ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Review

ccokeman - 2013-06-05 16:22:26 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 27, 2013
Price: $219

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Introduction:

After looking at what the motherboard offerings are like from a few other manufacturers, it's time to see what ECS is bringing to the table in the high end gaming/enthusiast sector. Over the past few years ECS has really pushed forward in this sector to make inroads with products that genuinely were great products. With the launch of the Z87 Chipset and Fourth Generation Core series processors from Intel, ECS has released its L337 series of boards in the Killsteel and GANK series.

The board I am looking at today is part of the GANK series, The ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme comes equipped with features such as 2-Way SLI, 3-Way CrossfireX, Lucid Logix Virtu MVP graphics options, Dual Gigabit LAN, 15µ Gold Contacts, triple density PCB, ECS Durathon technology, and its Qooltech V Ultimate active cooling solution. And that's to start.

Priced at roughly $220' the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme is in the middle price range of Z87 based motherboards' so with the feature set and capabilities alluded to it presents some value for that coin. The question has to be asked is if it is ready for the big time or will it be relegated to obscurity as another board with a gimmicky name with a solid feature set? Or... will it truly supplant some of the favorites in the market? Let's find out.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Closer Look:

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme comes in a box that could only be described as busy. By that the carbon fiber look of the gold lettering in the GANK logo and the overall carbon fiber look of the box is incredibly colorful when looked at under the lights. You get a brilliant holographic effect as the light bounces off the box with an array of colors. If nothing else, ECS has set its package apart from the rest of the boards on the shelf at your local big box mega computer hardware center. The front panel shows this board is part of the L337 Gaming series motherboards that is split into the GANK and Killsteal lines. The basic feature set shows that it is designed for use with socket 1150 Intel processors, supports Windows 8, AMD CrossfireX, NVIDIA SLI, and Virtu MVP. The back panel lists the key specifications for the board across several different panels that talk about the Qooltech V cooling solution, 15µ Gold Contacts, eight channel audio, Dual Gigabit LAN, Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, dual displays, and DDR3 3000+ memory support. The front panel flips open to dig quite a bit deeper into what makes the GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme the board for your system as it looks at the Durathon component structure, EZ Button control center, and more. On the right side you get a first look at the board that is pretty pleasing to the eye. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the brilliant exterior is a sold black interior case that holds the board and accessory bundle in a pair of boxes. The board in one and the bundle neatly packed into the other. Sweet and simple and almost standard for motherboard packaging these days.

 

 

The accessory bundle ECS equips the GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme with is more than enough to use all of the functionality on the board. The driver and utility disk, manual, and quick start guide round out the documentation. The hardware in the bundle includes seven SATA 6Gbps data cables with locking ends, an I/O shield, SLI Bridge connection, wireless LAN antenna, and dust plugs for the I/O connectivity options you will not be using.

 

 

On paper the GANK Machine looks to be a winner in all aspects due to the wide ranging feature set and build construction. Let's delve deeper into what makes the GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme tick.

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.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Closer Look:

A good set of utilities and tools goes a long ways towards added value and usability of a manufacturer's motherboard. ECS has a set of tools included with the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme that add that much needed usability as well as value. You get tools like eBLU that looks for and flashes the latest BIOS updates as a one stop shop. eDLU does much the same but searches for the latest driver updates for the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme and the installed hardware. These tools were easy to use and just need an Internet connection available to reach out to the download sites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESF is a fan control utility that can be used to manage the cooling performance of the system through a series of four preset profiles with a custom user configurable profile as the fifth profile available. The main four profiles, Full; Normal; Quiet; and Silent, will meet most peoples needs but enthusiasts who will want to control the profiles a bit more closely will use the custom option.

 

eOC is a tuning utility that was a bit of a disappointment for me in that it continued to ask for the ME Firmware components to be installed. These were installed multiple times across BIOS revisions and left me with the screens you see below. The functionality was limited in this software for an issue that is yet unresolved.

 

 

Additional software bundled with the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme includes a trial version of Norton internet Security and bundled software from Cyberlink that includes burning software and its Blu-ray player.

