ECS Z77H2-AX—Visual Inspection

If all you ever wanted in life was something colored gold, I think ECS have you covered. As part of their Golden Board branding, the ECS Z77H2-AX has been plated with a layer of gold paint. Well, their heatsinks, heatpipes, socket, capacitors, VRMs and IO panel have all had a layer of gold paint added in order to improve aesthetics. When I first took this board out of the wrapper, I was figuratively blinded by just how much of the gold color was in my face.

Initially ECS will be releasing two high-end Z77 boards, with this one being the most expensive we have in for review, at an MSRP of $319. As such, I would expect it to perform near the top in almost every aspect—features, extras, performance and usability. As more than twice the price of the ASRock Z77 Extreme4, it had better be at least twice the board.

For a start, we can see that the socket is closed in, with the heatsinks and the memory slots being right up against Intel's minimum required socket spacing. This means big air coolers may not get a chance to fit, and only stock or water-cooling need apply. If that is the case, then I hope ECS have a robust overclock system in place.

One thing to feel disappointed by the ECS board though is the lack of fan headers. Around the socket you are lucky to have two—one 4-pin between the top VRM heatsink and the memory slots, and a 3-pin just above the 24-pin ATX power connector. A solitary third is on the bottom of the board. In the past ECS fan OS controls have had some of the better software support; however, it does not make sense to have only three headers on this.

Down the right hand side of the board, below the ATX power connector, are a pair of power/reset buttons, the standard six SATA ports from the PCH, and a two-digit debug display. Note we do not have any other SATA controllers for internal ports on the board. Below the two-digit debug display is an mSATA connector, which doubles up as a mini-PCIe if a user want to use a WiFi module (note, there is one on board already) or a TV Tuner.

On the south side of the board we are not given a vast amount of headers to say it is cramped—aside from standard front panel headers, there is a USB 3.0 header, a COM header, and a solitary USB 2.0 header.

This big selling point of this board over the other boards in this preview however is its multi-GPU capabilities. ECS have decided to invest in a PLX PXE 8747 chip, which is akin to the NF200 chips we saw on X58. This chip will expand the 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes on the board to 32, meaning that on the PCIe slots, we can have x16/x16 in dual card mode, or x16/x8/x8 in tri-card mode.

Thus in order we have an x1, an x16, x1, PCI, x16/x8, PCI, x8. So if all three full length PCIe slots are filled, there is still access to an x1 and a PCI, but we lose a lot of the functionality on the south part of the board.

The back panel has a mix and match of capabilities and functionality. From the left, we have a Bluetooth dongle, two USB 2.0 (red), an eSATA, a clear CMOS button, D-Sub, HDMI, a WiFi dongle, two USB 2.0, an eSATA, two USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0, optical SPDIF and audio jacks. The big selling point for me is the WiFi, which ECS have cunningly added to their top range boards for a few chipsets now.

Board Features

ECS Z77H2-AX
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Power Delivery 12 + 2
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2800 MHz
Video Outputs HDMI, D-Sub
Onboard LAN Realtek 8111E
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC892
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (x16, x8/8)
1 x PCIe x16 Gen2 (x4)
2 x PCIe x1 Gen2
2 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 2 x eSATA 3 Gbps
USB 6 USB 3.0 ports (4 back panel, 2 from headers)
6 USB 2.0 ports (4 back panel, 2 from headers)
Onboard 2 x SATA 6 Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
1 x USB 2.0 Header
3 x Fan Headers
1 x COM Header
1 x SPDIF Output Header
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
Power/Reset Buttons
Debug LED
1 x mSATA
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
Fan Headers 1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
1 x SYS Fan Header (3-pin)
1 x PWR Fan Header (3-pin)
IO Panel 4 x USB 3.0 Ports
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x HDMI
1 x D-Sub
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x Optical SPDIF Output
1 x Clear CMOS Button
1 x Wifi Connector
1 x Bluetooth
2 x eSATA 3 Gbps
Audio Ports
Warranty Period 3 Years from date of Purchase (3yr parts, 2yr labor)
Product Page Link

Despite having WiFi, mSATA and extended PCIe 3.0 lanes, the ECS board is down on audio (Realtek ALC892 rather than ALC898 of others), lacking fan headers and also lacking video outputs, with a lot of people requiring DVI to D-Sub or DVI to HDMI connectors.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Biostar TZ77XE4
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  • mechjman - Monday, April 09, 2012 - link

    I don't remember seeing PCIe 3.0 support straight from P6x series chipsets.
    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/chipsets/ma...

