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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  • GreenEnergy - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Indeed. Personally im looking at the Intel DH77DF:
    http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/...

    I dont see the need for anything bigger than mATX anymore. And for most mITX will do everything and abit more.

    Personally I got a hint from another person. So I will be looking at the DH77DF, 2x8GB, GTX 680 and a i5 3570 and put it into a Silverstone SG08.
    Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Monday, April 09, 2012 - link

    Agreed. mATX or smaller for me plz! Reply
  • Paapaa125 - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    What is the actual significant difference between Asus P8Z77-V and P8Z77-V Pro? The only things I noticed were a few more phases in power supply (not significant). Reply
  • Byte - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    The only diff I see is the 12 vs 8 power phases, extra USB3.0 header, and pictures look like it includes a usb and esata pcie 1x card. Reply
  • ASUSTechMKT - Monday, April 09, 2012 - link

    Pro offer higher quality back I/O bracing for the display connections,
    High phase count 12+4
    Additional front USB3 front header
    ESATA via bracket
    Additional fan header

    Otherwise all other key features and hardware implementation is the same.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Given this statement on the first page, why does the chart indicate that the Panther Point chipsets provide 4 USB 3.0 ports? Reply
  • Knifeshade - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    First page, the paragraphs detailing the various features. You spelled Cougar Point in place of where I think you mean to say Panther Point.... Reply
  • DesktopMan - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    PCIe / PCI info in the last page table would be appreciated. Good overview. Quite curious to see if the memory stuff from Asus actually does anything. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    All 6-series chipsets are said to support PCIe 3 in this table. Would that work with Ivi and a proper GPU? Would be the first time I heard about this. And since PCIe 3 is supposed to be a new feature of the 7-series I suppose it's a typo. Reply
  • GreenEnergy - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Well, alot of 6 series boards supports PCIe 3.0 due to the controller is on the CPU (Ivy Bridge). Essentially the only reason besides BIOS for PCIe 3.0 support on the 6 series, is the added switches for splitting the PCIe x16 into two x8. Thats also why the basic 6 series boards got a bigger chance of PCIe 3.0 support. Reply

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