 

 

Portions of the bundle are quite functional but the fail comes in when the eOC software just does not work as intended, at least with this test scenario.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Closer Look:

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme is equipped with an UEFI BIOS that expands on the implementation we saw last year on the Z77H2AX Golden. The interface is a bit slicker and is easy to navigate. The AMI EZ BIOS is housed on a pair of 64MB SPI Flash ROMS, supports plug and play, Dual Displays, overclocking, and OC Profiles.

Just like many UEFI BIOS, ECS starts off with an EZ Mode that allows you to tweak a few parameters and generally verify that the baseline settings are spot on. Under language you can set the one most useful for you with English as the default on this board. On the right side of the page is a slider that allows the user to toggle the performance characteristics through Performance, Power, and Quiet profiles. If you want to go deeper in the BIOS then you can scroll to the right option at the top of the window to get into Advanced mode. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced mode opens up all of the available options for tweaking the BIOS for overclocking and enabling the built-in functionality. There are seven separate tabs to explore; Main, Advanced, Chipset, M.I.B.X, Boot, Security, and Exit. Under the Main tab you get the system time, date, and the language preference, as well as the firmware versions on board. Not much to start with in this tab but you gotta start somewhere.

 

 

The Advanced section includes just about all the onboard functionality outside of clock tuning and memory timings that are found in the MIBX section. You can enable or disable each of the onboard LAN ports, monitor the system voltages and temperatures to make sure you are on the right track, setup the system storage parameters, as well as the CPU operating states.

 

 

 

The Chipset section is where the graphics polling order can be set, and the Management firmware revision can be viewed.

 

 

M.I.B.X is where you make all the overclocking magic happen if your chip can handle it. The options available for overclocking and tuning are sufficient to get the job done without going too far down a rabbit hole. CPU Overclocking Configuration allows the user to set the max turbo ratio, bclock, as well as power and current limits. Under Northbridge where I would expect the IGP info, I was left with a blank screen in both of the BIOS I tested. Memory configuration allows tweaking of the memory parameters even though I could only run the XMP profile during my testing. Anything other than the XMP profile forced a failed boot attempt. Over voltage configuration has enough parameters to again get the job done. The release BIOS would not set an override voltage but you could use the adaptive voltages to reach a decent overclock. Here you also can set the CPU Cache multiplier. Under profile configuration the end user can set up profiles for each scenario they use from overclocked to stock profiles.

 

 

 

 

Boot: This section allows the end user to choose the operating system in use as well as setting the boot priority by type and by disk.

 

 

Under the Security umbrella the end user can set administrator and user passwords, as well as enabling secure boot. Not much to see here but the functionality is there if needed for the end users' usage scenario. The Exit tab has all the options you expect here from saving the changes made in the current session as well as returning the settings to factory defaults. One thing missing is the ability to use the F10 save and exit feature.

 

 

Not as in depth as some BIOS, the ECS BIOS is easy to navigate for the most part and plays well with the mice and keyboards in my test setup. However things like default memory timings that cannot be manually tuned without a failed boot, lack of F10 functionality, and the inability to tune some settings make it hard to like the BIOS as a whole. Put in perspective though, it is a step forward as ECS continues to deliver higher end products.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Specifications:

CPU
Supports new 4rd gen Intel® Core™ family, Pentium, Celeron series processors in LGA1150 socket
DMI 5.0GT/s
TDP: 200W
12 Phase Thermal Design Power
VRD 12.5
100% Solid capacitor design
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology
Intel® K Series Unlock CPU Support
Please refer to CPU support list for details
CHIPSET
Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology & Intel® Rapid Start Technology
               
