ECS H67H2-M & H67H2-I Review

ccokeman - 2010-07-15 17:07:00 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: May 9, 2011
Price: H67H2-M $139, H67H2-I $90

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The H67H2-M is a Mini ATX form factor board in the ECS Black series lineup designed for use with Intel's second generation Core series processors. The H67H2-M is ECS way of bringing the look of its high-end Black Series to the H67 small form factor market with enthusiast grade additions such as on board power and reset buttons, ECS's Quooltech heat sink package, solid capacitors. 15μ gold contacts in the CPU and DIMM sockets for improved corrosion resistance, an increase in board life and a debug diagnostic LED. Looking at it from the top, the board looks like a cut down version of the P67H2-A. The black PCB and grey accents give the board an industrial feel. The back side has just the back of the CPU retention mechanism. The Quooltech III heatsink package is held in place by screws just like on the P67 based P67H2-A. So far the board has all the makings of a high performance board for the everyday market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity is the name of the game with these H67 chipset based boards. On the H67H@-M from the left are the single SL DVI port , VGA port, clear CMOS button, HDMI and DisplayPort connections, four USB 2.0 ports (two red and two black), a single eSATA port, Dual Realtek controlled Gigait LAN ports that support teaming, two USB 3.0 ports and the Realtek eight channel HD sound including both digital and analog connectivity. The clear CMOS button is a great option to have but without the ability to overclock the CPU, its uses will be limited. Expansion capabilities on the H67H2-M include a 16x PCIe slot, a pair of 1x PCIe slots and a standard PCI slot.

 

 

Along the bottom edge of the board are added connectivity options. Left to right are the front panel audio, digital sound out, a fan header, clear CMOS jumper, TPM header and four USB headers to add eight ports to the four on the back I/O panel for a total of 12 USB 2.0 ports. On the bottom right hand corner are parts you normally see only on enthusiast grade boards, a power and reset button. Just above the USB headers is a diagnostic display that allows the end user to determine what is causing a holdup in the boot sequence.

 

 

 

Starting up the right side are the SATA ports. The gray ports are the SATA 6Gb/s with the white being 3GbB/s. The one port offset is the eSATA port. The B3 revision of the H67 chipset allays fears of performance degradation on the SATA 3Gb/s ports. Further up is the 24pin ATX power connection and the four DIMM slots that support up to 32GB of DDR3 system memory in a dual channel configuration. DDR3 speeds officially supported are 1066 and 1333MHz.

 

 

Across the top of the PCB, the only item of note is the eight pin ATX auxiliary power connection.

 

 

The CPU socket area on the H67H2-M is quite crowded by comparison to some other socket 1155 motherboards. Solid capacitors are used for added stability and durability. ECS has used a LOTES hold down mechanism for the CPU. ECS uses its 15μ gold process that uses 15μ gold contacts in the CPU socket. This process means less corrosion and improved wear, resulting in a longer lifespan. Around the socket area is the Quooltech III cooling package that uses a pair of copper heatpipes connected to a pair of massive heat sinks over the VRM components. The cooling package includes a substantial heat sink over the H67 chipset that when combined with the massive heat sinks around the CPU socket, give this board from ECS a very high-end feel.

 

 

This "Black" Series offering from ECS puts together all of the looks and a good deal of the feature set from the P67H2-A and scales them down to work with the H67 platform. Great looks do not always win the day but in this case, looks do play a big part in the image factor where the H67 platform is like an early 70's musclecar. All stripes and flash.

Closer Look:

Whereas the H67H2-M has the look and feel of a high end machine, the H67H2-I is all about function over the flash. This Mini ITX board is meant to compete in an area traditionally dominated by much less power hungry platforms that contain either "Atom", Celeron or now AMD's Fusion APU. With the capabilities of Intel's Sandy Bridge lineup, this is like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. This little gem supports second generation Core i7, i5 and i3 processors including the unlocked "K" sku processors even though the overclocking will be limited to what can be gained with Intel's Turbo Boost 2 technology and possibly some GPU overclocking. While overclocking is not this board or platform's forte, the option list on this little board from ECS is pretty big. USB 3.0, Bluetooth, HDMI, Realtek eight channel sound and even a 16x PCIe slot to be used if you choose to add a discrete graphics card to the package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the rear I/O panel shows that connectivity options span almost the entire length of the PCB save for the last bit that contains the 16x PCIe slot. Starting from the left are two USB 2.0 ports and the HDMI graphics connection that supports HDMI 1.4a, VGA and a SL DVI port, two more USB 2.0 and a single eSATA port, two USB 3.0 ports and the Realtek controlled Gigabit LAN port. Then there's another pair of USB 2.0 ports bring the total on the I/O panel to eight, the bluetooth module and last but not least, the eight channel Realtek HD audio ports. In other words, a ton of connectivity options for so a small package. Multi-monitor technology is supported on this board allowing the end user the flexibility of using multiple monitors to increase productivity or offer a larger viewing surface.

 

The bottom edge of the PCB contains the 16x PCIe 2.0 slot so that if needed, a discrete graphics card can be used to supplant the on-die HD 2000 or HD 3000 Intel graphics for increased performance. The right side of the PCB contains the 24 pin ATX power connection and the two 240 pin DIMM slots. Maximum memory capacity with currently available modules is eight GB even though up to 16 GB is fully supported at 1066MHz and 1333MHz speeds.These slots as well as the CPU contacts, use ECS's 15μ gold contacts for three times the added conductivity and corrosion resistance.

 

 

The top side of the PCB contains the majority of the internal connectivity. On the left is a mini PCIe connection, the front panel and USB connections and a total of four SATA ports, Two SATA 6Gb/s and two SATA 3Gb/s that support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. Further inboard are a COM port, the four pin 12v power supply input and just in front of that, the USB 3.0 controller. The H67H2-I has a single large passive heatsink on the H67 chipset and no other cooling mechanisms on board. There just is not room on this minuscule board.

 

The CPU socket area is standard fare with solid capacitors and inductive chokes surrounding the socket. The LGA 155 socket uses ECVS 15. As you might imagine, space is at a premium on this board so a large heat sink is out of the question if you plan on using a discrete GPU in place of the Intel HD graphics. However that does not mean all is lost as I was able to mount an all-in-one liquid cooling solution with no problems or interference which allowed me to drive CPU temperatures and noise lower.

 

Just the fact that a product like this comes to market shows that while this segment is full of low power consumption products, you can still up the ante and deliver excellent performance without compromise.

Closer Look:

The BIOS used on both the H67H2-M and H67H2-I are so similar that I will be showing only one set of images to display the BIOS functionality. The American Megatrends BIOS is stored on a 32MB SPI ROM and is plug and play compatible. Even though CPU overclocking is not supported, the GPU can be overclocked via the BIOS. This BIOS supports the latest utilities from ECS including eJiffy, eBlu, esF and ECS's own MIB III utility. When compared to some of the latest P67 offerings, the BIOS looks dated but is still functional.

Main:

The Main section of the BIOS is limited and shows the system time, the system date and the language of choice. Pretty slim but this is just good basic information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced:

The Advanced section of the BIOS contains many of the options that can be tweaked. In this section you can enable ECS eJiffy funtion, adjust the CPU operating parameters, view the status of the processor, voltages and fan speeds and set up the installed disk drive configuration.

 

 

Chipset:

Under this option there are three submenus. Northbridge, Southbridge and ME subsystem. Under Northbridge, the amount of memory dedicated to the IGP can be set and the multi-monitor functionality enabled. Under the Soutbridge tab, the power restoration settings can be set, the onboard audio can be configured as well as the chassis intrusion settings. The ME subsystem tab shows the version and allows this option to be turned on or off. For testing, this option is left at the factory default enabled position.

 

 

 

M.I.B. III:

The Motherboard Intelligent BIOS III section of the BIOS is where the overclocking and performance enhancing feature are usually found. Seeing as how the CPU overclocking is limited to the frequencies available using Intel's Turbo Boost II technology means that the only real overclocking getting done is the IGP. There are several tabs that have submenus and options in them starting with Integrated Clock Chip Configuration. In this section there are several registers that can be adjusted but they did not seem to make a difference when it came time to overclock this board. The Performance tuning section allows voltages and current draw to be tweaked but really do not allow for increased clock speeds so are best tweaked for lower usage and power consumption. The memory speed and timings are non-adjustable in the BIOS but with Intel's Extreme tuning utility, the timings can be tweaked to run the rated timings.

 

 

 

The last three sections of the BIOS for the H67H2 series boards offer little in the way of functionality save for the Boot menu. Under this section are the options to run a quiet boot and to set the boot sequence for the installed disk drives. Under this section are separate menus to change the boot priority within a drive type. Here you choose which optical or hard disk drive will be polled first if more than one are installed. The Security tab gives the option to set an Administrator password and the Save and Exit tab is just what the name implies and is where the changes made to the BIOS are saved or the factory defaults are set.

 

 

 

The BIOS options are limited on this pair of boards but a complex BIOS is not really needed to get the most from these two ECS motherboards.

Specifications:

SKU
H67H2-M
H67H2-I
CPU
LGA1155 socket for new 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor/Intel® Core™ i3 series processor/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors
Supports Intel® Unlock Processors
Supports Intel® Turbo boost 2.0 technology
DMI 20Gb/s
LGA1155 socket for new 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor/Intel® Core™ i3 series processor/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors
Supports Intel® Unlock Processors
Supports Intel® Turbo boost 2.0 technology
DMI 20Gb/s
Chipset
Intel® H67 Express Chipset
Intel® H67 Express Chipset
Extra Chips
ITE IT8893 supports 1 PCI slot expansion
Etron USB 3.0 Controller supports 2 x USB 3.0 ports at the back panel (Compatible with 2 x USB 2.0 ports)
Etron USB 3.0 Controller supports 2 x USB 3.0 ports at the back panel (Compatible with 2 x USB 2.0 ports)
Memory
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 32GB*
*(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size we have tested is 16GB)
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS.
For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
2 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16 GB*
Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
*(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size we have tested is 8GB)
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS.
For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
Expansion Slot
1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
1 x PCI slot
1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot
1 x Mini PCI Express x1 slot
    • Supports Mini SATA
    • Supports Mini PCI Express
Storage
Support by Intel® H67
    • 2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s devices
    • 3 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices(white)
    • 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
Support by Intel® H67
    • 2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s devices
    • 2 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices
    • 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
Audio
Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
Compliant with HD audio specification
Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
Compliant with HD audio specification
LAN
Dual RealTek RTL8111E Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controllers with Teaming
Realtek 8111E Gigabit LAN Fast Ethernet Controller
Rear Panel I/O
2 x USB 3.0 ports compatible to both USB 3.0/2.0 devices (blue)
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x D-sub(VGA)
1 x HDMI Port
1 x DVI Port
1 x Display port
2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, SPDIF out)
1 x Clear_CMOS button
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
2 x USB 3.0 ports compatible to both USB 3.0/2.0 devices (blue)
6 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x D-sub(VGA)
1 x HDMI 1.4a port
1 x DVI Port
1 x Bluetooth
1 x RJ45 LAN connector
1 x SPDIF out connector
1 x Audio port (Line-in, Front Out, Mic_in Rear, Center & Woofer, Back Surrond, Side Surround)
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
Internal I/O Connectors & Headers
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
1 x 4-pin SYS_FAN connector
1 x 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
3 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x Front panel switch/LED header
1 x Front panel audio header
4 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 8 USB ports (F_USB1 supports EZ Charger)
1 x TPM header
1 x Chassis intrusion header
1 X onboard Buzzer
1 x Power on button
1 x Reset button
1 x SPDIF out header
1 x Clear CMOS header
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x Front panel switch/LED header
1 x Front panel audio header
2 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 4 USB ports (F_USB1 supports EZ Charger)
1 x Chassis intrusion header
1 x Speaker header
System BIOS
AMI BIOS with 32Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Supports ACPI & DMI
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
F7 hot key for boot up devices option
Support Page Up clear CMOS Hotkey
Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
Support Graphic Over-Clocking
Support Dual-Monitor function
Support eJIFFY
Support eBLU
Support eDLU
Support eSF
Support ECS M.I.B III Utility
    • Graphic Voltage Adjustable
CPU voltage adjustable    • IMC Voltage Adjustable
Memory voltage adjustable
AMI BIOS with 32Mb SPI ROM
Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Supports ACPI & DMI
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
F7 hot key for boot up devices option
Support Page Up clear CMOS Hotkey
Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
Support Graphic Over-Clocking
Support Dual-Monitor function
Support eJIFFY
Support eBLU
Support eSF
Support ECS M.I.B III Utility
CPU voltage adjustable
Memory voltage adjustable
    • IMC Voltage Adjustable
    • Graphic Voltage Adjustable
Form Factor
Micro-ATX, 244mm*244mm
Mini ITX 170x170mm

 

Features:



 

All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1211&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=103&LanID=9

Testing:

Testing this group of H67 based motherboards will include running them through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that include both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these boards perform. The gaming tests will also include both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offers any performance advantages. Instead of leaving the gaming tests to a discrete video card, the gaming prowess of the IGP will get a small workout as well. Each board received a fully updated fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64bit edition and used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catayst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. The delay in testing these boards was to ensure that we are using B3 revisions for our testing. The drives are connected to the SATA 6Gb/s ports for the duration of the testing.

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Overclocking on the ECS H67 boards is pretty much non existent due to the architecture of the H67 chip set. All you get for overclocking on the CPU is what Intel gives up with Turbo Boost 2 technology. Enabling this option will boost the clock speed up between 100 to 400MHz increasing performance. However, the integrated HD graphics can be boosted up a bit for improved graphics performance on the Intel HD 3000 graphics. I used the open GL test and a few games to test out the overclocking of the IGP. By increasing the GPU clock ration from 22 to 30 with a slight bump in voltage, I was able to play Civilization V at close to 30 FPS at 1680 x 1050 with low end settings when overclocked and Starcraft II easily delivered 50+ FPS at 1680 x 1050 again using low settings. The frustating part of this equation is that the memory speed is factory locked at 1333MHz max and the timings are non adjustable in the BIOS. Since both boards support the use of Intel's Extreme Tuning utility I gave that a shot and found that while the memory speed could be boosted and applied, there was no actual adjustment made to the memory speed. The adjustment to the timings on the other hand did stick when adjusted in the XTU.

 

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

   

   

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

   

   

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

   

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to jpeg format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

   

Lower is Better

 

In Apophysis the time needed to render the image is very similar across the test beds. The WinRar and GeekBench testing has all of the boards more or less delivering a similar result. In the Bibble 5 testing, the Intel board has a distinct advantage that was repeatable.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

   

Higher Is Better

 

These results show that similar hardware will yield similar results.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

   

   

Multi-Core Efficiency

   

   

 

Memory Bandwidth

   

   

 

Memory Latency

   

 

Cache and Memory

   

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

   

On platforms that are almost identical and have limited overclocking abilities, the difference in scores between the boards both at stock frequencies and with Intel's Turbo Boost 2 enabled will vary only slightly from each other with any difference put down to run to run average variances and possibly the memory sub timings as set in the BIOS.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

   

Higher is Better!

 

 

 

CineBench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

   

 

   

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

   

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

   

 

   

Higher is Better

 

   

 

   

Lower is Better

 

Again in this series of benchmarks the results are very similar. The real standout differences seem to be the hard drive burst rates and CPU usage.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Gaming at higher resolutions will stress the graphics card more so than the GPU although with a combination that is CPU limited, there are benefits from increased clock speed. In this instance, the Turbo Boost ratios do not give any additional advantage to one board or the other.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns,150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The boards all scale similarly with the HD 5870 as the video card. In this game, the CPU is less of an important player than the motherboard or video card.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Through all three resolutions, the H67 boards showed that with a discrete graphics card installed, the gaming performance is almost identical. The maximum difference in performance is two FPS.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Even the Mini ITX H67H2-I can deliver the same results as the larger H67H2-M and DH67BL when equipped with a capable discrete GPU..

Testing:

On the H67 platform the CPU cannot be overclocked above the limits of the Turbo Boost 2 frequencies. However, the integrated graphics can be overclocked to provide a higher level of performance. To see if this was indeed true, I ran through a couple of games that can be played on the HD 3000 integrated graphics. Civilization V and Starcraft II are the games of choice. The graphics multiplier was moved from 22 to 30 and each game was retested to verify the increase in performance was relevant. While high-end settings offer better visuals, the HD 3000 graphics included in the Core i5 2500K can only push the envelope so far.

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155

 

 

 

Civilization 5 Settings:

 

   

 

Starcraft II Settings:

 

   

 

While playing each of these games, the eye candy was turned down but the games were playable up to 1680 x 1050.

Conclusion:

Each of these boards from ECS is meant to fit in a specific segment. The Micro ATX Black Series H67H2-M brings a little flash and high-end looks to a board that will most likely be destined for use in an HTPC or regular system build where its pedigree might get overlooked. Since overclocking is going to be limited to the GPU, the only reason to go with a K sku processor is for the higher spec Intel graphics. Otherwise, stick to the non K sku to save a bit of money. In terms of performance, the H67 boards are going to offer a performance envelope that is almost identical from board to board when you have the same components installed. That was proved out by how close the performance was between the three boards in this comparison. When performance is the same across a platform then all that is left is the feature set and cost. In terms of price, the ECS Black Series H67H2-M comes in at the upper end of the pricing spectrum at $139. Not the highest price I have seen for an H67 board but at the upper end. For that $139 price point you get a full featured motherboard with many enthusiast level parts. There is the debug LED, on board power and reset buttons, ECS 15μ gold process in the CPU socket and DIMM slots, Quooltech III heat sink package and more. The H67H2-I Mini ITX board does not have the Black Series pedigree or looks but is the equal of the H67H2-M in terms of the performance offered but in a much smaller package. While small in stature, the H67H2-I is a fully loaded board. Standard are Etrontech controlled USB 3.0 ports, Intel SATA 6Gb/s ports and Bluetooth connectivity. There is a 16x PCIe slot on the board in case you really need to step up to a discrete GPU to get your gaming fix. Priced at around $90, the H67H2-I offers big performance in a small package. Any which way you look at it, this pair of H67 boards from ECS offer up excellent performance for the price point and would be a great fit for just about any mainstream build or home theater PC.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: