ECS is releasing a new motherboard series, “Golden Board,” where all metallic parts are golden, including the capacitors and coils. Two models were announced within this series, the Z77H2-AX and the Z77H2-A2X. Let’s take a look at the Z77H2-AX, which comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a PLX switch chip allowing a very high-end configuration for its PCI Express x16 slots, and much more.

The Intel Z77 chipset will be released by the end of this month, but we had the privilege of getting the ECS Z77H2-AX for a “first look” article. It will be a high-end socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the forthcoming “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors) and also supporting the current “Sandy Bridge” models (second-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). Let’s see what the ECS Z77H2-AX will have to offer.

The Intel Z77 will be an upgraded version of the Z68 chipset with the same basic features (Intel Smart Response Technology and Virtu video switching technology), plus native support to four USB 3.0 ports. It will also include the addition of two new technologies: Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode) and Rapid Start (faster boot times).

In addition, the ECS Z77H2-AX supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.

ECS has already announced five different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset. In the table below, we compare their main specifications.

Specification Z77H2-AX Z77H2-A2X Z77H2-A2X Deluxe Z77H2-A3 Z77H2-A3D
Memory Sockets 4 4 4 4 4
PCI Express x16 3 (x16/x16/x0 or x16/x8/x8) 2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8) 2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8) 1 1
PCI Express x1 2 2 2 4 4
Mini PCI Express 1 1 1 0 0
Standard PCI 2 2 2 2 2
CrossFireX Yes Yes Yes No No
SLI Yes Yes No No No
SATA-300 2 2 2 4 4
SATA-600 4 4 4 2 2
eSATA-300 2 1 1 0 0
eSATA-600 0 0 0 0 0
USB 2.0 6 6 6 10 10
USB 3.0 6 6 6 4 4
FireWire 0 0 0 0 0
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR 2.1+EDR No No No
Gigabit Ethernet 1 1 1 1 1
Wi-Fi Yes, a/b/g/n Yes, a/b/g/n No No No
VGA 1 1 1 1 1
DVI 0 1 1 1 1
HDMI 1 1 1 Optional 0
DisplayPort 0 0 0 0 0
Audio ALC892 ALC892 ALC892 ALC892 ALC892
Voltage Regulator 12+2+1 NA NA NA NA
Price NA NA USD 165 NA NA

Figure 1 shows you the ECS Z77H2-AX motherboard. As you can see, the black printed circuit board with golden components gave this motherboard an exquisite look, a far cry from the purple PCB with 10 different colors the manufacturer used to love. Kudos to ECS.

ECS Z77H2-AX motherboardFigure 1: ECS Z77H2-AX motherboard


Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.