Skip to main content

ECS Z170-Claymore Motherboard Review

The Claymore leaves little doubt about ECS’ intent to stay in the enthusiast space, but how does it stack up to competitors?

Layout

ECS outfits the Z170-Claymore with five PCIe x16 slots, though only the top slot has sixteen available lanes. It gives up eight of those lanes to the third slot when a card is detected there, via four two-lane switches, resulting in an x8/x8 configuration at four-slot spacing. ECS never got the Z170-Claymore certified for SLI operation, but CrossFire is supported with two cards up to 3-slots thick.

The second and fifth slots are wired to the Z170 PCH as PCIe 3.0 x4, allowing four double-slot cards to fit at proper spacing within an eight-slot case. CrossFireX is still a good option in theory, but is limited in practice by the 32Gbps link that connects Intel's LGA 1151 CPU to its Z170 PCH.

SATA and M.2 drives, USB ports, and the network controller also vie for that limited bandwidth. Even the fourth slot, which has only one lane, waits patiently for data to arrive through the DMI. More elaborate solutions, such as a 48-lane PLX bridge on the CPU’s PCIe controller, push the price of competing solutions far beyond the Z170-Claymore’s mainstream-gaming market.

ECS doesn’t list slot configuration in the Z170-Claymore’s manual or web page, but an internal document disclosed by the firm is much more revealing. As well as the above slot details, we find an M.2 connector with two dedicated SATA ports and two dedicated PCIe 3.0 pathways. Anyone disappointed by the M.2’s PCIe 3.0 x2 option should keep in mind that ECS loaded up its slots with most of the chipset’s lanes. You can, after all, add a native PCIe x4 SSD to an x16-length slot, or even use a slot adapter.

Connecting M.2 SATA comes straight from the chipset’s controller leaving only four ports for traditional SATA drives. Two of those ports are available through the SATA-E combination connector, and the other two are stacked up just above it. ECS builds the Claymore back up to six forward-facing ports by adding an ASMedia 2-port controller, though its PCIe 2.0 interface leaves the final two traditional connectors sharing a single 5Gbps pathway.

Getting back to the Z170-Claymore’s basic layout, we find power and reset buttons near the bottom-front corner, which ease testing outside the case, along with a 2-digit status code display. The front-panel USB 3.0 header is found above the uppermost expansion card along the board’s front edge to ease cable use.

ECS moved its front-panel audio header three slots up the motherboard’s back edge, as if the company was trying to get a jump on the layout of a similar Micro ATX board. This is good news for builders whose cases have shorter-than-normal front-panel cables, but bad news for builders who hate running a cable across the top of a motherboard.

The Z170-Claymore includes four SATA cables and not much else. Given its low price, most builders will probably be pleased with the installation kit.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.