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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?

Our Verdict

The Z170-Claymore has all the hardware needed to compete for an enthusiast-market value title, but the firmware still needs work. We’d wait for a few early-adopters to report their findings on new firmware before buying.

For

  • Four double-slot graphics cards in x8-x4-x8-x4 mode • Price

Against

  • Shared slot and M.2 connector lanes • Multi-graphics performance • Chipset bandwidth limitations • No SLI • Immature BIOS • Hindered DRAM overclocking • Overly aggressive overcurrent protection • High default voltage at maximum CPU load

Tom's Hardware Verdict

The Z170-Claymore has all the hardware needed to compete for an enthusiast-market value title, but the firmware still needs work. We’d wait for a few early-adopters to report their findings on new firmware before buying.

Pros

  • +

    Four double-slot graphics cards in x8-x4-x8-x4 mode • Price

Cons

  • -

    Shared slot and M.2 connector lanes • Multi-graphics performance • Chipset bandwidth limitations • No SLI • Immature BIOS • Hindered DRAM overclocking • Overly aggressive overcurrent protection • High default voltage at maximum CPU load

Introduction

Rumors that ECS would leave the branded motherboard business turned out to be unfounded, as the firm instead dropped the word “Gank” out of the branding of its latest motherboards. The L337 Gaming website is similarly fading into the background as the company focuses more of its effort on the ECS brand, and the hardware that represents it. Even though the old logo remains in spirit, L337 has transformed to LEE7.

The Z170-Claymore leads ECS’s LGA 1151 effort with all the parts and interfaces a mid-market enthusiast would want, such as dual USB 3.1 ports, a status code display for debugging, overclocking support in firmware, PCIe 3.0 M.2, and the ability to support multiple graphics cards. These specs look particularly good with regard to its mid-market $160 price.

ECS isn’t buying the hype over USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, instead outfitting the Claymore with two USB 3.1 Type A ports. This allows the ports to support many more types of devices, since most users will likely never replace their Type A to B or Micro USB cables with Type-C versions. Meanwhile, Type A to Type-C cables are likely to become commonplace as people use these to charge their phones.

Other rear-panel USB ports include four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0, the latter making sense for at least two ports since all USB keyboards and mice use either USB 2.0 or 1.1 modes. Other keyboard and mouse options include two PS/2 ports, where most of ECS’ competitors believe that one is more than sufficient.

The Claymore’s I/O panel still has leftover space, causing us to question what might be missing. One thing thankfully gone is the VGA port of yore, though breaking out to one is still possible through DisplayPort. DVI is also missing, though breaking out to that is easy via HDMI. Gigabit Ethernet is limited to a single port, but we didn’t expect two at this price level. The real shocker is probably that the Z170-Claymore doesn’t have any optical S/PDIF output, not even via a combined jack, and instead relies on an internal header and a separately-purchased third-party breakout plate to fulfill the needs of those specific users. On the other hand, the lack of DTS Connect or DDL often makes 5.1 or 7.1 analog connections a preferred solution for positional audio in games.

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