H55 & H57 Motherboard Roundup Review

jlqrb - 2010-03-11 19:09:13 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: June 18, 2010
Price: $74.99 - $199.99

Introduction:

When Intel launched its Core i5 series, there was a large rush of H55 based motherboards put out to take advantage of the new processors with the latest Intel IGP built right into the CPU package. What you got was a Clarkdale dual core 32nm based processor with the latest Integrated Graphics Processor built on a 45nm process, all in a single package. This implementation seemed to work well for the intended audience and delivered pretty respectable numbers across the board as casual gaming, HD playback and programs that were multi-threaded all showed a benefit. The Intel H57 chipset was also released at this time. What really sets it apart from the H55 chipset that makes it an attractive proposition? This is a question that we should be able to answer with a direct side-by-side comparison of the H55 and H57 based motherboards. In this roundup we will be looking at five different H55/H57 models manufactured by Gigabyte, ASUS and ECS.

Closer Look (Gigabyte H55M-USB3):

The Gigabyte H55M-USB3 comes packaged in a small box that is both stylish and informative. On the front portion of the box you will find the model of the board as well as some of the main features. These features include the use of 2x layers of copper PCB, USB 3.0 support as well as the socket and chipset type. The back of the packaging is also chock-full of information. On this panel you will find a listing of the main features, but unlike the front panel, there are also explanations of how the technologies used are beneficial to the end-user. Once the packaging is opened, you will have access to the included accessories and motherboard. The accessories come on the top portion of the inner packaging and are separated from the board below via a thin cardboard insert. What's included are two SATA cables, rear I/O shield, IDE cable, installation disk, manual and an installation guide. Found below these is the board itself, which comes wrapped in a protective anti-static bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gigabyte H55M-USB3 motherboard is an mATX form factor board that comes with dimensions of 22x14x12 inches, yet still has a very nice and spacious layout. This includes plenty of room between the dual PCI-E x16 slots as well as decent spacing from the CPU bracket to the memory DIMMs. The spacing will allow for easy installation of all add-on components and prevent the small form factor from being a limitation. Another feature that is evident is the color scheme, which includes the use of multiple shades of blue throughout the PCB along with white IDE, power, PCI and memory slots. One layer of the PCB that is there, but not evident though, is the use of 2oz of copper in the PCB. The copper is found in both the power and ground levels and is used to effectively spread heat to better cool the motherboard. This is part of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 design, which also uses all solid Japanese capacitors, Low RDS(on) MOSFET and ferrite Core Chokes. Beyond just reducing the system's temperature, the Ultra Durable 3 design also improves the board's overall efficiency and stability.

 

 

The first thing I noticed about the CPU area is that there is no cooling option for the MOSFETs. This was a bit surprising as the rest of the board uses high quality components and without cooling to this area, it could lead to extra heat while overclocking, thus reducing the OC potential. Aside from the lack of cooling though, the VRM area is very robust and uses all solid Japanese Capacitors, Ferrite Core Chokes and seven phase units. There are four phases for the main CPU. Two are for the integrated memory controller and one for the IGP. Above the VRM area is an 8-pin 12V power connector that supplies power to the processor.

The socket type used on the Gigabyte H55M-USB3 motherboard is an LGA1156 socket that supports Intel 1156 Core i3, i5 and i7 processors and is manufactured by LOTES. Each line of processors utilizes an on-board memory controller. However, the i7 line does not have an Integrated Graphics Processor like the i3 and i5, so if you opt to use an i7 processor, the rear video ports will be disabled. The Integrated Memory Controller is rated to support memory up to 1333MHz, but the Gigabyte H55M specifications show that the board is able to use high rated memory of up to 1666MHz(OC). The memory DIMMS are found to the right of the CPU  and are color coded to easily show the user which slots are paired together in dual-channel architecture. The white slots are used as the primary dual-channel slots and the blue should be used when four sticks of memory are installed. Just to the right of these DIMM slots are an FDD connector, an ID connector and the main 24-pin power connector.

 

 

The rear expansion area of the Gigabyte H55M-USB3 offers a decent amount of expansion options despite its small form factor. The rear I/O panel consists of a single PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, two USB 2.0 ports, a D-Sub port, a DVI-D port, Optical S/PDIF out connector, HDMI port, DisplayPort, IEEE 1394a port, dual USB 3.0 ports and the rear audio jacks. There are plenty of options for any type of user, but with so many video options on the panel, the HTPC crowd will be the biggest beneficiary. Most of these ports are found on the majority of the H55 line-up regardless of the brand, but Gigabyte has also included an on-board NEC chip for USB 3.0 support, which allows for transfer rates of up to 5Gb/s. The USB 3.0 ports also include Gigabyte's USB Power 3x technology. What this does is supply 3x the power to the USB 3.0 ports to deliver better compatibility and stability to USB devices.

For add-on PCI expansion, the Gigabyte board includes dual PCI-E x16 slots as well as two standard PCI slots. This is a decent amount of expansion for an mATX motherboard. With a dual PCI-E configuration, CrossFireX is an option. However, the second PCI-E slot can only support speeds of up to x4. With this limitation, the bandwidth will be greatly reduced. Also, with the PCI-E lanes being integrated onto the CPU, only Lynnfield processors will support CrossFireX. The top PCI-E slot, however, does run at the full x16 and will support any current high-end graphics card on the market. The two PCI slots are found in the middle of the rear expansion area and can support additional add-on cards such as sound devices and so on. It should be noted though that a dual-slot graphics card will cover the first PCI slot, leaving just one available.

 

 

Looking at the on-board headers and SATA ports you can again see that the Gigabyte H55M-USB3 has more than enough options. From left to right on the bottom of the board you have a CD-IN, COM header, 1394 header, three USB 2.0 headers, front panel headers and seven SATA II ports. The SATA ports found on the board all utilize the SATA II interface. However, not all the ports are run off the same chip. The five blue ports go directly though the H55 chipset, but the two white ports are handled by the on-board GIGABYTE SATA2 chip. Unfortunately, the H55 chipset does not come with native RAID support so the five blue ports do not support RAID. However, the additional white ports can be used in RAID 0/1, and JBOD through the GIGABYTE SATA2 on-board chip.

Found just above the SATA ports is Gigabyte's signature Dual BIOS technology. The Dual BIOS comes as two on-board chips with one being the main and the other is the backup. With two chips the board can access the backup BIOS is if there is a problem with the main. This feature has been added to Gigabyte boards for sometime now and it is one of those technologies that I would rather have than not.

 

 

With a very nice layout and plenty of support for the latest technologies the Gigabyte H55M-USB3 seems like a very well rounded motherboard. This board retails for $109.99, but can be found for $99.99 with mail-in rebates.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look (ECS H55H-I):

The ECS H55H-I comes packaged in a small box that lists many of the important features on both the front and back panels. The front portion of the packaging lists what type of processors are supported as well as some of the highlighted features of the H55H-I. The back portion of the packaging lists some of the same information, but this panel also has an image of the product as well as explanations of some of the more interesting features. One such feature is the Mini-ITX form factor. With the small form factor, the packaging of the H55H-I is much smaller than that of an ATX or even mATX board so the motherboard and accessories are packaged in close proximity to each other, with a thin cardboard layer separating them. All inner contents of the package come though the top of the box and once they are out you can see that the included accessories are SATA cables, an I/O back-plate, a manual, installation guide and a drivers CD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The H55H-I is a Mini-ITX form factor motherboard that uses the H55 chipst and has measurements of just 6.69 x 6.69 inches. This small form factor will be ideal for multimedia users with a SFF case, but the loss of real estate does come with some limitations. As you can see, the ECS H55H-I can only support two memory modules and doesn't include any IDE or FDD ports. All of this is to be expected from a board of this size though. Also, what's impressive is not what is left out, but rather what's included. For a Mini-ITX motherboard to have a full PCI-E x16 slot, a decent amount of phase units, and use solid capacitors throughout the CPU area is impressive.

In terms of appearance, ECS has decided to go with function over style. For this reason the H55H-I comes with a very basic color scheme. This includes the use a green PCB with the expansion slots being orange, yellow and red. Black is also used throughout the board and is found in some of the phase units as well as the passively cooled heatsink that cools the H55 Chipset.

 

 

The CPU area on the board is a little tight as it sits in close proximity to both the PCI-E x16 slot and memory DIMMs. The should not be an issue for those using SFF cases though as large heatsinks wouldn't fit in the case anyway. The socket type used is a Foxconn LGA1156 that supports Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors. Like with all H55 based motherboards there are video options found on the back panel that require the use of a processor with a built-in IGP. This does make for some versatility as this board can be used in ways that are beneficial to home theater users with the built-in IGP of the Core i3/15 line. It can also be set up to be a powerful system for multipurpose users with the i7 series processor. Directly to the left of the socket are four phase units with two additional units above. These are used to regulate the voltage to the CPU, IGP and memory controller. The amount of phases units found on the H55H-I are good for the boards size, but it might not be able to produce the overclocking headroom of a motherboard with a stronger voltage regulation area.

The ECS H55H-I comes with two red DIMM slots that support 1066/1333MHz dual-channel DDR3 memory with a max capacity of 8GB. The use of two memory slots over four could be a draw back for some users, but it will still be more than enough for HTPC users especially when each slot can use up to 4GB. The voltage supplied to the memory slots is 1.5V by default.

 

 

The rear expansion area of the ECS H55H-I shows that at least in this area no compromises were made. With an HDMI port, DVI port, VGA port, eSATA port, LAN, Coaxial SPDIFO port, Optical S/PDIF port, 8-channel audio ports and six USB 2.0 ports this board is quite capable when it comes to expansion. However, the same cannot be said for the rear expansion slots as the size of the board only allows for one slot. Many Mini-ITX boards use a standard PCI slot. So, the fact that ECS has included a PCI-E x16 slot that is fully compatible with the PCI-E 2.0 standard is an added bonus. With the option to install an add-on discrete graphics card and support for core i7 processors, the H55H-I could be a very strong gaming board despite its small size.

 

 

The top portion of the H55H-I includes the expansion options that are usually found at the bottom of mATX and larger motherboards. The options here are four SATA II ports, two USB headers, the front panel headers as well as the clear CMOS jumpers. The four SATA II ports are run directly though the H55 chipset. Unfortunately, this means the board will be void of any RAID options. The headers used on the H55H-I will allow for additional expansion and should be more than enough for users of small form factor cases. In addition to the USB 2.0 and front panel headers, the H55H-I also has a front audio header and S/PDIF which are both found on the other side of the board.

To power the board, ECS has included a main 24-pin ATX power connector and a 4-pin +12V power connector. The use of a 4-pin connector in place of an 8-pin connector and a good, but not great, VRM might reduce the overclocking potential. This is typically not the type of board that is picked for its overclocking headroom though.

 

With a Mini-ITX form factor, the ECS H55H-I could be a great option for HTPC users. This board has a retail price of $79.99, but can be found for as low as $64.99 with mail-in rebates.

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.

Closer Look (ECS H57H-MUS):

The ECS H57H-MUS is part of the Black Series and as such it comes packaged in a mostly black box with a menacing dragon on the front. Surrounding the image of the dragon ECS has listed the model name, support and some of the features of the motherboard with the largest icon being one that highlights the included USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 add-on expansion cards. On the back of the packaging there are images of the motherboard and expansion cards. Below the images of the add-on cards you will find an explanation of how the new technologies are faster than the previous versions and why they are beneficial to the end-user. To the right of these are five listed features of the motherboard and a short description of how each is used. What is listed is the use of a graphic sensor, Dual Giga LAN ports with teaming, Qooltech III cooling solutions, HDMI/DVI connections and Intelligent power saving technologies.

The inner packaging of the ECS H57H-MUS box has a few layers with the add-on cards on the top, the motherboard in the middle and the accessories at the bottom. To protect the USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 cards from damage they are wrapped in an antistatic bag and secured into the upper layer of the packaging. With these out the next layer houses the motherboard which also comes wrapped in an antistatic bag. After you have remove the motherboard the cardboard insert slides out, allowing access to the accessories that are found at the bottom of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ECS H57H-MUS comes with a mATX form factor that has a nice layout and uses ECS's Qooltech III dual-pipe heatsink to cool the MOSFET. With the use of a cooler on the voltage regulation area, the ECS H57H-MUS should maintain a low operating temperature even while overclocking. The heatsink is large and with its close proximity to the CPU bracket there could be spacing issues with aftermarket coolers. Other than this though the layout is very spacious which will allow for easy installation of add-on components. As for the design, ECS uses the standard color scheme of the Black Series motherboards. This includes a black PCB with red, yellow and orange throughout the expansion slots. Also, because of the board's series, ECS uses all solid capacitors throughout the entire PCB and an 8-pin 12V power connector in place of the 4-pin connectors found on entry-level ECS boards.

The ECS H57H-MUS, like the ASUS motherboard, uses the H57 chipset. The H57 is still a single chip solution and for the most part it is identical to its H55 counterpart. They both use the same architecture and share many of the same features, but there are a few small differences. The most noticeable of these is that the H57 comes with optional support for Intel® Rapid Storage Technology, which allows for native RAID support though the on-board H57 chip. Other than this, the differences are very small and mainly deal with additional peripheral expansion support. So, since RAID is the only technology that really separates the two chips in terms of performance, this board, when used at stock, should perform at the same level as the H55 models in the roundup.

 

 

The CPU area on the ECS H57H-MUS comes with a very robust VRM area that uses all solid capacitors, nine phase units with a 3+2+1 design and all solid ferrite core chokes. To ensure that this area is properly cooled even during extreme situations, ECS uses its very efficient dual heat-pipe Qooltech III cooler. ECS has been using this design on a few of its recently release Black Series motherboards and it is a design I tend to like in both style and function. The CPU socket is made by Foxconn and supports all LGA1156 Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors types.

Next to the CPU area are the four memory DIMM slots that work in a dual-channel configuration. These slots have a max capacity of 16GB of memory allowing for up to 4GB to be installed in each memory slot. The memory slots, like the other ECS boards, support speeds of up to 1333MHz, but will have the ability to scale higher as long as you use the 1333MHz memory multiplier and raise the speed by adjusting the CPU base clock. Also, like the other motherboards, these DIMMS are set to 1.5V by default. This setting will need to be adjusted if you use memory that has a higher power requirement. One thing to note about this board is that the memory slots were not color coded correctly and when I installed the memory in the orange DIMMS they would only run in single-channel mode. This was fixed by moving one of the sticks into a yellow slot and once this was done the memory was set to dual-channel. This is said to be an issue with the review samples only and the retail version of the board should have the memory setup in an orange/yellow configuration as opposed to the orange/orange one shown.

 

 

The rear expansion area of the ECS H55H-MUS is packed with more USB 2.0 ports and video options than most users would need. This is just how we like it though! This includes a DVI port, VGA port, HDMI port, eSATA port, Dual Giga LAN ports, Optical S/PDIF output, five audio jacks and eight USB 2.0 ports. Again, to use the rear video options on the back panel, a processor with an integrated graphics unit must be used. To make sure there is no confusion as to whether or not your chip does come with a IGP, ECS has employed a on-board Graphics Processing Sensor (GPS). The function of this sensor is simple. If you have a processor with a built-in IGP an LED light will glow green and if there's no IGP it will glow red. The LED lights are found just above the PCI-E x16 slot. Another feature that ECS has included on the back panel allows the Dual Giga LAN port to use a technology called teaming. This will allow dual LAN connection to act as one for double the bandwidth.

For add-on card expansion the ECS H57H-USB again delivers. With PCI-E x16, PCI-E x1, PCI-E x4 and standard PCI slots, this board should be able to handle HTPC and mainstream users' needs with ease. Since the H55/H57 chipsets support 16 lanes for a single card solution the PCI-E x16 slot will be able to run at full bandwidth. Just below the PCI-E x16 slot is an on-board diagnostics LED that goes though a series of codes from the initial start to the final post. Diagnostics tools like this are great to have when your system fails to boot, but ECS has placed the LED in a location that will be covered when using a dual-slot graphics card. Also, there was no listing of the codes in the manual so they will not be readily available.

 

 

Like most motherboards, the expansion headers are found on the bottom of the PCB and once again ECS has included plenty of options to choose from. The included options along the bottom of the board consist of a front audio header, S/PDIF out header, fan connector, power/reset buttons, CASE open header, front USB 2.0 headers and the front panel headers. Again, this is a decent amount of expansion and the use of on-board power and reset switches is very beneficial to DIY system-builders. The SATA ports are found at the lower right portion of the board and positioned at a 90° angle. With the ports being at this angle, they will still be usable even when a large dual-slot graphics card is installed. Also, since this board uses the H57 and not a H55 chipset it comes with support for RAID 0/1/5/10.

Another nice feature that is included on this board is a small red CMOS Reset button. This button is located just below the 24-pin power connector and is a huge time saver when your system freezes from corrupt settings or excessive overclocking.

 

To support the latest USB and SATA technologies, ECS has included an SATA 6Gb/s card and a USB 3.0 add-on card, both of which utilize the PCI-E x1 interface allowing them to be placed in the rear expansion slots. Once in place, you simply insert the data cable into the port on the card and it will work no differently than as if it was integrated onto the motherboard itself.

 

 

As part of the Black Series the H57H-MUS is very well designed and rich in features, but at $149.99 it is more expensive than the H55 based motherboards. Still, it's $50 less than the ASUS EVO.

The BIOS used by the Gigabyte H55M-USB3 motherboard is a version of the Award BIOS which comes with an extremely easy to use interface. The Award BIOS can make simple changes such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time.  It can also make more complicated changes, such as adjustments to a processors clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.

 

The Main Menu:

The first screen you will see when entering the BIOS is the main menu screen. From here you can make a selection to enter a sub-menu where you can make changes to the settings of the motherboard. These options are MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.), Standard CMOS Features, Advanced BIOS Features, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management Setup, PC Health Status, Load Fail-Safe Defaults, Load Optimized defaults, Set Supervisor Password, Set User Password, Save & Exit and Exit without Without Saving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

MB Intelligent Tweaker(M.I.T.)

The MB Intelligent Tweaker is where all the overclocking is done. The layout from within the main screen of the M.I.T. menu is very user friendly and in place of just having a long list of changeable options you instead have a list of five categories to chose from. These include M.I.T. Current Status, Advanced Frequency settings, Advanced Memory settings, Advanced Voltage settings and Miscellaneous settings. Each category brings up a sub-menu that give you a host of options that will allow you to make changes to the system..

 

 

Standard CMOS Features:

The Standard CMOS Features is where you can locate IDE or SATA drives that are connected to the system as well as set parameters for the A: drive.

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

The BIOS Features let you make changes such as a first boot device, enable the on-board VGA, and set the way the first display of the board initializes.

 

Integrated Peripherals:

From this page you can make changes to built-in peripherals included with the motherboard. These peripherals include the SATA, USB, LAN, Serial ports, and others.

 

 

Power Management Setup:

The Power Management page is where changes to the power management operations are made. Here you can change the ACPI Suspend Type and choose which device can resume your system operations.

 

PC Health Status:

The PC Health Status is where you can monitor system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. You can also make simple changes such as enable system warning temperatures and make changes to the smart fan controller.

Closer Look:

The BIOS used by the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO motherboard uses a version of the AMI BIOS which comes with a look that is unique to ASUS.  The AMI BIOS can make simple changes such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time.  It can also make more complicated changes, such as adjustments to a processors clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.

 

Main:

The main section is the first part of the BIOS that you come to when you start up into it. In this section you can control the date and time for the system, the drives and storage configurations for AHCI or RAID, and you can view the system information such as the BIOS version, processor model and speed, and the memory size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced:

The Advanced section has a lot going on that you can change. This is where you can change the CPU configuration such as enabling C1E support, Hardware Prefetcher, Adjust Cache Line Prefetch and set a Max CPUID Value Limit. In the Advanced section are also the video controls you can also make changes to the on-board devices such as the USB functions or selecting the primary video device whether it be the on-board video or a discrete card.

 

 

 

Power:

The power menu allows the user to monitor your CPU and motherboard temperatures, fan speeds as well as see real-time voltage readings.

 

 

Boot:

The Boot section is where you select the boot priority and boot configuration such as Quick Boot, Logo selection, error messages, and also assign or remove the BIOS and system passwords to protect your system.

 

 

 

Tools:

The tools section is where you can control additional features of the board such as flashing the BIOS using the ASUS EZ Flash 2 utility, you can enable the Express Gate feature and reset the data to defaults if needed, you can load or save overclocking profiles using the ASUS O.C. Profile section, and you can test the LAN connection using the AI Net 2 utility.

 

 

 

 

Ai Tweaker:

The Ai Tweaker section is the menu where the user has the option to adjust the systems settings for enhanced performance. If you have used any ASUS board over the past few years this section should be very familiar. In this section, you can adjust the CPU speeds, system multipliers, memory dividers, and more. You can control the voltages for everything from the CPU to the chipset and memory. Additional options in this menu consist of DRAM timings, PCI-E frequency and HT Link speed. Also in this menu is the Intel SpeedStep option. This is a technology is a hardware based utility that can increase the performance of your CPU by automatically adjusting the clock speed during operation. This option should be disabled while overclocking to ensure the CPU does not exceed the maximum stable overclocked speed.

 

 

 

The BIOS used in the ECS motherboards is an extremely user friendly version of American Megatrends Inc, or AMI BIOS. The AMI BIOS can make simple changes such as setting a first boot device or changing the system date and time. But it can also make more complicated changes, such as altering a processors clock speed or setting specific timings for your memory. The changes made in the BIOS affect the overall system performance and stability.

