ECS recently launched its L337 Gaming Z97-MACHINE motherboard, focused primarily on hardcore PC gamers. We received the motherboard for review, which uses the new Intel Z97 Express Chipset, thus allowing support for Intel 4th and 5th Generation Core i7, i5, and i3 processors. The motherboard also comes with Pro Gaming performance features, such as the Extreme Audio combo with ESS SABRE Premier DAC and Sound Blaster Cinema 2, Hybrid Power Module Design, Dual Graphic and Native 4K support, the latest M.2 Expansion for SSD, and Intel Ethernet Gigabit LAN optimized for gaming.
Inside the box, the motherboard comes with a user manual, a rear I/O shield, a driver installation disc, and four black SATA cables. A closer look at the motherboard will reveal to you that the Z97-MACHINE benefits from a legacy of ECS’s gamer-friendly design. We have everything where it should be including four DIMM slots, two PCI-E x16 lanes and three PCI-Ex x1 lanes. M.2 is also supported as this one of the main features of the Z97 chipset, in addition to CrossFireX. Unfortunately though, there is no SLI.
The motherboard’s on-board integrated graphics are gaming ready with 4K display and DirectX 11.1 compatibility for the latest compute shaders, Direct 2D, multithreaded rendering, tessellation, and triple display output. The L337 Gaming motherboard also comes packed with a Southbridge heat sink, while the front panel featues USB 3.0 header and four SATA 6GBps ports.
The motherboad also supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 which is pretty standard these days. The M.2 socket which is included in the motherboard, provides a better and faster standard for connecting NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) SSDs with up to 10Gb/s by PCIe or SATA support. The Z97-MACHINE is of the first motherboards to adopt ESS SABRE Premier Amplifier, which is an audio DAC converter for high-fidelity gaming headsets with a full range of dynamic sound and less distortion. Comboed with the latest Sound Blaster Cinema 2, it delivers realistic performance and surround effects.
For networking, the Z97-MACHINE comes with Intel I218V Ethernet, which offers speed for gaming, ultra low power consumption and lower latency. The rear I/O of the motherboard features inputs/outputs such as one PS2 (keyboard/mouse) port, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one D-SUB port, one DVI port, one HDMI port, one RJ45 (Ethernet) port, five 3.5mm audio jacks (7.1), and one S/PDIF optical port.
The Z97-MACHINE implements new EZ BIOS UEFI and M.I.B. X Motherboard Intelligence functions, such as the new pre-configured overclocking profiles. Functional software is bundled with Sound Blaster Cinema 2, for all your surround audio requirements for music, movies, and games. Also provided, is ECS’s EZ Charger technology, which recharges modern mobile devices three times as fast as standard USB ports, even if the system is shut down, as long as the PC is still connected to a wall socket.
EZ charger can safely provide up to three times the current of standard USB ports. Additional software includes Norton Anti-virus software, Muzee, Cyberlink Media Suite, and the ECS iEZ utility, which combines the eBLU BIOS Live Update Utility, the eDLU Drivers Live Update Utility and the eSF Smart Fan Utility.
In order to run benchmarks on the Z97-MACHINE, our test setup’s specs included the Intel Core i7-4770K @4.5GHz processor, the ECS Z97 Machine GANK motherboard, 8GB RAM, and Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit as the operating system. We ran a series of benchmarks that included the usual suspects: 3DMark 11, Hitman: Absolution, AIDA64, CINEBENCH, and SiSoftware SANDRA 2013. All the benchmarks ran for a total of three times and an average of the total scores were taken into consideration.
The performance of the ECS Z97-MACHINE is quite good in all the tests, as well as in the gaming, though it falls a bit in the overclocking department. Having said that though, there are some positives about this motherboard. To start off, the included BIOS is very user friendly and pretty easy to navigate. When it comes to features, the Z97-MACHINE packs in some decent on-board sound option via the Sound Blaster 2 software. As for the overall design, the ECS Z97-MACHINE stands apart from the crowd with its black with gold accents.
The ECS Z97-MACHINE is truly of the cheapest Z97 motherboards out there. ECS has done a good job in churning out the Z97-MACHINE, which comes at an affordable price, has a nice design, good performance, excellent layout, good sound system and high quality element base, which includes Japanese solid capacitors. If you are looking at building a gaming machine on a tight budget, then this motherboard could be one of your choices.
Price: $112 Approx.