It has been over a month since Intel launched their latest Haswell platform for consumers. The Haswell chips or specifically, the K-Series processors brought some revolutionary new features for overclocking that were before limited to the HEDT X79 platform. Intel’s Haswell CPUs come with an Integrated voltage regulator “FVIR” along with enhanced BCLK overclocking. With the launch of Haswell platform from Intel, motherboard manufacturers popped up some really impressive designs and features for the new platform that were not available on the main stream platform.
Elite Computer Systems or ECS as is formerly known has been serving the hardware market since 30 years with a rich portfolio of PC products and have recently entered the expanding mobility scene. With the launch of Intel’s Haswell platform, ECS launched their new L337 gaming brand which focuses on delivering high-performance Z87 chipset based motherboards for online gamers, enthusiasts and overclockers.
L337 was created to dedicate efforts in developing products focused on gamers.We believe in the spirit of competition and the fruits of our labor will be passed to our customers as we strive to tailor our products for them.
Gaming is the beginning of your life, not the end and ECS is here to help you start with the best tools for success. Today's gamers are tomorrow's leaders so we strive to create products that give you that competitive gaming edge so that your successes in gaming will lead to success in life. With high quality components and top notch performance ECS will help you get Battle Ready for the gaming world as well as the real world. L337 in life... L337 for life. ECS L337 Webpage
Today, we will be taking a look at the ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X motherboard which is an entry level board in the L337 Gaming lineup which is interesting for the feature set it has to offer. But before we talk about the board itself, let’s take a look at the Z87 chipset and socket which support the latest Haswell processors and to our recen knowledge, also supports the Haswell Refresh processors which arrive in second quarter of 2014.
Intel LGA 1150 Socket
Intel’s Haswell processors are compatible with the latest LGA 1150 socket. As denoted by its name, the LGA 1150 has 5 less pins compared to the LGA 1155 socket which supports Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge processors. Intel did one thing right with the new socket and that’s the socket positioning which allows LGA 1155 socket coolers and mounting brackets to remain compatible with the newer socket. So if you have a old LGA 1155 socket cooler that you wish to use with the new LGA 1150 socket? It could be done so, but do note that while the socket looks the same as LGA 1155 socket, the processors are incompatible due to different pin layout so you don’t want to try putting an Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge processor into the LGA 1150 socket otherwise it would damage the pins permanently.
Haswell 8-Series “Lynx Point” Z87 PCH
Intel’s Haswell processors would be compatible with the 8-Series “Lynx Point” chipset fused on the LGA 1150 socket motherboards. There are different tiers of Lynx Point chips on the Haswell platform which include Z87 /Z76/H87/H81/B85/Q87/Q85. The motherboard we would be testing today is based on the Z87 PCH. The 8-Series chipset in a whole isn’t much different from 7-Series Panther point. The following chart mentions key differences between both platform control hubs:
|Item||7-Series “Panther Point”||8-Series “Lynx Point”|
|I/O Port flexibility||No||Yes|
|Total USB 3.0/2.0 Ports||14 USB Ports||14 USB Ports|
|USB 3.0 Capable Ports||Upto 4||Upto 6|
|xHCI Ports||4 USB 3 Ports||All USB Ports by xCHI|
|PCI Express||Upto 8 PCIe 2.0 (5GT/s)||Upto 8 PCI-e 2.0 (5GT/s)|
|Total SATA Ports||6 SATA||6 SATA|
|SATA 6 GB/s Capable Ports||Upto 2||Upto 6|
|Legacy PCI||Legacy PCI on Q/B SKU||No Legacy PCI for any SKU|
|Digital Display I/F||DP, HDMI, Wirelress display||Display moved to processor|
|Analog Display I/F||VGA||VGA|
|SPI||Dual Read||SFDP, Quad Read|
ECS L337 Gaming 'GANK' LGA 1150 Lineup
ECS's latest L337 Gaming products are split into three tiers depending on their features, performance and built quality. Most basic features are still shared by all products in the lineup but you get more additions such as SATA ports, USB connectors, PCI-Express slots and powerful PCB design with the top-tier products. The L337 Gaming lineup is split into the following tiers:
- ECS GANK Domination - (GANK Domination Z87H3-AX Golden and Z87H3-A2X Golden)
- ECS GANK Machine - (GANK Machine Z87H3-AX Extreme and Z87H3-A2X Extreme)
- ECS GANK Drone - (GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X)
Each lineup is followed by a short description which is mentioned below:
ECS GANK Domination - Designed for the professional gamer. Loaded the best features, the most expand ability and the highest quality components. Perfect for overclocking.
ECS GANK Machine - Designed for the hard core gamer. Loaded with new features, expand ability and quality components for great performance.
ECS GANK Drone - Designed for the extreme gamer. Plenty of features and quality. Great for those looking to become the next professional gamer.
The motherboard we have today for testing is placed in the Drone category and is ECS's entry level Z87 board with most of the basic features of their L337 Gaming products.
I would also like to mention that GANK series is the first motherboard lineup in the L337 Gaming brand which would soon be updated with Kill Steal series (Z97 and X99 Chipset) based motherboards and Aggro series for AMD's latest chipset (A88X/A78) based motherboards. ECS have an interesting lineup planned for the future and we look forward to learn more about their future plans at CES 2014.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X Motherboard
The ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X motherboard which we received from ECS is an entry level motherboard. The motherboard is specifically designed for the base line gamers and new PC builders who don't want to dish out extra cash on the high-performance Z87 chipset boards while retaining the same feature set of those products.
You can check out the features, unboxing, accessories and testing results below for the ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X Motherboard.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - L337ness
The ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X has a decent feature set for its price and product placement. All the features have been provided in the following chart, do take a look before we head on to much more detailed overview of these features.
|Storage||Support by Intel Z87 Express Chipset
• 6 X Serial ATAIII 6Gb/s
• 1 X eSATAIII 6Gb/s
• RAID0, RAID1,RAID5, RAID 10 configuration
|REAR PANEL I/O||
|CONNECTORS & HEADERS||
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X Features:
- Supports 3 independent displays
- 6 Phase Power Design
- Supports Intel K Series unlock CPU
- Applied 100% Solid capacitor design to maximize component reliability
- ECS Durathon Technology ensure the stability, reliability and performance of system.
(Triple Density PCB; Extreme Temp Resistance; 1.5K Marathon Test; Superior Solid CAPs)
- ESD Protection prevents computers from electrostatic discharge damage to enhance its
durability and lifespan
- ECS EZ charger provides a fast way to charge your smart devices, even if the PC is off
- Supports ECS EZ BIOS for tweaking BIOS in graphical user interface within a multi
- ECS MIB X - A friendly interface for overclocking, especially for gamer
- Microsoft Windows 8 Certified
- Intel 22nm 4th generation Multi-Core CPU support
- Supports NVIDIA SLI Technology to Intelligently scale graphics performance by combining
multiple NVIDIA graphics
- Supports DirectX 11.1 to enhance graphical performance
- Supports ATI CrossFireX to expand your system’s graphics capabilities.
- Supports Intel HD Graphics, InTru 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology,
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology ( resolution up to 1920X1200 ) and HDCP function
- Supports Sound Blaster Cinema technology to deliver cinema-quality picture and sound to
- Supports Intel Smart Response, Smart Connect and Rapid Start Technology
- Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9,
Muzee, Google Chrome, Magix with trial version
- ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eOC, eSF
Alright, so let’s do a detailed look at the features the Drone Z87H3-A3X boasts. For starters, the Drone Z87H3-A3X supports the Intel 4th generation “Haswell” Core/Pentium/Celeron processors. This is achieved with the LGA 1150 socket and Z87 chipset which adds in support for the latest processors. The new Z87 chipset itself allows overclocking of Haswell chips which otherwise is not possible on the H87 and B75 chipset range.