    If this is regarding in use with a PLX chip, it might be good to state so.
    Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    It's actually when the boards DONT use a plx chip, or if the use 3.0 capable ones. It's only the boards that use 2.0 chips that are limited to 2.0 Reply
  • GameLifter - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I am very curious to see how this technology will affect the overall performance of the RAM. If it works well, I may have to get the P8Z77-V Pro. Reply
  • jbuiltman - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I am leaving my AMD FX-60, 3 GB DDR, Asus 939 Delux, Win XP, Raptor 150 HDD for IVY Bridge pasures!!!

    I am all for ASUS 16+4 power, multi usb 2.0 and 3.0 on the back panel. I also like the multiple 4 pin fan plug ins, mem ok, LED problem indicator, switches, 4 SATA 6GB connectors and heat pipes connecting the alunimum fins.

    What i want to see is 16x/16x not 8x/8x on dual video card on a Z77 board. ASUS, don't skimp for a measly $30! I hate cheap companies and don't make me think you are just being cheap!!!
    Reply
  • jbuiltman - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Hey all you MoBo companies. Don't get cheap with the Z77 boards and not include 16x/16x on the pci-e 3.0!!!! Come on, add what you need to and pass the $30 on to me!!!! Reply
  • ratbert1 - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    "ASUS as a direct standard are now placing Intel NICs on all their channel motherboards. This is a result of a significant number of their user base requesting them over the Realtek solutions."
    Um... ASUS P8Z77-V LX has Realtek!
    and...ASUS P8H77-M PRO has Realtek!
    There are more.
    Reply
  • ratbert1 - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    I meant P8Z77-M PRO, but the H77 has it as well. Reply
  • lbeyak - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    I would love a detailed review of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Z77 board when it becomes available.

    Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • csrikant - Sunday, April 22, 2012 - link

    Dual E5-2690
    So far best i have got burn a lot $$$ to get this right
    my last build was with I7 990x got itchy in oct 2011 with some minor issue decided to change my PC got my i7 2700K did not meet my expectation
    built i7 3960x still failed many of my requirements regret my pc change from 990x
    Finally with all my pain and wasting$$ got my new build that so far perform better than my 990X build
    My advice do not get carried away by fancy new i7 release they are just little benefit for P4 just wasting time I was shocked that they released P4 with 1155 socket it was having same performace as 2700K not much change in fact it was cheaper too.

    Am not expert an average system builder but my advice from bottom of my heart is just go for E5 build if you are really looking for performace and some benefits you may spend some extra $$ on MB ,CPU,Casing etc it is worth in long run works out cheper than any fancy High end gaming rig water cooling etc all just shit tech advice. Never get ferrari performance form mod toyota.
    Reply
  • mudy - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    With the third pcie lane on the z77 boards I have come across almost all manufacturers saying "1xPCI Express 2.0 x16 (x4 Mode) & only available if a Gen 3 CPU are used". Does this mean that the lane is pcie 2.0 at x16 but works at pcie 3.0 x4 mode, if an IVB processor is connected, and other two pcie 3.0 lane is populated giving x8/x4x4 speed with pcie 3.0 compliant cards?? Also what will happen if I put Pcie 2.0 GPUs in the first two pcie 3.0 x16 slots and a pcie 2.0 compliant raid card (rr2720SGL) in the third pcie lane? Will it give me an effective pcie 2.0 bandwidth of x16/x8/x8 or not?? Damn these are so confusing!! I wish anandtech would do an extensive review on just the pcie lanes covering all sorts of scenario and I think NOW would be the best time to this as the transition from pcie 2.0 to pcie 3.0 will happen slowly (maybe years) so majority end-user will still be keeping their pcie 2.0 compliant devices!!

    Thanks
    Reply

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