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.
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.