 
GRAPHICS
Support Intel® HD Graphics 4000(Intel 4th gen CPU)
Supports DirectX® 11 .1
DirectX 11.1 - Only supported with the 4rd Gen Intel processors for LGA 1150 socket
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Supports HDMI 1.4a & Premium Audio
Supports LucidLogiX® Virtu™ MVP
Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI
Supports ATI® 3-Way CrossFireX™
Supports Full HD 1080P Blu-ray / HD-DVD Playback
MEMORY
Dual-channel DDR3 Memory architecture
Supports DDR3 1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, Un-buffered SDRAM Memory
Supports up to 3000(OC),2933(OC),2800(OC)
4 X 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket
Support up to 32 GB*
Intel® extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3/1.2 Memory Modules
Note:Please refer to the latest Memory support list for details
Note: DDR3_1 with DDR3_3 are the same channel, DDR3_2 with DDR3_4 are the same channel by Intel® Specification
EXPANSION SLOT
3X PCI Express X16 Gen 3.0 slot(s)
1 X PCI Express X 1 slot(s)
Supports NVIDIA® SLI Technology
Supports ATI® CrossfireX Technology
1 X Mini PCI Express X1 slot(s)( Mini SATA supported)
1 X PCI slot(s)
When using two VGA cards, the bandwidth is @8 bandwidth; when using one VGA card, the bandwidth is @16.
Storage
Support by Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
Support by ASM1061 Controller
7 X Serial ATAIII 6Gb/s
Located in SATA1, SATA2...SATA7 Port
2 X eSATAIII 6Gb/s
RAID0, RAID1,RAID5, RAID 10 configuration
Supports Intel® Rapid Storage Technology
Supports NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
Audio
8-Channel HD audio CODEC
Compliant with HD audio specification
Realtek ALC1150+ALC5505 8-channel High Definition audio CODEC
BluRay DVD/HD DVD support
LAN
Dual Realtek 8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
Wake-On-LAN
Dual LAN with Teaming function
Ultra low power consumption
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n wireless LAN
Bluetooth
Supports Bluetooth V2.0
USB
Support by Z87 Express Chipset
6 X USB3.0 port(s) up to 5Gb/s
 Back Panel 4 port(s)
 Onboard 2 port(s)
8 X USB2.0 port(s) Up to 480 Mb/s
 Back Panel 4 port(s)
 Onboard 4 port(s)
ECS EZ Charger (Gray USB header)
REAR PANEL I/O
1 X Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, SPDIF out)
2 X RJ-45 port with teaming function
1 X HDMI port(s)
1 X Display port
1 X Wireless LAN Dongle
1 X Bluetooth Dongle
2 X eSATA 6Gb/s port(s)
4 X USB3.0 port(s)
4 X USB2.0 port(s)
1 X Clear_CMOS Button
CONNECTORS & HEADERS
1 X 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 X 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
1 X 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
1 X 4-pin SYS_FAN connector
1 X 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
1 X Power on button
1 X Reset button
1 X Clear_CMOS button
1 X Front Panel switch/LED header
1 X Front panel audio header
1 X Onboard Buzzer
1 X USB 3.0 header
• Support additional 2 USB ports
2 X USB 2.0 header
• Support additional 4 USB ports
Support EZ charger (gray color)
1 X CLR_CMOS header
1 X Serial port header (COM)
1 X mSATA connector
1 X 7S-LED Display
1 X ME_UNLOCK header
1 X Chassis intrusion header
1 X Voltage measure points
1 X 80P Switch button
1 X Quick OC button
1 X BIOS set button
1 X ROM Backup button
SYSTEM BIOS
MI BIOS with 64x2 MB SPI Flash ROM
Supports M.I.B X Utility
Supports ACPI 3.0 & DMI
F7 hot key for boot up devices option
Over-Clocking
Graphic OC Support
Dual Display
Support ECS EZ BIOS
Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Multi-Language BIOS
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
Dual BIOS
Dual-Monitor function
FORM FACTOR
ATX Form Factor
305mm(W) X 244mm(H)
OS Support
Windows 7 32-bit
Windows 7 64-bit
Windows 8 32-bit
Windows 8 64-bit
Certifications
CE/FCC Certification
ErP/EuP Certification
WHCK Certification
Bundled Software
ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eOC, eSF
Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9, Muzee with trial version
 Creative Sound Blaster Cinema software

 

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Features:



 

All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1475&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=181&LanID=9

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

Testing ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme motherboard will involve running it through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and  AMD Catalyst 13.6 drivers for the XFX HD 7970. In the past we had locked the clock speed on the processor to eliminate any easily controlled variables due to processor speed. However there is a difference in how each manufacturer handles the CPU default and boost speeds creating opportunity for one board to deliver a higher level of performance. This variable is a point of difference between boards. The majority of users will run the stock settings making this point a valid concern so we are changing up the test methods to capture this difference.