ECS Durathon Technology
For overclocking, the Drone Z87H3-A3X incorporates some really neat features which ensure the motherboard offers the stability of a high-quality board but also provides the overclocking capabilities of a high-performance board.
The most notable addition are the golden solid state capacitors which last longer, run cooler and have low ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance). To ensure the long running stability, all certified motherboards are put through a 1.5K Marathon test which involves 1507 point tests to verify that all components and features work as stated. The motherboard is also built to resist extreme temperatures with a range of -10C upto 50C which are 10C more than their equivalent industry competitors. Last of all, ECS motherboards are built with a triple density PCB with Bi-Directional Splitting Glass Fabric which:
Damp Proof (Reducing Ionic Migration and Electric Leakage)
ECS Bi-Directional Splitting Glass Fabric narrows the vacant space between the glass fabric of the PCB which:
- Lowers air permeability for dampness proofing.
- Reduces short circuit or burn out malfunction.
- Best choice for rainy and humid environments.
High Temperature Tolerance
ECS Bi-Directional Splitting Glass Fabric greatly increases the surface area which:
- Enhances the durability of motherboard
- Improves the thermal stress of the PCB
- Makes the motherboard more reliable against heat.
ECS Bi-Directional Splitting Glass Fabric is the highest level splitting glass fabric with high quality copper foil and resin.
Do visit the ECS Durathon micro website for more information on the technologies featured on the L337 Gaming products.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - Unboxing
The motherboard ships inside a box shaped cardboard package which has a great cover design that truly gives a L337 feeling to the product. There are several stickers on the front which mention 'Intel Core' , Intel Z87 Chipset, Windows 8 (Compatibility), AMD Radeon (CrossFireX), NVIDIA SLI Ready and Sound Blaster Cinema.
The back has several feature details and specifications etched on it detailing even the smallest aspect of the board. Key specifications list: 6G SATA, Gen 3 - Dual PCI-Express x16, 32GB MAX - DDR3 3000+ OC, 3.0 USB, GIGABIT LAN and HD - 8-Channel Audio. Then there's the specification list on the side which we have already shown above along with several feature detail such as the L337 Heatsink, Intel 1217-V LAN chip, Sound Blaster Cinema, Golden C-Caps, DDR3 3000+ OC and 3-Way Video (DVI/HDMI/VGA).
We will detail the accessories later, for now we take a look at the Drone Z87H3-A3X which looks decent and sleek, its nothing fancy or overdone for the price and the components are well arranged on the PCB.. We have the motherboard out of the box, now its time to take a closer look at it so head on to the following paragraph.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - A Closer Look
The mainboard and the socket is supplied power through an 8-Pin power connector and a 24-Pin ATX connector. The 8-Pin power connector for the socket is enough for the average over-clock enthusiast and ensures stable supply of power.
There are two heatsinks on the motherboard, one offering cooling to the Z87 PCH while the other sits on top of the power phases. The L337 heatsink as ECS puts its has a unique style offering extreme cooling and dissipates the heat upto 10% more than standard heatsinks.
Underneath the top heatsink is a 6-Phase Digital power supply which is accompanied by golden solid-state C-Caps that offer higher stability and ensure that users get the most performance out of their board with steady power delivery.
The Z87H3-A3X has four DDR3 DIMM slots which support 1066/ 1333/ 1600/ 1866/ 2133/ 2400/ 2667/ 3000 +(OC) DRAM with capacities of upto 32 GB. Its somehow surprising that an entry level board is capable to support memory with such high frequencies.
Near the Z87 PCH are 6 SATA ports, all 6 of which are SATA III ports offered by the Z87 chipset. One of the SATA slots is colored Silver since the e-SATA port on the I/O panel share the same bus and you can't use the other port if one is already in use.
