ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden ReviewRHKCommander959 - December 15, 2013
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ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden Closer Look:
The ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden is an all black PCB layout with many gold plated or yellow anodized components throughout. This board has more bells and whistles than the Killsteal or Drone variants — including built-in wireless connectivity and seven-segment debug led to see what the motherboard is up to. Other features include improved audio through the Sound Blaster chipset built into the board. Four PCI-Express x16 slots are provided, but the bottom-most slot is only x4. One PCI-Express x1 slot and one regular PCI slot are also provided. Near the PCI slot is the EZ Duo BIOS button for restoring BIOS A from corruption with a copy from BIOS B.
At the bottom of the picture, starting at the left and moving to the right, are the EZ BIOS Set and Quick OC buttons, 80P Switch, Post Code Error LED and buzzer, EZ Power and Reset buttons, and EZ Measure voltage measurement points. The QoolTech label sits on top of a custom heat sink design with a built-in fan; the fan is hidden except for the cable that plugs into the nearby fan header added specifically for it. A flattened heat pipe runs down to the low profile chipset heat sink. The chipset heat sink has the words "L337 Gaming" on it, and a strip of grayish-brown paint that changes color with heat like a mood ring (thermo-chromatic). At 40 °C the straight end turns yellow and at 50 °C the curved area turns red. The top heat sink is a different style altogether and uses thick, slightly curved fins that get progressively taller over the length.
Four black DDR3 memory slots allow for up to 64GB of dual channel memory. The surrounding CPU socket area is fairly open and should easily clear large water blocks or more extreme cooling options. The memory slots are close enough that a large tower-style heat sink may interfere with taller memory, so caution should be exercised in part selection. Flipping the board over shows the standard array of components and solder joints one would normally see. Flux residue is common across the board; you can even see signs of where the component machine made contact with the PCB left in the residue. Even the screws and back plate are gold colored.
Looking straight at the rear I/O panel gives us a good view of things here. At the top left is the built-in wireless module with antenna jack. Under that are two USB 2.0 ports and one eSATA 6.0 Gbps port. Next is the CLR CMOS button that glows red when powered. After that are DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. Two RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports using Bigfoot Killer E2201 sit side by side on top of two pairs of USB 3.0 ports. Two Thunderbolt ports sit near each other, one facing outward for external use and one inward for internal usage. Last is the audio module, which has five 3.5mm female audio jacks and one S/PDIF TOSLINK connector.
Looking at the bottom half of the motherboard gives a good view of the PCI-Express x16 slots that are evenly spaced out. In the middle is a PCI-Express x1 slot, and at the bottom is a legacy PCI slot. At the left of the motherboard you can see the Sound Core 3D audio chipset. Along the bottom of the motherboard are several headers: Front Panel Audio, Communication, two USB 2.0 with the gray one being capable of EZ Charger, three USB 3.0 headers, and the front panel header. Above the headers, under the chipset heat sink, is the mSATA Mini PCIe slot; you can use small SSDs or other devices here.
The Post Code Debug LED can be used to view CPU temperature, voltage, wattage, or CPU MOSFET temperature by pushing the 80P button. There is also a buzzer nearby for errors. A fan header is hidden between the memory slot and EZ Power button. The 24-pin ATX power connector sits between the EZ Buttons and EZ Measure points. The EZ Measure voltage measurement point has the following layout: CPU VCORE, VDIMM, PCH 1.05V, PCH 1.5V, and ground. Using a volt meter you can apply the pins here to read what the voltages are at. You can see the heat pipe extending from the chipset heat sink, running past the two fan headers near the CPU socket. One of these two fan headers is occupied by a small fan installed on the power-circuitry heat sink. The fourth fan header is at the top-center of the motherboard, next to the mounting hole. There is plenty of room for insulation for extreme sub-ambient overclocking around the CPU socket. Four memory slots support up to 64GB of DDR3 at speeds up to 3000+ MHz (OC). It is recommended to use slot 2 and 4 when using two memory sticks.
The CPU socket area has few nearby components, so extreme overclockers will have no problem insulating the motherboard for sub-ambient cooling such as phase-change or liquid nitrogen. A protective cap is installed on the socket to protect the motherboard pins; it is best to leave this here until right before installing the CPU. The QoolTech V heat sink houses a very small fan in to help keep the temperatures lower. The fan is plugged into the nearby header so it is almost unseen unless you look at it from an extreme angle!
The 8-pin auxiliary power connector sits at the corner of the board and the top two heat sinks, near the I/O panel. Not far away you can find the Thunderbolt ports; these offer twice the bandwidth of USB 3.0 and can be used with multiple devices simultaneously — up to 12 devices and three digital displays at 10Gbps bi-directional and dual channel.
The ECS Z87H3-AX Golden has a built-in wireless card that can operate at 802.11a/b/g/n rates. The antenna can be directly mounted to the motherboard, but for better signal strength an extension cable and base are provided. The metal and electronics of the case and components within can make for interference and disruption — the extension cable is approximately two feet or 61 centimeters in length. When installed in either the base or the motherboard directly the antenna can be rotated.
The hardware looks and sounds promising so far, so now it is time to get the board installed. Now that we have taken a look at the ECS L337 GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden, will it be worth its weight in gold or will it be a dud?