A Closer Look at the ECS X79R-AX
We'll start by taking a look at the box and accessories of the X79R-AX. The box is quite compact, only a tiny bit larger than the board itself. There's an internal cardboard buffer so the package is very solid and well protected from careless couriers.
Like most motherboard boxes, the rear is crammed full of the features ECS wants you to take note of. And what a load of features there are as we'll soon see.
Below is a pic of the accessories that come with the board. There is also a user manual not in this picture as I seem to have misplaced it! The manual comes with a complete list of POST codes filling several pages which is good to see.
Given this is a quad crossfire and SLI capable board, we'd like to see a bit more in the way of multi GPU bridges. We get no less than twelve SATA cables which is impressive! The small blue plastic pieces are dust caps for the unused ports on the board.
All up we have:
Twelve SATA cables
Front panel or PCI combo USB 3.0 adapter
SLI bridge connector (for dual card)
Two bags of dust caps
Moving onto the board itself, The X79R-AX follows ECS's now traditional white and grey on black color scheme. Whilst looks are subject to opinion, we think the board looks great.
The layout is mostly fine with a few little niggles. All fan headers are located around the top of the board (right in the picture.) One or two placed at the bottom of the board would be nice for those users with cases containing bottom mounted fans. The voltage read points will probably be obscured by the ATX cable but really, that's a trivial matter for 99.9% of users.
The wire coming off the back of the wireless dongle is an antenna with a sticky back for attachment to an available surface.
The X79R-AX supports quad CrossfireX and SLI. The molex connector at the top left provides supplementary power for multi GPU systems.
The grey slots are PCIe 16x with the whites defaulting to PCIe 8x. There are a pair of PCIe 1x slots as well. All slots support PCIe 3.0. The layout is great, with at least one free slot available even with three dual slot graphics cards present.
Looking at the top half of the board, obviously there's only four RAM slots. ECS made the decision to keep the board at a standard ATX size which wouldn't have been possible with eight (Editor's note: The ASUS P8P67 series does have eight slots on an ATX form factor) and the extra controllers on board.
The rear I/O panel is crammed full with ports. We have a CMOS clear button, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, six USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of eSATA 6 GB/s ports as well as standard S/PDIF optical audio and analogue ports. The two dongles are for the onboard wireless LAN supporting B/G/N and Bluetooth supporting v2.1+ EDR.
The audio chip used is a Realtek ALC892. While still a 7.1 chip, it is a step below what some competing boards are using. It is a similar story with the LAN chips, which are Realtek RTL8111E. The two eSATA ports are controlled by a Asmedia ASM1061. The four USB 3.0 ports are controlled by a Texas Instruments TUSB7340.