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ECS' Z97I-Drone Aims For Sub-$100 Price Point

By - Source: ThinkComputers | B 8 comments

ECS has built a budget-oriented Z97 Mini-ITX board for gamers.

At a live event in Silicon Valley, ECS showed off its Z97I-Drone motherboard, which is part of the company’s L337 gaming lineup. This is a Mini-ITX motherboard with the Z97 chipset, aimed at budget-oriented gamers.

The board has an LGA1150 socket, which is powered by a 5-phase VRM circuit. Wired to this socket are two DDR3 memory slots for dual-channel memory and a single PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot. Storage connectivity is handled by five SATA3 (6Gb/s) ports. There is an M.2 slot present, although it may only support WiFi and Bluetooth adapters. There's also a single USB 3.0 header, a single USB 2.0 header, the audio headers, two 4-pin fan headers and the front-panel connectors.Images Courtesy of ThinkComputersImages Courtesy of ThinkComputers

Looking at this motherboard brings only one thought to mind: What was ECS thinking when it came up with the layout? The CPU socket is so close to the DDR3 memory slots and the PCI-Express connector that you’re bound to run into compatibility problems with most air coolers, and what’s the point of a budget-oriented motherboard if you’re essentially forced to consider water cooling to get decent performance out of it? Any air coolers that are compatible with the board design likely won’t give you enough cooling power. The placement of the SATA ports, USB headers, and the 8-pin EPS power connector is also annoying at best.

Pricing is expected to sit at about $100, which isn’t bad for a Mini-ITX Z97 board, but unless the layout really doesn’t bother you, you are probably better off looking elsewhere. The ECS Z97I-Drone is expected to hit shelves in September.

Follow Niels Broekhuijsen @NBroekhuijsen. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 6 Hide
    icemunk , August 27, 2014 7:41 AM
    Where on earth are all the cheap mini-ITX FM2 boards? That's a market with a TON of potential, but no one seems to be making anything for it. There's only 1-2 FM2 mini-itx boards out there, and they're $150+ - which is absurd. They should be $60-80. Put them in that bracket, and you'll see them flying off the shelves.
  • 1 Hide
    de5_Roy , August 27, 2014 8:05 AM
    i agree. the layout leaves a lot to be desired.

    in terms of features, the board looks very good. the price is also very good. but looking at price and specs alone would be misleading in this motherboard's case, due to how the components are laid out on the mobo. i think that the socket placement might result in incompatibility (conflict with ddr3 dimms and discreet gfx cards) with a lot of down-draft and low profile coolers as well (e.g. cm gemini) as tower coolers. water cooling or all-in-one lcs is the way to go in this case. nowadays, cheap aio lcs from cooler master, antec and corsair go for around 60 bucks so builders won't be missing much.

    i think ecs changed the vrm heatsink from the computex display sample:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/8136/computex-2014-ecs-z97idrone-miniitx-motherboard-and-uhd4k60-aio
  • 0 Hide
    Dromoxen , August 27, 2014 9:32 AM
    drop 2 or tree sata sockets and maybe the m]2 . ma add an extra pcie 1x slot ... call it dtx n clean up in sales .... 2slots in mitx ? gotta happen.
  • Add your comment Display all 8 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , August 27, 2014 9:45 AM
    Yup, very odd and potentially extremely inconvenient layout. Clearly not intended for significant aftermarket cooling other than liquid and most IO cables have to go all the way across the motherboard.

    They should have stuck to a more conventional layout.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , August 27, 2014 10:06 AM
    I have seen many ITX boards with this type of layout.

    I actually prefer the ATX connector on that side instead of in front of the memory in cases like the SG05 by SilverStone since it is less disruptive to case air flow.

    This older gigabyte board fit just right with some slight heatsink mods.

    http://i62.tinypic.com/2u40ahl.jpg

    This is not to say I would not want t he LGA a bit further from the pci-e slot. I am just saying it is manageable.

    Video card fit and all.

    http://i59.tinypic.com/wloqzd.jpg
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , August 27, 2014 11:31 AM
    ECS probably thinks everyone is either going with a stock cooler or liquid cooling where the hsf isn't going to hit the gpu.
  • 0 Hide
    Junit151 , August 27, 2014 3:05 PM
    Why does it matter if you can't use some massive cooler on it, 99% of people on a super tight budget for a PC will use a stock cooler or something like a Hyper 212 Evo.

    As someone who isn't in that demographic, I do agree that it sucks and is stupid, but as a person who has picked parts and built for a couple of friends, I understand priorities when it comes to a small budget.
  • 0 Hide
    ShadyHamster , August 27, 2014 4:37 PM
    Quote:
    Why does it matter if you can't use some massive cooler on it, 99% of people on a super tight budget for a PC will use a stock cooler or something like a Hyper 212 Evo.

    As someone who isn't in that demographic, I do agree that it sucks and is stupid, but as a person who has picked parts and built for a couple of friends, I understand priorities when it comes to a small budget.


    Given how close the cpu socket is to the pci-e slot i doubt you could use a hyper 212 evo if you're installing a graphics card.
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