ASUS P7H55D-M EVO Reviewjlqrb - June 30, 2010
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The ASUS P7H55D-M EVO comes with a very nice style that uses blue throughout the peripheral areas on a brown PCB. For the most part, this board is visually similar to the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO, but with this board using the mATX form factor some parts such as the chipset cooler had to be reduced in size. Still, even with the smaller size ASUS still did a good job with the layout as all the installation areas have good spacing so there should be no issues adding even the largest add-on components. Also, to ensure the best performance, reliability and safety ASUS uses their Xtreme Design technology which uses high quality components such as low RDS (on) MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, all solid capacitors and dual 2-oz copper layers throughout the PCB. All of this increase the board’s functions, cooling performance and longevity. The Xtreme Design also includes some software based utilities to improve the performance, which we will be looking at shortly
The processor installation area of the P7H55D-M EVO is very impressive for a board that retails for just over $100. This is mainly because of the use of such a robust VRM area that comes with an 8+3 phase unit design. It also has all solid Japanese capacitors, ferrite core chokes and an 8-pin CPU power connector. All of which is part of the Xtreme Design, that uses high-quality components to improve the power efficiently of the motherboard as well as the overclocking potential. Additionally, ASUS uses a unique passive cooling solution on the VRM that will reduce the operating temperature, even while the voltage is being increased due to overclocking.
The CPU area itself uses a Tyco Electronics LGA 1156 socket type that will support both Intel Lynnfield and Clarkdale processors. This means you can use any i3, i5 or i7 processor as long as they fit into the LGA 1156 socket type. This gives the H55 a lot of room for personalization as not only can you buy a processor based on the operating frequency, but you can also chose one with or without a built-in IGP. If you do use a processor with a built-in graphics unit the video options found on the rear I/O panel will be usable, but if you choose a processor without an IGP all the video ports will be disabled.
Like most boards, the memory DIMMs on the board are found just to the right of the CPU area and are color coded per channel. There are a total of four memory DIMM slots that can support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory rated at 2133(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 in dual-channel architecture. By default, the motherboard will supply 1.5V to the installed memory. This keeps the voltage well under the 1.65V that Intel states should not be exceeded in order to prevent damage to the integrated memory controller on the CPU.
The memory area also comes with a few features that are unique to ASUS. The first is that each DIMM only has one latch to lock the memory in place. Removing this latch is beneficial to users that have large graphics cards that could otherwise run into spacing issues. Next is the MemOK button which by simply pressing it can check for the best memory settings to ensure compatibility guaranteeing the board will boot. This eliminates the issue of having to clear the CMOS or install only one stick of memory at a time to get the system to post if there is a problem.
For rear I/O expansion ASUS has included one PS/2 keyboard port, Optical S/PDIF out, VGA port, HDMI port, DVI-D port, IEEE 1394a port, LAN (RJ-45) port, eSATA port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports and six jacks for the 8-channel rear audio options. A very good amount of expansion can be had here and the use of USB 3.0 is always a nice feature to add some future-proofing. The USB 3.0 ports are supported by an on-board NEC chip that is found just behind the rear I/O panel.
For add-on expansion there are two PCIe x1 slots, one PCI slot and one PCIe x16 slot. The amount of expansion here is reduced from high-end models, but for a mainstream mATX motherboard this will be more than enough. Also, with three video options it is easy to see why the H55 chipset is ideal for HTPC users.
The expansion headers are located at the bottom of the motherboard under the PCI slots. In this area, ASUS has included a front panel audio header, one IEEE 1394a FireWire header, three USB 2.0 headers, one serial port header, the system panel header, one EIDE port, and six SATA ports. Again, this is a good amount of expansion and should satisfy most users needs. However, with the H55 lacking any native RAID support this technology will not be available. Also, to ensure that large graphics cards with dual slot coolers don't block any of the available SATA ports ASUS has placed four for the ports above the PCIe x16 slot and the additional two about an inch and half below it.