H55 & H57 Motherboard Roundup Reviewjlqrb -
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The ASUS P7H57D-V EVO comes packaged in a blue full sized retail box that carries a similar style to that of other ASUS products using the Xtreme design. This is clearly evident as the Xtreme design logo is the largest icon on the front of the box and is used more to highlight that the technology is in use as opposed to stating the details of the design. This is fine though as most companies list the goods on the front and details on the back. Also listed on the front panel of the box is a Hybrid technology logo, the processor support, socket type and additional technologies that the board utilizes. Like stated before, the front is used mainly to highlight features whereas the back of the box is the portion that dishes out the details.
Inside the box you will find the motherboard, accessories and a cardboard liner that separates the two. The accessories are found on the top portion of the box and will need to be removed along with the insert before you will have full access to the motherboard. The included accessories are SATA cables, IDE cable, additional USB ports, Q-shield, Q-connectors, an SLI bridge, the manual and a drivers disc.
The ASUS P7H57D-V EVO is the first motherboard we are going to look at with the H57 chipset and the only one that uses the ATX form factor. This is due to this board being marketed more toward the enthusiast than the mainstream user and the size is part of the equation. With an ATX form factor ASUS was able to incorporate many features across the board that are usually not found on H57 based products. Some of these include the use of SATA 3.0, dual PCI-E x16 slots and a very strong VRM with an 8+3 phase design. These are all features that are usually found on high-end models and as such this board is the most expensive product we are going to be looking at, but it is also the most feature packed.
The look of the ASUS H57 motherboard is very appealing as it comes printed on a brown PCB that uses different colors of blue throughout the expansions slots. This works very well and when combined with high quality components such as all solid capacitors and passively cooled heatsinks it is very aesthetically pleasing. Not only does it look great, but it also comes with a very nice layout. This will prevent cramping between the installation areas and allow the user to install and expand with ease.
The CPU area on the P7H57D-V EVO is very impressive and makes it very easy to see why this board is targeted beyond the mainstream. It comes with a 8+3 phase unit design that has all solid capacitors, ferrite core chokes and passive coolers on the VRM. This will allow the board to not only power any Intel socket 1156 processor with ease, but also improve the overclocking potential as well. This is the most robust VRM of all the boards in the roundup. Also in the first image, if you look just above the top cooler you can see that ASUS uses an 8-pin 12V power connector. This is often a weak spot on motherboards as many companies include all the necessary components for a strong VRM, but only include a 4-pin power connector that might not be able to supply enough power to the CPU after the voltage and frequency has been increased.
The CPU installation socket is manufactured by LOTES that supports any Intel 1156 i3, i5 and i7 processor. This gives the user a good number of options. For more high-end users processors built on the Lynnfield core, it will allow you to use the dual PCI-E x16 slots in both CrossFireX and SLI. For mainstream users the Clarkdale line comes with a very affordable price and will also allow the board to be used without an add-on discrete graphics card.
Just to the right of the LGA 1156 socket are four memory DIMMS that support a max of 16GB DDR3 2133(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 memory in Dual Channel architecture. Perhaps most interesting though is that it seems as if ASUS is starting to more widely use its single clamp memory DIMMS. This design is actually very simplistic and will eliminate any spacing issues between a large graphics card and the memory clamps. Next to the first DIMM slot on the right there is a small MemOK button. What this does is quickly ensures boot compatibly with your installed memory by checking for the safest settings.
For rear I/O expansion the ASUS P7H57D-EVO comes with a single PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, four USB 2.0 ports, an optical S/PDIF port, an eSATA port, an IEEE 1394a Firewire port, a single RJ-45 Gigabit LAN port and 8-channel audio ports. On top of this ASUS has also included two USB 3.0 ports that are run though the on-board NEC chip. For video options ASUS has included a standard VGA port, a DVI-D port an a single HDMI port. Like with all 1156 based motherboards, these rear video options require a Clarkdale chip with a built-in IGP.
As the only ATX motherboard in the lot, the P7H57D-V EVO comes with the most expansion slots. This includes two PCI-E x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8), three PCI-E x1 (blue slot runs at 5GT/s and the gray slots at 2.5GT/s) and two PCI slots. This is a good amount of expansion, but the best feature here is that SLI and CrossFireX are supported. However, dual graphics cards running at x8/x8 are only supported by processors that do not have an integrated graphics unit, so this technology will only be available to those using the Lynnfield CPUs. When using a Clarkdale processor not only will CrossFireX/SLI not be supported, but the second PCI-E x16 slot will be reduced to x4 when the slot is occupied.
The on-board headers that ASUS has included gives the user all the average expansion options such as USB 2.0 and 1394a Firewire, but it also has dual SATA 3.0 ports. Both of these ports support 6Gb/s data transfer rates and are run though an on-board PLX controller. Additionally, there are also six 90° SATA 2.0 ports that are connected directly though the H57 chipset and comes with support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.
With a retail price of $199.99 this is the most expensive motherboard in the roundup, but it does come with extra features that justify the price.