 

Standard CMOS Setup:

The first screen you will see when entering the BIOS is the main menu screen. Here you will find a list of menus that when selected will bring you to a new screen and give you a host of options to choose from. The first one of these is Standard CMOS Setup, which is is where you will adjust the date and time and get drive information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Setup:

The Advanced Setup page lets you change some of the more advanced options of the system such as disable EIST. You can also change your boot devices and for those that are using the eJIFFY utility, this is the area of the BIOS that will need to be accessed to enable eJIFFY before use.

 

 

Advanced Chipset Setup & Integrated Peripherals:

The Advanced Chipset Setup page where you can enable or disable the HDMI audio and make adjustments to the overlapped PCI memory. The Integrated Peripheral screen is where you can set parameters to peripherals connected to the system. Here you have access to the IDE and SATA controllers, as well as Audio, LAN, and Legacy USB features.

 

Power Management:

The Power Management page is where changes to the power management operations are made. Here you can change the ACPI Suspend Type and choose which device can resume your system operations.

 

 

PCI/PnP Setup / PC Health Status:

The PCI/PnP page is where you can make changes to the to devices that are installed on the PCI bus. The PC Health Status is where you can monitor system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. Here you can also set a shut-down temperature in case the CPU or System gets too hot, as well change settings to the SMART Fan Controller.

 

 

M.I.B. III (Motherboard Intelligent BIOS III)/ Frequency Voltage Control:

The M.I.B. III is the BIOS page where all the overclocking options for the ECS H57H-MUS is handled and the Frequency Voltage Control panel is the menu used for both the H55H-I and H55H-CM boards. Both menus have the same basic layout and really just have a few options that separate them. In each menu you will be able to make adjustments to the overclock the CPU and memory. The biggest difference I found between the overclocking options between the boards was that the H55H-CM does not include the ability to manually change the voltage level of any part of the system. However, the other two ECS board did have voltage control which will increase the overclocking abilities.

 

 

Specifications:

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor/ Intel® Core™ i3 series processor in the LGA1156 package (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU
Chipset
Intel® H55 Express Chipset   
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2200+/1800/1600/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
* To reach DDR3 2200 MHz and above, you are required to use with Intel Core i7/Core i5 CPU without HD Graphics and install a discrete graphics card.
When using Intel Core i5/Core i3/ Pentium CPU with HD Graphics, the maximum memory speed supported is 1666 MHz
* Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest memory support list.
Onboard Graphics
Integrated in the Chipset:
  1. 1 x D-Sub port
  2. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 3) (Note 4)
  3. 1 x HDMI port(Note 4)
  4. 1 x DisplayPort (Note 4)
Audio
  1.             Realtek ALC889 codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby® Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
 
LAN
 RTL8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16) (Note 5)
    (The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x1 (PCIEX4_X1)
  3. 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interface
Chipset:
  1. 5 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0, SATA2_1, SATA2_2, SATA2_3, SATA2_4) supporting up to 5 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s connector on the back panel supporting up to 1 SATA 3Gb/s device
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_5, GSATA2_6) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
iTE IT8720 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
 
USB
Chipset:
  1. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 on the back panel (Note 7), 6 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
NEC D720200F1 chip:
  1. Up to 2 USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
 
IEEE 1394
T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  1. Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 7 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 1 x system fan headers
  8. 1 x front panel header
  9. 1 x front panel audio header
  10. 1 x CD In connector
  11. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  12. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  13. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  14. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  15. 1 x serial port header
  16. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
 
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse port
  2. 1 x D-Sub port (Note 2)
  3. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 2) (Note 3) (Note 4)
  4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 1 x HDMI port (Note 2) (Note 4)
  6. 1 x DisplayPort (Note 2) (Note 4)
  7. 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (Note 7)
  8. 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  9. 1 x IEEE 1394a port
  10. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s connector
  11. 1 x RJ-45 port
  12. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/ Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
 
I/O Controller
iTE IT8720 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control (Note 8)
 
BIOS
  1.             2 x 64 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
 
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
  9. Support for Smart 6™
  10. Support for Auto Green
  11. Support for Q-Share
 
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
 
Operating System
Support for Microsoft® Windows 7/Vista/XP
Form Factor
Micro ATX Form Factor; 24.4cm x 24.4cm
Remark
  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.
 
Note
(Note 1) Due to Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
(Note 2) To use the onboard DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D, and D-Sub ports, you must install an Intel CPU with integrated graphics.
(Note 3) The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
(Note 4) You can use only one of the onboard digital graphics ports (e.g. DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D) for output when in the BIOS Setup program or when during the POST screens.
(Note 5) For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
(Note 7) Two share the same ports with USB 3.0.
(Note 8) Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/system cooler you install.
(Note 9) Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Gigabyte @ http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=3450

Specifications:

