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Zotac H55-ITX-A-E Mini-itx socket 1156 - any reviews spotted?

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February 19, 2010 4:43:44 PM

Has anyone seen any reviews of the Zotac H55-itx motherboard yet?

This is the first socket-1156 Mini-ITX motherboard I've seen with integrated video that uses the onboard video processing of the i3 and i5 processors. Supposedly this will have better video performance than the integrated GeForce chips but without an extra chip putting out lots of heat separate from the CPU.

There is the DFI Lanparty MI P55-T36 board but it doesn't have onboard video which makes it unsuitable for how I want to use it; it'd need too much power with an extra video card for the build I want it for.

I've seen it onhand in Japan and Germany and it's available for preorder at Amazon.com but I was hoping some reviewers would get boards to test before they show up in stock at Newegg, etc.
February 28, 2010 4:09:36 PM

I ran across this thread today, seems to be working ok so far from what they have experinced.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1228504

My MB should arrive tomorrow and I'll start assembling it with an i3 530, light on Blue Ray player, and 4 gig of RAM in a Lan Li PC-Q07 case. With only the stock intel cooler it will be interesting to see if heat is a problem. Unlike my earlier attempt I'm going with low heat on this assembly.

My earlier attempt for an HTPC was a bit of a disappointment. I used the DFI MI P55,EVGA GT 240 and a i7 860 with a Corsair H50 cooler, the pwm overheats under any stress test despite the Silverstone case having an intake fan. I had run across another article where they where adding tiny copper heatsinks all over the board including underside to try and tame the heat problem. My thinking is a 4 core CPU is just to much for it.

Later I'll pull the 860 and use it somewhere more appropriate and try an i3. The idea at the time was to assemble a HTPC that could do a bit of gaming on occasion but I should have waited a bit longer for those reviews. Mind here I am buying the Zotac to early perhaps as well, but after assembling a couple i3 530's with gigabyte H57 MB's I was quite happy with the performance of the i3 with the stock cooler and light overclock they run under 45c for me. I know the graphics wont have the performance for gaming but it should be fine as an HTPC, certainly better than the atom/nvidia options. If worst case I can always add a discrete GPU card if it is too limiting.
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February 28, 2010 7:00:18 PM

Thanks for that link, I've been watching that thread too. I used to search every day for new links but I'm satisfied the board is a good one. I'd really like to find a real review but there might not be any until there is another mini-itx socket 1156 board with onboard graphics out; like the Intel board. What I'd like to hear about are more low profile coolers that are used.

The i7 860 might still work with the original case, motherboard and video card if you downclock it or reduce the number of active cores in the bios. A high pressure exhaust fan like a Noctua 120mm that can be constantly run at full speed and still be quiet might improve the cooling on the DFI board with the H50.

The i7 860 has a 95w tdp and the Corsair H50 should be able to handle the cpu cooling. In an HTPC case and with a liquid cooled processor I wouldn't be surprised about the rest of the system heating up. Frequently the cpu cooler is critical in keeping the air moving in an htpc case for more than just the processor. If the cpu wasn't hot the fan might be running at a low speed making airflow in the rest of the case even worse. For HTPC I prefer a low profile cooler that also moves air to the side of the cpu. Personally, I think the PC-Q07 really needs ventilation holes on the top of the case.

You still might be able to get the DFI board, GT 240, and i7 working well in a different case. Perhaps one of the Micro-ATX cases with better cooling where you perhaps wouldn't even need a low profile cooler. You'll probably need to air cool the cpu unless you get a case with much more airflow though. The Antec Mini P180 or even the Silverstone SG06 look pretty good. I'm a big fan of vents at the top of the case for small systems to make better use of convection cooling.

Unfortunately, for the socket 1156 I haven't seen low profile coolers that don't just blow air straight up or down. I'd really like to find one with the fan embedded in the fins that would, in my opinion, provide better airflow around the processor.

