ECS Z77H2-AX Golden Edition Reviewccokeman -
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The first thing I thought when pulling the Z77H2-AX out into daylight was how I walked into the penthouse of a Trump hotel – everything on the board is colored or plated gold. This theme goes well with the black PCB and sets it off nicely. The front side of the PCB features a large cooling solution, though the layout of the board looks standard for the platform. The back side of the PCB shows the CPU retention mechanism that has even gotten the gold treatment as well. The large cooling solution is held in place by screws in lieu of push pins.
The I/O panel has a ton of connectivity options starting with a Bluetooth module, four USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, a Clear CMOS button, HDMI and VGA video outputs, a Wi-Fi dongle, four USB 3.0 ports, RJ-45 Gigabit LAN, and the audio outputs that include an optical S/PDIF port for the HD sound. Expansion capabilities include much the same options as the MSI and Gigabyte offerings, with three 16x PCIe 3.0-ready slots, a single PCIe 1x slot, and a pair of PCI 2.0 slots. With this configuration and a supporting processor, Tri-SLI and CrossfireX are supported, as well as using the Lucid software for switchable graphics to get the best power-to-performance ratios.
Along the bottom of the PCB lay several connectivity options including the front panel audio header, the S/PDIF output header, COM header, chassis fan header, SPi Debug header, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 headers, and the front panel connection point. Just above the front panel header is the mini-PCIe slot and mounting point for an mSATA solid state drive that supports Intel's Smart Response and Rapid Start technologies.
Moving along the right hand side of the board are the SATA ports; two are SATA 3 Gb/s and two are SATA 6 Gb/s that both support RAID. Next to the SATA headers are the onboard power and reset buttons. Further up, we find the 24-pin ATX power connection and a pair of fan headers.
Across the top of the PCB, there are easy voltage measure points, which allow enthusiasts to measure and verify applied voltages outside of any software tools. Between the DIMM slots and Qooltech heat sinks, the CPU fan header can be found. On the other end, the EATX 8-pin auxiliary power connector is found between the VRM heat sink and the I/O panel connections.
The CPU socket is trimmed in gold, much like the rest of the components on this Gold Edition board. Most notably, the CPU pins themselves are coated in gold; a unique feature of the ECS Black Extreme lineup. Using the LGA 1155 socket, the board supports 2nd and 3rd generation Core i3/i5/i7 series processors from Intel. Memory support is up to 32 GB of DDR3 2667 MHz (OC) memory in dual channel mode with 8 GB DIMMs.
In addition, ECS uses their Qooltech cooling solution on its Golden Edition Black Extreme series boards. This one is gold in color and surrounds the CPU socket. The solution uses heat pipes to interconnect the individual heat sinks and transfer heat more efficiently to the sinks that see the most airflow. The large sink over the Z77 PCH sends the thermal load up to the heat sink just below the CPU socket.
With all the gold plating, this thing is pimped out to the max. If looks equate to performance and overclocking ability, then the Z77H2-AX ought to really fly when it comes to ratcheting up the clock speeds.