CPU
Intel® Socket 1156 Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/ Pentium® Processor
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
* The Intel Turbo Boost Technology support depends on the CPU types.
** Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Chipset
Intel® H57 Express Chipset
Memory
4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)*/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
*Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs. Some hyper DIMMs only support one DIMM per channel. Please refer to Memory QVL for details.
**Refer to www.asus.com or this user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified Vendors Lists).
Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1 (5GT/s, blue slot)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 (2.5GT/s, gray slots)
2 x PCI
*Dual x8 mode is only supported by Intel non-Integrated graphics (Lynnfield) processors. For more detail please visit www.Intel.com
VGA
Multi-VGA output support: HDMI, DVI-D, RGB
Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536@75Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB
Multi-GPU Support
Supports ATI® Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
*SLI™ and CrossFireX™ mode are available only for Intel non-iIntegrated graphics (Lynnfield) processors.
Storage
Intel® H57 Express Chipset built-in
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
Marvell® SATA 6Gb/s controller:
- 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (gray)
Marvell® 88SE6111 SATA & PATA controller:
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 for up to 2 PATA devices
- 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port (SATA on-the-go)
LAN
Realtek® 8112L Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET2
Audio
Realtek® ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Absolute Pitch BD192/24
- DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC
- BD audio layer Content Protection
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
IEEE 1394
VIA® 6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a port(s) (one at mid-board; one at back panel)
USB
NEC® USB 3.0 controller:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports (blue; at back panel)
Intel® H57 Express Chipset:
- 12 x USB 2.0 ports (8 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
ASUS Unique Features
Unique PCIe X4 Bridge Chip for Ultra Performance
- True USB 3.0 Support
- True SATA 6Gb/s Support
ASUS Xtreme Design:
ASUS Hybrid Processor - TurboV EVO
- TurboV, Auto Tuning, CPU Level UP and Turbo Key
- GPU Boost
ASUS 12 Hybrid Phase*
- T.Probe Technology for Active Cooling
- 8+3 Phase Power Design
* 12 Hybrid Phase = 8+3 Phase x T.Probe
ASUS Hybrid OS - Express Gate
ASUS Xtreme Design
ASUS Exclusive Features
- MemOK!
- ASUS EPU
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stylish Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stack Cool 3
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS Crystal Sound
- ASUS Noise Filter
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 2
- Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
Overclocking Features
Precision Tweaker 2
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.00625V increment
- vIMC: 128-step IMC voltage control
- vDRAM Bus: 64-step DRAM voltage control
- vPCH: 152-step chipset voltage control
- vCPU_PLL: 32-step reference voltage control
- iGPU: Adjustable iGPU voltage at 0.0125V increment
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 200MHz at 1MHz increment
- Internal Base Clock tuning from 80MHz up to 500MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x HDMI
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x PS/2 Keyboard (Purple)
1 x External SATA 3Gb/s
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
Internal I/O Connectors
4 x USB connectors support additional 8 USB ports
1 x IDE connector
1 x COM port connector
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors
6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector
2 x Chassis Fan connector (1x4-pin, 1x3-pin)
1 x Power Fan connector
1 x IEEE1394a connector
Front panel audio connector
1 x S/PDIF Out Header
24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System Panel(Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button
BIOS
64 Mb Flash ROM , AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Manageability
WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE
Accessories
User's manual
2 in 1 Q-connector
1 x UltraDMA 133/100 cable
2 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s cables
2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s cables
1 x 2-port USB and eSATA module
1 x ASUS SLI bridge connector
ASUS Q-Shield
Support Disc
Drivers
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
ASUS Utilities
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=CadI5xNLwMYopFyJ&templete=2

Specifications:

CPU
LGA1156 socket for latest new Core i5/Core i3 Clarkdale high-end desktop processors
 
DMI 2.5GT/s
LGA1156 socket for latest Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 high-end desktop processors
 
DMI 2.5GT/s
LGA1156 socket for latest Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 high-end desktop processors
 
DMI 2.5GT/s
CHIPSET
Intel® H55 Express Chipset
 Intel® H55 Express Chipset
Intel® H57 Express Chipset
MEMORY
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
 
2 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 8 GB
 
Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
 
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16GB
 
Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
 
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16GB
 
Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
EXPANSION SLOT
1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot
 
 
1 x PCI Express x16 slot
 
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
 
1 x PCI slot
1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot
 
1 x PCI Express x4 slot
 
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
 
1 x PCI slot
STORAGE
Support by Intel® H55
    • 4 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
    • 1 x eSATA
Support by Intel® H55
    • 6 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
Support by Intel® H57
    • 6 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
º Support by JMicron® JMB360    • 1 x eSATA
AUDIO
Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
 
Compliant with HD audio specification
Realtek ALC662 6-channel HD audio CODEC
 
Realtek ALC888 8-channel HD Audio codec (Optional)
Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
 
Compliant with HD audio specification
LAN
Realtek RTL8111DL Gigabit Lan
 
Dual RealTek 8111DL Gigabit Fast Ethernet with Teaming
REAR PANEL I/O
º 1 x D-sub(VGA)
º 1 x HDMI Port
º 1 x DVI Port
º 1 x RJ45 LAN connector
º 1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
º 2 x Digital SPDIF (Optical & Coaxial) out
º 1 x SPDIF out connector
º 1 x eSATA
º 6 x USB ports
º 1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
º 6 x USB ports
º 1 x RJ45 LAN connector
º 1 x Audio port
º 1 x LPT port
º 1 x VGA port
º 1 x D-sub(VGA)
º 1 x HDMI Port
º 1 x DVI Port
º 2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
º 1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
º 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
º 1 x eSATA
º 8 x USB ports
INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
º 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 x 4-pin 12V Connector
º 1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
º 1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
º 1 x Speaker header
º 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
º 1 x Front panel audio header
º 1 x SPDIF out header
º 4 x SATAII 3Gb/s connectors
º 2 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 4 USB Ports
º 1 x Clear CMOS header
º 1 x Chassis intrusion header
º 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V connector
º 1 x CPU_FAN connector
º 1 x PWR_FAN connector
º 1 x SYS Fan header
º 1 x FDD connector
º 6 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors
º 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
º 1 x Front panel audio header
º 3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
º 1 x Case open header
º 1 x TPM header
º 1 x Buzzer
º 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
º 1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
º 1 x 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
º 1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
º 1 x Power on button
º 1 x Reset button
º 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
º 1 x Front panel audio header
º 1 x SPDIF out header
º 1 x Clear CMOS button
º 1X Power on LED (Green light)
º 1X Stand by LED (Red Light)
º 6 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors
º 3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
º 1 X onboard Buzzer
º 1 x Chassis intrusion header
SYSTEM BIOS
º AMI BIOS with 64Mb SPI Flash ROM
º Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º F11 hot key for boot up devices option
º Support over-clocking
º ECS eJIFFY utility
º AMI BIOS with 16Mb SPI Flash ROM
º Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Supports ACPI & DMI
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º F11 hot key for boot up devices option
º Support Page Up clear CMOS Hotkey
º Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
 AMI BIOS with 64Mb SPI Flash ROM
º Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º F11 hot key for boot up devices option
º Support over-clocking
º Support eJIFFY
º Support ECS M.I.B III Utility
FORM FACTOR
 Mini ITX 170x170mm
Micro-ATX Size, 244mm*244mm
 Micro-ATX Size, 244mm*244mm

