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Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

ECS Golden Z77H2-A2X

A universal sign of prosperity, ECS uses gold to highlight a wealth of features on its $220 Golden Z77H2-A2X. Packed with USB-based Bluetooth and Wi-Fi transceivers, an extra pair of USB 3.0 ports, and eSATA on the I/O panel, ECS hope to overwhelm all similarly-priced competitors.

With a mini PCIe slot along the front edge for hosting even more miniature (notebook sized) devices, the only thing really missing from the Z77H2-A2X is a third graphics card slot. The fact that most performance PC builders would not use a four-lane PCIe 2.0 slot for graphics should prevent this “missing” part from being missed, and the two slots present are still able to configure the CPU’s sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes into x16/x0 or x8/x8 modes, depending on the number of cards present.

An extra SATA 6Gb/s controller ads two ports internally, but the Z77H2-A2X still has only six ports. The reason for this is that one of the chipset’s SATA 3Gb/s ports is used for eSATA, and another was designated for an mSATA slot that exists only in firmware.

The Z77H2-A2X has the internal power and reset buttons found on its ASRock and Biostar competitors, but bench testers who need to reset everything must rely on a jumper for CLR_CMOS. ECS also solders its firmware IC directly to the PCB, but at least the module has enough space to store user-specified configuration profiles in this model.

A row of Easy Measure points above the four DIMM slots allows aggressive or extremely cautious tuners to easily check core, DIMM, memory controller, and integrated graphics voltage with a meter.

We’re not sure why ECS chose to put one of its x1 slots directly beneath the top graphics slot while leaving the next slot empty, since most graphics coolers cover the second slot position, but rarely intrude upon the third. This appears to be a limitation of its PCIe switch placement, but that doesn’t explain why the current layout couldn’t have been transposed.

Limiting the Z77H2-A2X to only two PCIe x16 graphics cards allows ECS to put its USB 3.0 front-panel header on the bottom edge without the slot placement conflict that many of its competitors still face. On the other hand, the front-panel audio connector is still just a little too far back into the bottom-rear corner to allow easy cable reach for some cases.

Six SATA cables are enough to make this builder happy, along with the Z77H2-A2X’s front-panel USB 3.0 bay adapter, flexible SLI bridge, and internal Wi-Fi antenna.

  • TekN9Ne
    Great review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
    Reply
  • do you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
    Reply
  • yougotjaked
    There's a typo on the last page. It says X77H2-A2X instead of Z77H2-A2X :P It's on the second to last paragraph...
    Reply
  • HMSvictory
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
    Reply
  • rickrents
    why not with Pci-e 3.0?
    Reply
  • confish21
    Nice article thank you!
    Reply
  • confish21
    One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    TekN9NeGreat review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.I don't think the article stated anything like that. It comes down to the features you want and the cards you plan to use. In the MSI vs ASRock debate, it's x8-x4-x4 with all three slots in PCIe 3.0 mode, or x8-x8-x4 with x4 in PCIe 2.0 mode, and you're definitely wiser to pick between them based on WHAT you plan to use in the third slot.simone saysdo you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?It's Monday here, and editorial has very little contact with news.HMSvictoryI am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod 6813131820Tom's Hardware didn't "include" anything in the review. A couple boards were excluded based on price, and everything else was let in. The P8Z77-V Pro was the cheapest board Asus sent.rickrentswhy not with Pci-e 3.0?Editor had no PCIe 3.0 cards. And the reason he didn't get one yet is because it didn't matter. The only thing that really mattered in a single-GPU MOTHERBOARD comparison was to use the same card on all platforms.confish21One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?Some digital voltage regulators have been garbage, take a look at a few of the older reviews to see this. Very few have been very good. And many more analog voltage regulators have been garbage, while many more analog voltage regulators have been very good. Quality of execution is more important than the underlying technology.

    Reply
  • hellfire24
    UD3H seems to be an excellent value board.
    Reply
  • HMSvictory
    would it be possible to review the asus z77 and gigabyte ud5h in a future review.
    Reply