Testing Setup: Socket 1150

 

Comparison Motherboard:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

 

Overclocking on the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme gave me a mixed bag of results depending on the BIOS used. The release BIOS limited me to using just adaptive vcore to set the voltages to the CPU and VRM components, allowing a maximum overclock of just over 4.5GHz stable due to the thermal limits imposed by the voltage applied. Loading up the latest BIOS using ECS' eBLU tool I was able to use an override voltage of 1.325 to get back up to the 4.7GHz this particular Intel Fourth Generation Core i7 4770K is capable of doing. After that bit of drama and frustration I was able to complete the CPU overclock testing without a hitch. By adjusting the vcore and cache ring voltage to 1.325v, the Digital and Analog IO voltages to +10mv, the memory voltage to 1.65v, and setting the XMP profile for the installed Mushkin Memory I reached the final clock speed.

Memory overclocking or just setting the timings manually is where I ran into issues running anything except the XMP profile. I have a preset list of settings that I set for each board that includes CasL, tRCD,tRP, tRAS, tRFC, TFAW, and command rate, and are 9-11-10-28-160-30-1, respectively. Any deviation from what was set on the XMP profile would result in a failed boot on a chip that can easily handle memory speeds of 2600+ while running at 4.7GHz.

ECS gives you a couple of options when it comes to automatic overclocking and sadly I was not able to get either of them to function properly in my testing. ECS eOC tool would look for the Management Engine Components even though it was installed from the disk and with the newest version from Intel as well as verified in the BIOS. The overclocking tools make it easy for the novice yet the enthusiast will look for the more rewarding avenue using the BIOS manually and the tools as exploratory options. I have to say this has been the most disappointed I have been overclocking an ECS motherboard in some time as it seems it just isn't there yet with the tools functionality. As far as voltage stability I found you pretty much get what you set when in the override mode with almost the same experience using the adaptive settings.

 

 

Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed overclocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the over-clocked scores in the testing.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. PCMark 7
  2. SiSoft Sandra 2013
  3. Cinebench 11.5
  4. x264 5.1
  5. AIDA 64 3.00
  6. Crystal Diskmark
  7. ATTO
  8. iPerf
  9. Rightmark Audio Analyzer
  1. 3DMark
  2. Metro Last Light
  3. DiRT 3

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

  

  

 

  

 

SiSoft Sandra 2013 is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

Overall Score

  

 

Throughout these tests the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme performs along more closely to the Intel Z87 board. What I found when I first started my testing the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme runs at a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 3.7GHz when loading all four cores instead of the 3.9GHz on most of the comparison suite.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

Cinebench 11.5 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.

  

  

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition 3.0 is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark tool to measure memory performance.

 

  

  

  

  

 

In this series of tests the ECS GANK Machine is performing at the lower end of the field at stock speeds due mainly in part to its 3.7GHz Boost speed. As far as memory performance goes the results shown are with the XMP profile applied and were repeatable in every test. However it suffered from lower read and write performance while the latency was fairly tight.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTO 2.47: will be used to measure USB 3.0 performance using an SSD attached to an external USB 3.0 drive dock.

  

  

  

  

 

Internal drive performance on the ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme is not the best nor worst across the board in each iteration of the testing, however USB 3.0 drive performance is lacking when compared to others in its class.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

LAN performance will be tested via a pair of utilities to gauge the performance of the on board network solutions. The motherboard being tested will be connected via a Gigabit switch to another system with an integrated Gigabit network solution on board.

iPerf: is a small lightweight utility run from the command prompt and can be used to "measure both TCP and UDP performance on a network. Iperf is cross platform software and open source". The test is configured to run for 20 seconds with a window size of 256 KB and four simultaneous streams that should be able to saturate the TCP link on a good NIC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.25 is used to test the sound solution on board each motherboard. Nothing beats a good set of ears and headphones but this is a graphic representation of the capabilities of the installed hardware. Sampling mode is 24bit 44kHz.

