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ECS Z97-MACHINE Review

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ECS Z97-MACHINE Conclusion:

In conclusion, you really get a lot of bang for your buck with the ECS Z97-MACHINE. The onboard audio is rather impressive compared to even more expensive boards and I was able to get a pretty decent OC on par with the more expensive boards as well. For a bit over $100 (literally $5 more and some shipping) this board isn't too shabby. However, there are a lot of boards around this price range with a lot of the same features. To a certain degree it is hard for any given board to stand out in a given price range because price is usually set based on features and chipset.

An overclocking chipset is going to instantly boost the price even if there aren't a ton of features. Nonetheless, this board actually does come to its price range with a little more oomph to it than some around it. It does include Intel LAN, so if you only have realtek drivers around, you'll be installing new ones! The Intel driver is generally faster and if you're going to dual boot, you'll be happier on the linux side. The Sound Blaster Cinema 2 and SABRE sound actually produced some very good numbers. Even compared to some more expensive, higher-end boards, the sound was rather impressive. The frequency response was rather flat, and the inter-modulation distortion was right there on the low end. Overall the sound numbers were just great.

What really caught my attention for standing out in the price range was the M.2 slot. Not many boards in this price range have an M.2 slot, let alone all the other features as well. Right now, if you order it from Newegg, you will even get a bonus $20 ECS gift wireless mouse.

Unfortunately even if this is probably one of the nicer boards around its price range (give or take a few options) it's hard to argue the excellent sale prices on some more elite boards. It's hard when there are some nice rebates going to not go for something with more features for the same price; I honestly saw some good deals I was tempted by! For a day to day price, and sale prices put aside, this board is a pretty good snag for an little bit more than an entry level gaming/OC board.

 

Pros:

  • Great audio.
  • Overclocks well.
  • Ease of overclocking was surprising!

 

Cons:

  • Market makes this board a hard sell, with ongoing rebates and sales of higher-end boards.
  • PCB is actually brown (not black) – though this is purely aesthetic.
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