H55 & H57 Motherboard Roundup Reviewjlqrb - June 18, 2010
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Closer Look (ECS H55H-CM):
The ECS H55H-CM comes in standard retail packaging that, like the H55H-I, lists the main features and support on the front of the packaging. Some of the information found on the front is the model name, processor support, and peripheral support. Like most packaging, the back portion of the box goes into even further detail of the features and support, but it also lists some of the ECS exclusives that come with the H55H-CM. Once the package is opened, the accessories are found sitting on the top portion of the box with a white cardboard divider separating the motherboard from the accessories. The cardboard liner helps isolate each item in the box reducing the chance of damage while in transit. To further ensure safety of the motherboard, it also comes wrapped in an antistatic bag that will prevent any electrostatic discharge from damaging the board prior to being removed from the packaging.
At first look it is apparent that the H55H-CM is an entry-level offering that is basic in both style and features. This is reflected in the retail price of $84.99, which puts it in line with other mainstream offerings based on the H55 chipset. As long as it can perform as well as the other H55 motherboards we are looking at in this round-up, it could be a good option for the budget DIY system builder.
The ECS H55H-CM uses the mATX form factor that, like all other H55 based products, uses a single chip solution in place of a dual North and SouthBridge combination. This frees up more room throughout the board, allowing the add-on ports to be situated in a way that is very spacious even when using a small form factor. The single H55 chip is found below the PCI-E x16 slot and has a low-profile heatsink that passively cools it. The color scheme ECS uses for the board maintains the entry-level look, which uses a standard green PCB with orange, yellow, and white colors throughout. To supply power to the board ECS has included a main 24-pin power connector on the middle right and there is also a 4-pin 12V power connector found at the top left.
The VRM area on the H55H-CM is not optimized for overclocking, but it is good enough for an entry-level board. This is because ECS uses all solid capacitors and ferrite core chokes for only the portion dedicated to the CPU and less efficient components for the rest of the board. Also, there is no cooler on any portion of the VRM to reduce the operating temperature, but as with all mainstream offerings some sacrifices will be made to keep the retail price at a more consumer friendly level. Additionally, with the low power requirements of the mainstream Intel processors, the VRM design should be more than enough.
The CPU socket on the H55H-CM is manufactured by Foxconn and can support Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors with the 1566 interface. The memory DIMMs are found next to the CPU socket and like most dual-channel memory slots, are color coded per channel. The ECS H55H-CM can support up to 16GB of 1333MHz DDR3 memory in dual-channel architecture with each slot having a max capacity of 4GB. The default memory voltage supplied to the DIMMS is 1.5V, but unlike the other motherboards looked at in the round-up, the ECS H55H-CM does not have any voltage adjustment options.
The expansion options of the H55H-CM are actually very limited and in the case of the parallel port, a little surprising. I actually thought this port was extinct technology in the consumer market as the majority of users (if not all) have moved onto faster means of connectivity. Also, with motherboards based on the H55 chipset being geared toward home PC users, it would have made more sense to see extra video options as opposed to a parallel port. Aside from this single oddity though, the H55H-CM also includes one PS2 mouse port, one PS2 keyboard port, six USB 2.0 ports, one LAN port, one HDMI port, one VGA port, and three audio jacks.
The rear expansion ports included with the H55H-CM are; one PCI-E x16 slot, two PCI-E x1 slots, and one PCI slot. These will allow for a good amount of expansion. Even with this being an entry level offering, the use of the PCI-E x16 2.0 could make this a good option for gamers on a budget.
Along the bottom of the board are the additional expansion headers as well as six SATA ports. The included headers are S/PDIF Out header, front audio header, front panel USB headers, on-board serial port header, clear CMOS jumpers and the front panel switch/LED headers. The six SATA II ports are found above the serial port headers and are all colored orange. Six SATA ports is the max amount supported by the H55 chipset so there are plenty of storage options available. However, with all the ports running though the H55 chipset, RAID is not an option. Also, when using a large dual slot graphics card, the top two SATA ports will be covered, reducing the usable number to just four ports. There is also an included FDD header, which is found just above the main 24-pin power connector.
With a mainstream price of $84.99, this board could be a good option for anyone looking to set up an HTPC on a tight budget.