. A built-in WiFi 802.11b/g/n card with antenna jack sits above the two USB 2.0 ports and external SATA 6.0 Gbps port. The board also has an mSATA 6.0 Gbps mounting location. Dual RJ-45 Gigabit LAN ports are provided by the Bigfoot Killer E2201 from Qualcomm and are capable of teaming for increased throughput.
By pulling the inner-cardboard out we are greeted by a glimpse of the motherboard and its golden highlights through the metalized anti-static bag. Inside of the main cardboard box are two more smaller boxes — one holds the motherboard and the other holds the accessories. Accessories are comprised of: six SATA 6.0 Gbps cables, gold I/O plate, WiFi antenna and base with cable, SLI cable, and port covers to keep dust out of any unused I/O ports. Two manuals and a driver DVD are included to help get the hardware installed properly.
Aside from a couple typos in the manual, everything looks promising so far. Continue onto the next page to take a close look at the ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden!