ECS H67H2-M & H67H2-I Reviewccokeman -
Price: H67H2-M $139, H67H2-I $90
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Intel's Sandy Bridge processors and platform were released with a lot of attention to this next generation's performance and capabilities. Unfortunately there also was the quickly resolved bug in the SATA 3G controller that soured a successful launch. This aside, the Intel Sandy Bridge 2500K and 2600K processors have proven to offer excellent performance at stock speeds with even more performance available if you choose to push the limits with processors reaching 4.8 to 5.0GHz at will on the P67 platform. But the boards I am looking at today are part of ECS H67 lineup. Intel's H67 board did not provide any overclocking ability above the limits of the processor's Turbo Boost 2 multiplier when I looked at it during the Sandy Bridge launch article due to the limitations of the chipset. The H67 based boards from ECS are no different in this respect. On the IGP side of the fence though, the ability to bump up the performance of the Intel HD 3000 graphics can pay dividends across the whole suite of applications that are GPU accelerated. The two motherboards I have to look at from ECS are the H67H2-M and H67H2-I. The "M" is a fully featured Micro ATX form factor motherboard that is part of ECS "Black" series and is equipped with the Intel H67 chipset for use with Intel's latest second generation Core processors. The "I" is a mini ITX form factor motherboard is equipped with the features to easily outperform many of the small form factor boards on the market when equipped with one Intel's Second Generation core series processor. Both of these motherboards would be right at home in an HTPC or small form factor build.
The packaging for these H67 boards is much improved over prior ECS designs. The packaging of the H67H2-M features a wealth of information on the capabilities of this board along with many of its attributes on both the front and rear panels. The front shows off the potential 235% increase in GPU performance when the HD 3000 graphics are overclocked. There is mention of improved gold contacts, that the Quooltech cooling solution on-board is 15 to 20C cooler running and that the board should have a 6x improvement over prior designs based on the solid capacitors. In the upper corner you see that this board is a B3 revision, that this board supports Turbo Boost 2.0 and offers 3D support. The back panel of the "M" is covered with explanations of the included features. Things such as the eight channel audio, all solid capacitors, GPU overclocking, Dual Gigabit LAN and more. The "I" version in the series is a Mini ITX form factor board for use with the second generation Core processors. The graphics used on this board are significantly different enough from the "Black Series to make the distinction. The front panel lists many of the attributes of the board from Bluetooth capabilities, USB 3.0 SATA 6Gb/s, Turbo Boost 2.0, 3D and multi-monitor support. The back panel talks about what makes this offering special from an explanation of the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR technology, MIni PCIe support while listing the included ECS software eJiffy, eBLU,eDLU and eSF.
Opening up both packages shows the difference in how these boards are packaged. The Black Series H67H2-M has the bundle on top of the lower compartment that houses the board while the H67H2-I has the board up top with the accessories below.
The accessory bundle for both boards is eerily similar with the inclusion of a manual, quick start guide, driver disk with the proprietary utilities, I/O shield, SATA cables and a set of plugs to protect the unused ports on the I/O panel when not in use.
Even though the H67 chipset prevents any CPU overclocking, I am curious as to how well these boards perform in their as-delivered configurations. Hopefully, the boards will have the ability to bump the on-board graphics up a couple of notches to increase the IGP performance. Small in size but not features, these two board look pretty interesting.