The expansion slots consists of two PCI-e 3.0 x16 slots (x8/x8 electrical) and four PCI-e x1 slots. The motherboard supports 2-Way CrossFireX and 2-Way SLI multi-GPU functionalists. All slots are Gen 3 ready since this is a Haswell platform motherboard.
Right next to the PCI-Express slot we can spot the Intel I217-V Gigabit LAN controller which powers the Gigabit Ethernet LAN port.Placed next to the LAN controller is the Realtek ALC1150 Codec powering an 8-Channel audio jack on the I/O plus featuring Sound Blaster Cinema support. The audio channel features ESD protection to deliver clear sound quality.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – Picture Gallery
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – I/O Panel
The I/O on the ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X consists of 4 USB 3.0 ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit LAN port (powered by Intel 1217-V chip), 8-Channel Audio jack (powered by Realtek ALC1150 chip), e-SATA, PS/2 port featuring mouse and keyboard compatibility.
Display outputs include HDMI, VGA and DVI for use with Intel's HD 4000 series graphics chip offering high-quality video output.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - Accessories
The ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X shipped with a few useful accessories which include the installation guide, users manual, a driver disk, 2 x SATA Cables, an I/O shield and a SLI bridge. Not bad for a price effective motherboard.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - Utilities
Each motherboard manufacturer develops a wide range of exclusive utilities and software for their latest hardware and products these days. ECS bundles their Z87H3-A3X with some new software utilities allowing easier management and ease of control over the various features on the motherboard. Following Utilities can be found on the installation disk:
- Sound Blaster Cinema
- ECS eBLU (Live BIOS Update)
- ECS eDLU (Live Driver Update)
- ECS EOC (Live System Tuning)
- ECS eOF (Live Fan Speed Tuning)
The disk also contains the free essential software such as:
- Norton Internet Security
- CyberLink PowerDVD
- CyberLink PowerDirector 9
- Google Chrome
- Magix with trial version
ECS Sound Blaster Cinema:
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X - BIOS
With the Haswell platform, all motherboard vendors have started offering the latest UEFI BIOS which provides a real-time user interface which allows tuning, configuration, updates and gives realtime information of the board.
The Z87H3-A3X main page is colorful and interesting since it displays a wide variety of information such as temps, fan speeds, voltages, time/date, system information and Boot devices priority list. The left side allows you to set pre-defined configurations for the processor such as Normal/Performance/Power/Quiet modes. The additional settings are displayed in the advanced menu which includes several configuration options available on the board.
|Power Supply:||Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt|
|Hard Disk:||Kingston HyperX 3K 90 GB (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12
|Memory:||4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 2133 MHz
10th Anniversary Edition Memory Kit
|Case:||Cooler Master HAF 932|
|Video Card:||EVGA GeForce GTX 770 ACX|
|Cooling Solutions:||Phantek PH-TC14PE Triple Fan|
|OS:||Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit|
Overclocking With Drone Z87H3-A3X
Overclocking the Core i7-4770K on the Z87H3-A3X was easy. We pushed the multiplier to x45 with a BCLK of 100 MHz at 1.322 max voltage and achieved an overclocked of 4.5 GHz which is pretty decent for a Haswell chip considering how they overclocked. We also enabled XMP 1.3 profile for our memory clocking it to 2133 MHz at 1.65V on all four DDR3 modules. You can find the CPU-z screenshot below *(The overclock was stressed for 1 hour which is enough to tell whether it was stable or not for testing).
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – BENCHMARKS
X264 HD Encode Benchmark
This benchmark measures the encoding performance of the processor. It offers a standardized benchmark as the clip as well as the encoder used is uniform.
PCMark 7 is a complete PC benchmarking solution for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It includes 7 tests combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed for the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete Windows PC performance testing for home and business use.
The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package.
3DMark Vantage CPU Performance
3DMark Vantage is a DirectX 10 video card benchmark test for Windows that is designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance. While the overall benchmark is great, the utility also provides a good indication of the CPU performance.
WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce the size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format.
Super PI is used by many overclockers to test the performance and stability of their computers. In the overclocking community, the standard program provides a benchmark for enthusiasts to compare “world record” pi calculation times and demonstrate their overclocking abilities. The program can also be used to test the stability of a certain overclock speed.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – Gaming Performance
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – Battlefield 4 Performance
Battlefield 4 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise. Developed by DICE and published by EA, Battlefield 4 takes multiplayer FPS to the next level unleashing new levels of destruction and the game changing LEVOLUTION. Battlefield 4 is a true next generation experience on the PC rendered with the power of Frostbite 3 which features stunning DirectX 11.1 effects and Tessellation which only a few games dare to match. In addition to the engine, Battlefield 4 would also be the first to support AMD's latest Mantle API which will leverage the game performance on AMD hardware.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – Elder Scrolls Skyrim Performance
Bethesda released their Elder Scrolls Skyrim in 2011 and the hype level shattered the roofs. The game was met with wide success and is built with the latest Creation engine which meant a farewell to the much older game bryo engine from Bethesda. The game has one of the most biggest and well crafted world ever created. The game requires a good CPU for stable performance, most GPUs can handle the game well. It wasn’t until users started pouring in their custom content and mods for the PC version such as high-resolution textures and more which required GPUs with higher VRAM for adequate performance. Skyrim is known as one of the reasons by PC gamers for GPUs with higher VRAM.
ECS GANK Drone Z87H3-A3X – CRYSIS 3 Performance
Crysis franchise is the crown jewel for the PC gamers. Even after going multi-plat, the game is considered to be the most brilliant and gorgeous game ever brilliant, a visual marvel in short. The third and most probably the last title in the Crysis trilogy blends in the most deepest story line of the franchise with graphics that would make any other game cry in shame. Powering the game is the beastly and much user friendly CryEngine 3 that adopts all the features of DirectX 11 API. Simply speaking, the game demands a high performance graphics card than a high performance CPU to play well on higher settings.
Power Consumption And Thermals
On the temperature side, we see that the Haswell Core i7-4770K has temperatures similar to the Core i7-3770K at default settings but as soon as its overclocked, the CPU pushed around the 80-90C even with the top-end air cooler available in the market (Phantek’s PH-TC14 PE). This is due to the low quality TIM used beneath the heat spreader rather than flux less solder. This is a similar issue as faced on Ivy Bridge so expect higher temperatures when overclocking. A water cooling setup is recommended for 24/7 overclocked usage.
The thing i like the most about Intel's Haswell platform are the wide range of products available to consumers. Sure, Haswell may not be the high-performance IPC boasting beast we thought it would be but it does have the advantages over its competitor. The Core i7-4770K remains unmatched to this day and Intel's processor will remain the top consumer processor choice until AMD updates their FX processor lineup which doesn't seem to be happening any time soon.
The diversity in the Z87 product lineup is amazing, from the top end XPower and X-Force motherboards to the entry level solutions and ITX form factors boasting incredible power phases and design schemes. The ECS GANK DRONE as i stated is a new product lineup under the L337 Gaming brand with few yet interesting products and ECS plans to expand their lineup in the near future with new Z97 chipset based products and AMD A88X chipset boards.
ECS's Drone Z87H3-A3X board which we tested today has a nice feature set and an attractive price for those who want to keep their budget small yet get quality features such as six SATA 6G ports, PCI-e 3.0, USB 3.0 ports, 8-Channel Audio and a power layout that's suitable enough to reach 4.5 GHz on Core i7-4770K which is pretty nice. The board retails at a price of $119.19 which places it against several other Z87 chipset based solutions retailing for as low as $89 so it's a competitive market here but for the feature-set ECS offers, i would say that this is if not the best but one of the interesting products you can buy for the price, couple it with a Core i5-4670K plus a decent graphic card and you got a perfect gaming rig right there capable of playing the latest titles at 1080P resolution easily.