Oct, 2014

Enjoying Great Gaming Performance Without Denting Your Wallet (ECS Z97-MACHINE)

PC gaming can be very demanding in terms of hardware requirements. Games are getting better and more realistic thus requiring you to acquire a powerful gaming machine. In gaming, good experience greatly depend on what's perceived by our senses and the visuals certainly tops everything. Achieving good visual output in a computer is demanding. You don't need to be a computer savvy to understand the kind of setup gaming needs. Basically you need a fast enough computer to play games.


The setup of your computer will determine the kind of games you can play. The latest games that are popular today like Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4 and TitanFall have relatively high system requirements wherein the recommended system requirements for the graphics card alone can cost you around $200 or more. Of course you "can" play these games at lower system specifications but that will cause you to play in lowered settings. However, that's like lowering the gaming experience and no gamer wants that.

Now, you might have the following questions in mind:

• How do you build a gaming machine that is good for gaming without going overboard?

• Do you really need "gaming" themed motherboard which costs around $200 or more?
• What features should I be looking for in a motherboard?


There are literally an unlimited number of configurations you can build. You can grab the most expensive processor and motherboard combination, 32GB of memory and multiple graphics cards for your gaming machine and it will surely run any game at any desired setting. However, such setups are very expensive and are technically too much considering that even the most demanding games today don't really require that high. If you are seeking a bang for the buck gaming PC, the best route is to hit the balance. We will cut the chase for you and introduce you to that bang for the buck motherboard, the ECS Z97-Machine!


Gaming Experience

I took one to two scenarios in each game, first would be checking out how good the system is in rendering graphics by looking around. It should give you an idea how smooth the game is running in our system. The second video will be a particular fight scene in the game. The games are using the default settings as configured by the game automatically and recorded using NVIDIA's ShadowPlay at medium quality. Hence, you can watch them in 720p and 1080p quality.


Battlefield 3


Battlefield 4


Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

For gaming, I will recommend getting at least an Intel i5 processor. Getting an unlocked processor is also highly recommended for you to enable overclocking. As for graphics processor, getting a model using at least a DDR5 memory is important. The graphics card is usually the most expensive hardware in a gaming machine. As for memory, the minimum would be 8GBs at 1600 mhz. More would be a good investment but anything more than 16GB would be overkill for any game today. Getting an SSD boot drive is also highly recommended for you to speed up your system's overall performance. Remember that performance and computing power comes from the processor, graphics processor and memory. These are the components that you want to invest more money in. The motherboard's job is to run these three components like one well-oiled machine. Does it really need to be a $200-$300 motherboard? Certainly not! The ECS Z97-Machine will be able to handle such recommended setups or even better. With ECS, you can achieve great gaming performance at a price you can surely afford.


The ECS Z97-Machine Motherboard

The ECS Z97-Machine is a motherboard designed for gaming under the L337 series. It has everything you need in building a gaming machine be it an entry-level build or a high-end build. Yes, this motherboard will suffice both kind of setups and anything in between! The specifications and features of the motherboard will tell you why.


Closer Look

Builders and users nowadays are very picky when it comes to how their hardware looks so taking a closer look will help you decide.

Good to know that ECS understands this trend about appeal and have designed the motherboard's layout and color accordingly.


Even the heat sink has a 'gaming' design. Under this heat sink are the six power phases that will help you overclock the processor to higher frequencies.

Here are the VRMs behind the cool heat sink and the heat sink itself


The Z97-Machine's rear I/O panel includes 4 USB 2.0 ports and 4 USB 3.0 ports which plenty to house any peripheral you have. It even has 1 PS/2 port for older peripherals. There are also 3 options for video output if ever you don't have discrete graphics card to use which includes VGA, HDMI and a DVI-D port. Audio ports will enable you to setup a native 5.1 surround sound configuration.


Moving on to the other parts of the motherboard, in the lower-left portion of the board are the on-board power and reset buttons as well as the debug LCD display. These will help you do troubleshooting much faster. In other brands, such features can only be seen in motherboards costing $200 or more.


On the lower-right portion of the motherboard are 4 SATA III 6 gb/s ports.


Here you have the M.2 or NGFF slot for an M.2 SSD. It is placed conveniently below the PCI express slots for you to access the slot much easier without removing the graphics card.


Here's a look at the chipset and chipset heat sink.


Here are four DDR3 DIMM slots that supports up to 32GB of memory at 3,000 Mhz maximum. For gaming, 8GB of memory at 1,600 Mhz is enough but if you want more, the ECS Z97-Machine can allow you to do so.


Here are the two Gen. 3.0 PCI express slots. It can support dual graphics card either CrossFireX or SLI. Having 2 PCI express slots is surely a great option for expansion and upgrades.


Finally, here's the LGA 1150 processor socket.


Conclusion and Final Thoughts
In building a gaming machine, you don't need a $200-$300 'gaming' motherboard. The ECS Z97-Machine clearly shows that at lower price, you can have a great performing motherboard you can pair up with high end hardware. Based on the benchmark tests and gaming experience, it is certainly up to the task for the latest games today. It was my first time using an ECS board and the BIOS is very easy to navigate and use. Here's a summary of my experience with the ECS Z97-Machine motherboard.
• Great Looks
• Easy to use BIOS
• Good overclocking headroom
• Great gaming experience

Gaming with the setup I built using the ECS Z97-Machine is very satisfying. You don't need to break the bank in building a gaming PC. You just need to be smart with your assessment in terms of what you need for gaming. If you want good value for your money, choose the ECS Z97-Machine as tested and recommended by experts.


Setup Specification

• Motherboard: ECS Z97 Machine
• Processor: Intel i5-4670k @ 4.0 Ghz
• Graphics: Gigabyte GTX 770 OC 2GB
• Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast 2x8 GB @ 2400 Mhz
• OS Drive: Kingston M.2 120GB SSD
• Storage Drive: 1TB Western Digital Caviar Blue
• Cooler: Raijintek Ereboss
• Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1200
• Chassis: Custom Test Bench
• OS: Windows 7 Ultimate

System Benchmarks

PC Mark 7 : SCORE : 5,173 >> Details

PC Mark Vantage 64bit : SCORE : 24,072 >> Details


Graphics Card Benchmarks

3D Mark PRO : 17,999 >> Details

Unigine Heaven 4.0 (Extreme Preset) : 1,247 >> Details

Unigine Valley 1.0 : 3,619 >> Details


Storage Benchmarks

PC Mark 8 PRO : SCORE : 4,919 >> Details



About The Author

I am a hardware reviewer and editor at Proclockers.com. I've built computers for different purposes be it gaming or general use. I have built computers under the two major platforms available in the market today which is AMD and Intel.