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1090&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=15&LanID=9

Testing:

Testing is the only way to prove whether or not one motherboard is better than the others when it comes down to performance. Some groups like all the whiz-bang features, while the hardcore enthusiasts just want good solid reliable performance. To find out which one gives that last little bit of clock speed, or has the right options in the BIOS, means you have to test the motherboards out one at a time. Quite an arduous task when you get down to it, but it's the only way. To test out this combination of motherboards, I will be running them through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks. The only deviations from the default BIOS settings will be that the energy saving features as well as Turbo technology are disabled so that the motherboard can be tested with a measure of repeatability. The video card control panel settings are left at factory defaults except where noted. Since each motherboard company has its own design philosophy it will be interesting to see which of the designs wins out.

Testing Setup i5:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Gigabyte H55M-USB3:

Overclocked settings:

The Gigabyte H55M-USB3 produced a very strong overclock of 4.5GHz, with the ability to boot into Windows at 4.6GHz. This is not too shabby as most of the Intel 661 processors seem to max out around the 4.3GHz. Also since the H55M-USB3 supports memory rated at 1666MHz it had no issues overclocking the memory by using the highest rated multiplier. In the end the memory reached 1800MHz and could have scaled even higher, but I did have to loosen the timings from 8-8-8-24 to 9-9-9-28 to maintain stability.

 

ASUS P7H57D-V EVO:

Overclocked settings:

The ASUS board like the Gigbayte was able to reach the 4.5GHz mark. This is thanks to the very robust VRM area that uses high quality components and a 8+3 phase design. Since this board supports memory up to DDR3 2100MHz OC there are no memory limitations, so while overclocking I did not have to scale the memory back in order to achieve the highest possible clock on the CPU. This allowed me to push the BCLK as high as I possible before having to adjust the memory frequency. Also, the voltage required was less than what was needed by the Gigabyte board. When looking at the images the voltage reading in CPU-Z are all over the map so please disregard them.

 

ECS H55H-I:

Overclocked settings:

For an entry level motherboard the ECS H55H-I did a great job overclocking and this was despite a relatively weak VRM area and only using a 4-pin 12V power connector. So, the fact that the board was able to surpass the 4GHz mark was impressive. The overclock was done using the base clock to adjust the clock speed and by leaving the memory multiplier at the 1333 setting. Leaving the memory at this setting was something that had to be done with all the ECS motherboards for them to boot past the 1333MHz mark. Even when using the board at speeds if I would attempt to use the 1600MHz memory setting in the BIOS the board would not post. Really this is not a huge loss though as the difference between memory running at 1600MHz as opposed to 1800MHz is very minimal.

 

ECS H55H-CM:

Overclocked settings:

With the ECS H55H-CM being an entry level offering I was not expecting a large overclock and in the end the results were dead on with my initial thought. With this processor being able to achieve a 4.5GHz overclock when paired with the Gigabyte board to now only be able to reach 3.75GHz in the H55H-CM was disappointing to say the least. This was in large part due there being no voltage control options in the BIOS. The processor was not the only part effected though as I had to scale the memory settings back as well. The set I used requires 1.65V to run at DDR3 1600MHz with timings of 8-8-8-24. In this board with no voltage options they were not able to even reach the 1600MHz mark and when used at lower speeds still needed loose timings to remain stable. I can't say that it is entirely due to the voltage though as all other boards tested could reach higher clock speeds than this one before voltage tweaking was required.

 

ECS H57H-MUS:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the ECS H57H-MUS was very easy and it was actually able to achieve a very respectable clock increase. However, like the ECS boards the max memory support is 1333MHz so to reach speeds that are beyond that the memory multiplier must be left at the 1333 setting and then you adjust the frequencies using the base clock. In the end this allowed the processor to reach 4.27GHz, but due to the memory limitations of the board it was only able to scale to 1710MHz. However, I was able to use the stock timings at this speed and not the higher settings that are required after the memory reaches the 1800+ mark.

 

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each CPU has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using Prime95. To gauge the maximum stability level each processor had to be able to perform at least a one hour run through without any errors.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. 3DMark 06 Professional
  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. Additionally, I will use the built in benchmark as a comparison.

