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ECS L337 GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X Review

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ECS L337 GANK DRONE Z87H3-A3X Closer Look:

The ECS L337 Gaming Gank Drone Z87H3-A3X has a very simple, clean layout. The major color scheme is black and yellow with some silver components and white print. The layout is standard, but the board is not full width — measuring in at 302mm by 220mm where standard ATX is 305mm by 244mm. This design loses three mounting points that would otherwise support the memory slots and 24-pin power connection, especially during installation. Taking a look at the board it is immediately clear that there is a fair amount of space around the CPU socket for larger heat sinks or extreme cooling solutions that would require insulation. The memory layout is awkward/cramped with the first two slots nearly touching while two through four are spaced further apart.

The top PCI-Express x1 slot could be used with a larger card, clearance-wise, except the end isn't open, one would have to modify that. The other three x1 slots have circuits right under them that could inhibit such attempts. The PCI-Express x16 slots are spaced apart enough to allow graphics cards to breath well and should fit even large/over-sized coolers. Taking a look next to the top-left heat sink, you can make out six gray rectangles and six golden solid capacitors. This immediately tells us that the motherboard has six CPU power phases as is corroborated by the box and ECS website. Next to the memory it appears there is one power phase as is the norm for most motherboards.

For cooling, ECS chose two aluminum heat sinks, for the power circuitry it is supposed to resemble half of the L337 Gaming logo. Realistically, this is just a large chunk of yellow aluminum with chunks cut out. Up to six fans are supported across the board: two PWN CPU fan pins, three PWN system fans, and a single 3-pin Molex fan connection labeled "Power". Along the bottom from left to right are pin headers for audio, LPT parallel, COM serial, TPM Trusted Platform Module, case open, speaker, front panel, and two front USB. Flipping the board over shows that there are no back plates other than the typical Intel LGA 1150. You can easily make out most of the components by their location and pin out. It is easier here to see that the motherboard is thinner than standard ATX designs and is thus missing three standoff mounting locations.

















The overall board layout is pretty standard. The memory slot layout is odd and the power circuit heat sink is huge, but the CPU area is fairly open otherwise. There is plenty of room next to the socket for insulation for those into sub-ambient cooling methods, which necessitate insulation. Fan headers are spread out across the board, so access is good. The 24- and 8-pin power connections are in their typical places, as are the six SATA ports. The chipset heat sink is a nice low-profile design, and the L337 Gaming cover is removable by two screws. The rear I/O panel has four USB 2.0 (black) and four USB 3.0 (blue) ports. VGA, DVI, and HDMI are the supported outputs — these are the most common so from that stand point it makes sense, but a DisplayPort would be a welcome alternative to the VGA port. Above the HDMI is an eSATA 6.0Gb/s port, using this disables the single interior gray SATA port. Internet is provided by the Intel I217-V Gigabit Fast Ethernet controller and RJ-45 jack. And lastly is the Sound Blaster Cinema 8-channel HD audio with five 3.5mm and one SPDIF Toslink port.



At the middle of the motherboard are the Sys_Fan1 and Sys_Fan3 4-pin PWM fan headers. Next to Sys_Fan3 is the USB 3.0 header. The PCI-Express x1 slots are Gen 2.0, while the PCI Express x16 slots are Gen 3.0. Four ASMedia ASM1480 ICs split the channels from x16 in the top slot to x8/x8 when the second slot is in use. You can see the traces go from the back half of the top x16 slot to the ICs, then to the front half of the second slot. Along the bottom of the motherboard from left to right are headers for SPDIF, front panel audio, LPT (parallel), COM (serial), TPM Trusted Platform Module, case open sensor, case speaker, front panel, and two pairs of front USB 2.0 ports. Sys_Fan2 is nestled between the front USB 2.0 headers and the SATA ports. Above this area is the CMOS battery and a clear CMOS jumper, and to the right are the six SATA 6.0Gb/s ports — number six is gray, when the eSATA port is in use this one is disabled. The UEFI BIOS is based on American Megatrends Aptio V firmware.








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?

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