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ECS Z97-MACHINE Review

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ECS Z97-MACHINE Closer Look:

The ECS Z97-MACHINE was made for the L337 Gamer with a lot to offer including 2-way multi-graphics, support for three independent displays, 6 phase power Design, and support for K series unlockable CPUs. Both AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI Technologies are supported to scale your graphics performance. Combined with Sound Blaster Cinema 2 sound, it's a full packaged deal.

The front of the board hints at a lot of these features with the actual text screen printed right on the PCB for some of these features. If you are looking closely, you should notice that there are both power and reset buttons along with two eight segment boot code displays right on the board. Although this seems to be becoming more of a standard, it is nice to see it in this price range. The back side of the board does not show you too much. You'll notice some outlines for locations of components like the socket and DVI connection, there is a typical metal black plate to the socket, and there isn't much to brag about other than the fancy traces and solder points.

 

 

The socket pins come shipped nice and protected from you with a simple plastic insert locked in place. It keeps accidents from happening while handling the board prior to installing the CPU. A nice big aluminum sink with the L337 logo protects the VRMs from a bit of heat and give you that little extra cooling when it comes to fine tuning your OC. Although this little sink is another "standard" feature found on most boards these days; many of you will remember the slight burning PCB smell coming from your heated VRMs when OCing. With the sink, you can much less worry about any fires in the office.

Although the focus of these shots is on the socket itself, you can start to get a glance around the board for the other features, such as that 8-pin power connection for some extra power during the OC.

 

 

 

The black of the DIMM slots really makes the board seem black, but I have to remind you it is brown! There are four slots, neatly labeled, AND readable on the board. It reminds you that it is DDR3 in case you weren't sure while labeling them from one to four. Around the corner you can read the Dual DDR3 3000 (OC). We'll be testing at 2400MHz, but it'll be interesting to see what could be pushed. While we're here, I will point out the USB 3.0 (well labeled actually) on the board just to the left of the 24-pin PSU and SYS_FAN plugs. You'll have to be sure you plan for routing this, though it might actually be a preferred location depending on your case setup.

 

 

Looking down south on the board we catch a glimpse of the two PCI-E Gen.3 slots. Here's where you can drop in two GPUs and get to gaming. You can run one at x16 or two at x8. A nice feature they actually considered here is placing a PCI-E x1 slot above the first one. This allows those of you running SLI or Crossfire to accommodate a sound card even with a single double wide card.

Here in these shots we can also get a closer look at the easy access power and reset buttons. Sometimes it's nice when you're first putting your rig together with the case open to use them – but most of the time I don't see the need. What is nice, is the boot code seven segment displays. Sometimes that really helps out when something just isn't right. It's sort of like the old school motherboard beeps – but the "advanced" feature. You might also notice below the final PCI-E slot, some voltage test points that allow you to do some real electrical checking when things just don’t seem right before sending that RMA.

 

 

ECS seemed to go heavy on the screen printing for the main PCB. Perhaps ECS got a discount or some funding for the advertisement. Below we see the 8-Channel Audio ESD Protection and Sound Blaster Cinema 2. The Sound Blaster Cinema 2 is supposed to deliver and exceptional audio experience with incredibly realistic performance. Naturally being Sound Blaster, you will have the option to add in the stunning surround sound effects. Not noted on the board here, the ESS SABRE Premier Audio DAC is onboard as well. It is noted as the world's highest quality audio D/A converter for high-fidelity gaming headsets and professional audio applications. ECS notes it as the "Incredible design for L337 Gamers".

 

This picture doesn't have much a purpose other to show you again the repeating symbol of the L337 Gaming logo. Z97-MACHINE v:1.0. is also nicely printed. It just looks neat – enjoy it for a moment.

 

Last but not least is what you've been wondering all along; if you hadn't skipped ahead. What is available on the I/O plane? We start off with a classic, a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port. It is still really appreciated when you have a new age keyboard that won't play nice in the BIOS. Though I realize few of you probably have a PS/2 keyboard laying around. There are four USB 2.0 ports as well as four USB 3.0 ports distinguished in black and blue respectively. A VGA, DVI, and HDMI port are all available for monitor support out of the box. The onboard is adequate enough to support three monitors at the same time for general 2D graphics. You won't want to game, but it can handle the basics.




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