 
Intel DZ87KLT-75
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
ASUS ROG   M6H
ASUS Z87-PLUS
MSI MPower MAX
ASUS ROG M6E
ECS Z87H3-A2X Gank Machine
Frequency Response dB
+3.65,-2.33
+0.52,+ 0.30
+0.23,+0.12
-0.01, -0.07
+0.12,-0.10
+0.42-+0.03
+0.46,+0.04
Noise Level dBA
-91.3
-91.3
-91.5
-85.3
-93.6
-99.8
-94.0
Dynamic Range dBA
91.3
91.2
91.5
85.4
93.5
99.6
94.0
Total Harmonic distortion %
0.481
0.131
0.436
0.0059
0.131
0.463
0.130
Intermodulation distortion +noise
1.393
0.259
0.365
0.019
0.259
0.463
0.262
Stereo Crosstalk,db
-69.7
-91.6
-89.2
-84.9
-91.2
-94.9
-.92.2
Intermodulation distortion + noise (Swept Freq) %
0.465
.323
.311
.017
.324
.430
.323
Frequency Response (Swept Sine), db
+1.3,-2.4
+0.1,-0.1
+0.0,-0.1
+0.0, -0.0
+0.1,-0.1
+0.1, -0.2
+0.1, -0.1

The LAN Results show that the ECS GANK Machine is able to mirror the LAN performance results from the rest of the comparison boards. ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme does support teaming of the two Realtek RTL8111G Gbit LAN ports for both redundancy and higher throughput. Audio results show that the ECS Realtek ALC1150 controlled sound package does well in the testing, Even so you have to tailor the sound to your individual preference. However in the RMAA testing it rated overall as "Good".

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

At this point you have to understand that the gaming performance of each board is going to be influenced more by the installed discrete GPU than by the installed CPU when comparing apples to apples. By comparison if you had to show a variation in performance the ECS GANK Machine delivered on average 1FPS lower performance in a graphically intense game and a 3 to 4FPS variation when used in a game that is less demanding. Or about a 2-3% variance.

ECS L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme Conclusion:

Over the years I have looked at a wide selection of ECS motherboards and have seen them go from builder specials all the way up to high end overclocking and enthusiast motherboards that anyone would be proud to own. It's here that I run into some troubles with the boards in that many times the first BIOS I have with the board is one that leaves a bit to be desired in terms of functionality and usability. At stock speeds with the default settings, the L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme will do just about anything you want it to do and will do so comparably, even though the Turbo Boost ratio is limited to 37 with four cores loaded instead of the 39 ratio I have seen on the rest of the boards I have looked at. It's a small problem that makes it look like the board is the lowest performer in many of the tests st stock speeds. The simple fix is to set the Turbo ratio to 39 in the BIOS and be done with it so the performance is even more directly comparable. But that's the gist of running the boards at default settings. Comparable clock speeds will deliver comparable performance each and every time.

The first BIOS I used would allow an override voltage setting for the CPU and Cache voltage but would fail to post. Using adaptive voltage with an offset would work for the most part and I could tune in the voltage needs for the CPU. Even doing so and watching the temperatures it seemed as though I was applying more than the software was reading.

The second BIOS I used fixed the override voltage setting problem and allowed my to finally tune the voltage to get to the 4.7GHz clock speed my chip is capable of. Setting the memory timings manually would result in a failed post attempt across both of the BIOS I have tested so far. Using the XMP profile for my memory proved to be the best option for me with this board from ECS. Although it sounds bad out of the gate, it's still a good start for the board and the next BIOS update should iron out any other issues. When using the BIOS it is a step forward from last year's UEFI BIOS implementations with the interface working as intended.

Overclocking in general on the L337 GANK Machine Z87H3-A2X Extreme was trying to start but eventually gave up a 4.7GHz clock speed or pretty much all my chip has to offer without a thermal meltdown. ECS Qooltech V cooling solution kept the Extreme Power Module components of the VRM circuits cool to the touch during even the 4.7GHz testing. The small fan used to cool the heat sink does its job but does let you know it is there just the same. If you want to tune down the fan you can use either the BIOS or the eSF utility to minimize the noise and then take the opportunity to see how the Thermochromic coating works on the heat sinks.

Overall the GANK Machine was an interesting experience. Performance wise it fell behind a little based on the clock speeds set by default in the BIOS, but this is fixed with a simple adjustment. When it comes to looks and functionality of the hardware, it appears to be well built with some innovative features built in that improve reliability and extend it out over the long term. At right around $220 the board does not come in at bargain basement pricing, and it shouldn't because it is a board capable of delivering performance for the gaming enthusiast!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: