First Looks: ECS Z77H2-A2X Black Extreme – The Midas Touch
Starting off from the top, we get a lovely gold-plated CPU socket and heatpiped heatsink for the 8-phase MOSFETs. There is also a 8-pin 12V EPS connector to provide power for power hungry CPUs.
Man Yue Samxon solid capacitors of the ULR variety are used throughout the board. ECS calls them "Apache Long-Life CAP".
Even the ferrite chokes used are gold plated.
Down at the memory slots area we note that there are voltage reading points for the crucial adjustables such as VCore and VDIMM.
At the bottom end of the board we see a couple of niceties. The Z77 "Panther Point" PCH itself doesn't get very hot, so it is serviced by a small gold plated heatsink. We also get a PORT-80 diagnostic display and onboard Power/Reset buttons, which are must-haves for any serious overclocking. In addition to the 6 SATA ports (2 of which are 6Gb/s ones), there is a mPCIe/mSATA slot presumably for SSD NAND or other devices.
The expansion slot configuration is pretty sensible – there is ample clearance between the cpu heatsink and the primary graphics card seated on the 1st PCIe x16 slot. the 2nd PCIe slot is also three positions away which makes for good ventilation in multi-GPU setups. ECS engineers have also put two legacy PCI slots at the bottom so older TV tuners and sound cards can still be used on this board.
A cost effective Realtek ALC892 audio codec
Here is one decision we don't understand being a premium offering – Instead of a no-frills Intel PHY used by most of the competition, ECS has opted for a Realtek 8111E gigabit implementation (a problematic, latency plagued controller).
ASMedia ASM1042, which one one of the better performing chipsets out there, to augment the USB 3.0 functionality provided by the Z77 PCH.
PCIe 3.0 compliant ASMedia ASM1480 switches to delegate the 20 signals lanes from the CPU.
Stay tuned for our full review of the ECS Z77H2-A2X Black Extreme with the upcoming Ivy Bridge processors!