The Intel X79 PCH (platform controller hub, a glorified southbridge), provides quite a few SATA ports. There are no less than 12 internal SATA ports, and two eSATA ones. Not all the ports are wired to the PCH, some use third-party controllers, we spy an ASMedia-made controller under the shadow of the chipset heatsink. As such it's hard to guess the data rate of each port. It's likely that all the gray colored ports run at up to 6 Gbps, while the white ones run at 3 Gbps, tops. In this scenario, the topmost pair of 6 Gbps ports are wired to the PCH, while the remaining gray ones are driven by additional SATA 6 Gbps controllers. A lesser-possibility is that the white ports are 6 Gbps, with the gray ones 3 Gbps. The eSATA ports provide up to 6 Gbps.

X79R AX 5 ECS X79R AX Black Series Motherboard Pictured

There's a wealth of connectivity features that extends way beyond the chipset's feature-set. In all, there are six USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel, and two via a standard front-panel header; 8-channel HD audio with TOSLINK SPDIF output, two gigabit Ethernet connections, Bluetooth, and what looks like a USB Wireless N dongle.

X79R AX 2 ECS X79R AX Black Series Motherboard Pictured

The board looks quite polished, purely in terms of design. The CPU VRM heatsink and PCH heatsink are linked with a 6 mm thick heat pipe, the PCH heatsink looks to have what looks like a thermometer that gives out direct temperature readings of the heatsink. An LED display gives out diagnostic POST codes. The "clear-CMOS" button is accessible through the rear panel. There are consolidated voltage measurement points next to the 24-pin ATX power connector. As mentioned earlier, the board seems to be using a highly layered PCB, apart from improved signalling, this results in lower EMI emissions.

There are two 4-pin (PWM) fan headers next to the CPU socket, game for push-pull type air coolers. There are three other 3-pin fan headers. Expect UEFI BIOS that at least sticks to the AMI default template.

We expect the ECS X79R-AX to be a part of the first wave of socket LGA2011 motherboards, when the platform launches in mid-November.