 

ZIP:

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

 

In both Apophysis and WinRAR the results were almost identical for the Gigabyte H55M-USB3, Asus P7H57D-V EVO, ECS H57H-MUS and H55H-I. The same couldn't be said for the H55H-CM though as its performance was behind all the other boards. The lower performance level of the H55H-CM is likely to be a trend we continue to see due to the reduced memory frequency.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that 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 (Symetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

 

 

Higher Is Better

 

PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

 

In Excel Big Number Crunch the decrease in performance from the H55H-CM is again noticeable. POV Ray is a different story though and even with the reduced memory speed all the boards performed at the same level. This was also true for PCMark Vantage x64 and again, all the motherboards had similar performance, but it was the Asus P7H57D-V EVO that came out on top.


 

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

 

 

 

File System

 

 

 

Physical Disks

 

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 


In the processor and hard drive tests all five motherboards had very similar performance, but the ECS H55H-CM just couldn't match the memory performance of the other boards.

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 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

 

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

 

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Sciencemark and CineBench are both tests where the reduced memory speed does't seem to be a factor as all the boards performed well. Once overclocked though it was the Asus P7H57D-V EVO that yielded the largest performance gains. The HD Tune results were also very similar, but this is to be expected because all tests were performed on the same chipset.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only difference between the boards is seen at the lowest resolution with the Asus P7H57D-V EVO being 5+ FPS ahead of the other boards. However, once the resolution is raised this corrects itself and all the boards have the same performance.

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, we are seeing the ASUS board performing better than the others at 1280x1024, but that gap is closed once the resolution is increased.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, 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 ply your trade.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman Arkham Asylum, just like the gaming benchmarks before, it shows that all the H55/H57 boards when paired with a strong graphics card are all very capable of high frames-per-second.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark06 is getting a little old, but it is still a great benchmark to gauge a product's DX9 gaming performance. In this test the Asus P7H57D-V EVO was ahead of the others by a rather wide margin. Overclocking yielded the same type of results as the Asus P7H57D-V EVO was the strongest performer.

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 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark Vantage is another test that the Asus P7H57D-V EVO outperformed the other models in all but the Extreme run.

Conclusion:

With very little separating the H55 and H57 chipsets it is hard to recommend one of these products over another. All come packed with good performance, plenty of features and a price that reflects their positioning in the market. So ultimately it comes down to your specific needs and budget. Below we are going to take an individual look at each board so you can better see which one might best fit your needs.

Gigabyte H55M-UBB3:

The Gigabyte H55M-USB3 was one of the motherboards that really impressed me during the roundup. It uses an mATX form factor and a very reasonable retail price. But still manages to include a high quality VRM that allowed me to overclock very well. In fact, this board was able to increase the Intel 661 processors core frequency up to 4.5GHz, which was only duplicated by one other motherboard in the roundup. It was also the only H55 motherboard to support memory beyond 1333MHz and come with an on-board chips for RAID and USB 3.0 support. These all made this board stand out, but perhaps best of all is that it retails for just over $100. This places the board nicely in the mainstream making it a strong option for any HTPC or budget gaming rig.

 

ASUS P7H57D-V EVO:

The ASUS P7H57D-V EVO is the most feature package motherboard in the roundup and as such it has the highest price point. However, when looking at all the features that this board offers it is hard to say that it's not worth it. This is the only board that comes with on-board SATA 3.0 ports for super faster transfer speeds of 6Gb/s. It also comes with amazing overclocking headroom and the ability to run both CrossFireX and SLI when using a Lynnfield processor. Additionally, this board has the best 3D performance out of all of the boards in the roundup. During the testing process it was this model that continuously achieved the highest frames per second and had the best results in 3D benchmarking programs. So really, there is very little to dislike about this board and all its high-end features should make it very appealing to gamers and enthusiasts.

 

ECS H55H-I:

For being such a small board the H55H-I packed quite a punch. This isn't to say that the board comes with all the bells and whistles of the more expensive models because it doesn't, but it has it where it counts, performance. This board was able to keep up with the more expensive motherboards at stock and even though it couldn't reach the same overclocking results as the Gigabyte and ASUS boards, it did clock the Intel 661 beyond 4GHz. Not too bad for a board that uses the Mini-ITX form factor. So not only do you get great performance but you get it in a board that can fit into virtually any SFF case. Also, since ECS has eliminated many of the high-end features, this board retails for a very affordable $79.99, making it an amazing choice for HTPC builders looking for a solid performer.

 

ECS H55H-CM:

The ECS H55H-CM is an entry-level offering and in terms of performance and features it shows. This is not to say this is not a capable motherboard, but during our testing it did not perform at the same level as the others. This was due to a total lack of voltage options. Without the ability to change the DRAM voltage I couldn't get my DDR3 memory to run at stock settings and as such the performance suffered. This was again true when it came to overclocking. With no way to adjust the voltage level of the processor this board was only capable of a very weak overclock, allowing the other boards to leave it in the dust. Though all of this is to be expected as this board isn't a product that is geared toward the high-end market. It is a mainstream offering and it has features that reflect that. Also, with a retail price of $75.99 it might be easy to overlook the drawbacks and accept this product for what it is: a very capable board that will get you decent results at an affordable price.

 

No Award

 

ECS H57H-MUS:

The ECS H57H-MUS was a one of two motherboards in the roundup that uses that H57 chipset. Even though there is not a large difference between the H57 and H55, it does offer the end-user the ability to use RAID, which can increase the performance of your system. Additionally, this board offers expansion cards that add support for USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 technologies. So you get more feautres than most mainstream users will need, good performance and decent overclocking potential. All of this makes this a great overall package that is well worth the $149.99 retail price.