ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Reviewccokeman - August 27, 2013
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ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Closer Look:
ECS L337 series GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme is an ATX form factor motherboard built around the Intel Z87 PCH for use with the latest Haswell socket 1150 processors including Core i7, i5, and i3 variants. The layout used on the board is functional and lends itself to usage with both liquid cooled as well as high end air cooled solutions. Either one of which will be needed outside the realm of stock clock speeds. ECS' board is equipped with its Durathon technology that starts with the PCB. The PCB uses a bi-directional splitting glass weave pattern that reduces permeability for improved moisture resistance, reducing the opportunity for short circuits and corrosion due to moisture intrusion. It is equipped with solid capacitors with an improved lifespan of 200,000 hours and the board is run through a rigorous 1500 point validation process. The Qooltech V cooling solutions is laid out to take advantage of the airflow exiting the heat sink. The distance between the 16x PCIe slots ensures that you can use all of the 16x lanes in an up to 3-Way configuration. ESD protection is built in to the design to reduce or eliminate the impact from an unwanted discharge. The back side of the PCB shows nothing of interest with the trace layout visible across parts of the PCB.
The I/O connectivity includes from left to right the Blutooth module, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, the Clear CMOS button, an HDMI 1.4 port and full size DisplayPort that support up to 4K resolutions, wireless LAN port, two more USB 2.0 ports, another eSATA port, Dual Realtek Gigabit LAN ports that support teaming, four USB 3.0 ports, optical S/PDIF output, and the analog eight channel HD sound jacks. Expansion capabilities include a trio of 16x PCIe 3.0 slots that can be populated to support 2-Way SLI and 3-Way CrossfireX combinations at 16x with a single and 8x when multiple slots are populated. Two PCIe 1x slots and a PCI slot are available for use but may be unavailable based on the GPU setup used.
Along the bottom of the PCB is the majority of the connectivity options starting with the front panel audio header, optical S/PDIF output, COM port, 3-pin fan header, a pair of USB 2.0 headers (one of which in gray supports the EZ Charge functions), USB 3.0 header, EZ Button control center, and the front panel connection header. Just above the EZ Button control center is the Mini PCIe slot for use with an mSATA format SSD to take advantage of Intel's Rapid Storage Technologies. The EZ Button Control panel consists of six buttons: Start, Reset, BIOS Switch, EZ LED that scrolls through information to display on the POST LED, EZ OC to apply the fast overclocking profile, and last but not least the EZ Enter BIOS button for use when Fast Boot is enabled.
ECS has a three digit diagnostic display installed that helps with troubleshooting POST problems. Beside the diagnostic LED are a series of smaller LEDS that light up to show what information the POST LED is currently displaying. A total of seven 6Gbps SATA ports are on board that support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. Moving further along is the EZ Measure point connection to be used to manually verify voltages for the CPU Vcore, VDIMM, PCH 1.05v, and PCH 1.5v. In front of the EZ Measure connection is the ME Firmware lock jumper and test points. A 24-pin ATX power connection is used to supply the power needed by the Core i7 4770K and GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme. Memory support is included for XMP profiles and up to 32GB of DDR3 SDRAM at speeds of up to 3000+MHz when overclocking of course. Reaching 3000+MHz on your memory is going to be dependent on the strength of the memory controller on your individual CPUs and is not a guarantee.
Across the top of the PCB there is not a lot going on with a CPU fan header, the top heat sink of the Qooltech V combo, and an 8-pin auxiliary power connection that supplies power to the CPU. Behind the I/O connectivity are diodes used to protect the motherboard and hardware from an accidental ESD while plugging in something as simple as a USB device.
The CPU socket is located in pretty much a standard location that provides enough room for large heat sinks and liquid cooling solutions. ECS uses what is called Extreme Power Module to make up its 12 phase power design that consists of Ice Chokes that provide "5X greater stability offering 50% wider temperature range and reducing heat by 13% more than standard ferrite chokes, even under full loading operations". "Dual Cooling MOSFETS design allows for extreme heat dissipation with the added benefits of 90% high efficiency power conversion, low impedance, and low EMI" and "Golden Solid Caps Offer up to 6X longer lifespan than standard electrolytic capacitors. They also offer better heat resistance with up to 200K hours (22 Years) of operation under 65 °C". Inside the socket you get 15µ Gold Contacts to improve the signalling from the pins to the bottom of the CPU.
ECS Qooltech V Cooling solution is an active design that is interconnected from top to bottom by way of an efficient U-shaped heat pipe that touches all of the heat sinks on board. The heat sinks use a Thermochromatic coating that gives a visual indication of the temperature of the heat sinks rather than taking a guess on where the temperatures are at. As the temperature rises the red coloring becomes a deeper, more vibrant red as you pass 40 and then 50 °C. As an active solution the Qooltech V cooler is cooled by a small fan that blows directly through the main VRM heatsink to keep it cool. Since the fan is so small it's going to be a screamer when ramped up. In reality you can hear the fan from within the chassis but not loud enough to make a difference. However it does keep the VRM heatsink cool to the touch.
Pretty hardware is always nice but it all really comes down to function and how well it performs. That is why we spend our cash on chasing performance, be it computers, cars, planes, or any other hobby. Let's see what the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme can do.