I suspect there are more coolers with 1156 brackets that just don't have the docs updated. This Scythe "Shuriken" SCSK-1100, for example, isn't listed as 1156 compatible but the manufacturer site and user comments say it is.

Much of the time I end up trying several coolers and fans on a new build before I'm happy. I plug them in outside of the case just to get an idea how they sound and where the air goes at full power. I rarely use the stock fans for any cooler I get if they can be replaced. I have lots of spare parts. :-p
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February 28, 2010 8:02:38 PM

Actually I did use a Silverstone SG06 case for the DFI p55 / i7 860. The thread originator said DFI actually used the SG06 or 5 as their test bed. I chose the case mainly for the front airflow as I knew that the H50 cpu cooler wouldn't help the rest of the motherboard chipset.

http://www.clunk.org.uk/forums/reviews/28012-dfi-lanpar...

While its commendable the lengths the fellow went to bring the PWM temp under control, should I switch to a downdraft aftermarket CPU cooler it wont help the underside chipset. Even running 2 workers (As apposed to 8) on prime 95 the PWM temp climbs past 60c in a few min with no sign of slowing. To me it will make more sense to switch out the $300 CPU with the $130 i3 and use it elsewhere rather than disable cores/undervolt. It's not a pretty build at this point with the radiator flopped on top of the case but it will be functional ;-).

With the lessons learned on that first HTPC assembly I dropped the idea of a gamer option and that made the Lain Li PC-Q07 for this i3 530/H55 look attractive. Its cheap by Lain Li standards and can use a full height BD drive as well as any ATX PSU. The only I gotcha I can see so far with the case in front of me is the front usb cable will be to short to reach the USB header location from the picture of the Zotac board. I'm not to worried about using the stock cpu cooler on the i3 as the two I have assembled in the past month run cool as a cucumber even with light overclock. I would be real interested if you try the Big Shuriken and or Shuriken, as the extra airflow can't be a bad thing for the rest of the assembly. I have 3" headroom from the MB base to the PSU in this case so its tight but some workroom. I'm going to use standard Kingston ram with no heat sink but sometimes the RAM is still to tall on these low profile overhang heat sinks.

I hear you on extra parts, I have dozens of unused 775/1366 heat sinks here. The extrusions are too cool to throw away, I should fire up the lathe and try my hand making stirling engines out of them ;-)
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February 28, 2010 9:06:31 PM

I'm planning on trying the Big Shuriken so I suppose I'll post pics somewhere when I'm done if it fits the tiny Antec ISK-150 case I'm using. It might not.

I'm using the Kingston ram with no heat spreaders as well. I've read that in some cases those heat spreaders actually trap heat. I have some copper heat spreaders in my spare part pile if I need them. :-)

There's always one of those Koolance liquid coolant bags underneath the motherboard with perhaps some insulating tape over pointy bits. It might be hard to use that in any case you could remotely call htpc though. There isn't even an onboard gpu on that motherboard and there's only one pcie slot so it's bizarre the PWM's overheat that much. Are they made of crappy materials, does the board have bad voltages that are too high, or what?

I'm glad I didn't get the DFI board with this being the case. From the start I wanted to use the new graphics engine built into the same chip as the cpu on the i3/i5 chips and the DFI has no support for that. If I had the dfi board I probably would have gone all OCD on it and built a monster. I probably would have put a copper plate on the case's panel under the motherboard, screwed some copper blocks on to the copper base to reach the pwms, and used Ceramitique on the chips. :kaola:  There was this time I got a bunch of those Vornado super high speed fans and a bigNG controller and made a system you could probably hear while driving by my house.

Also, I hate those adhesive attached heat sinks. I never trust that they won't fall off with the power on.

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February 28, 2010 10:43:06 PM

The original BIOS that shipped with the DFI board was to hot for sure, they posted quickly a downgraded (for voltage options) BIOS early on. My first board let the smoke out after about an hour running, I had let it sit on the bios health page for an half an hour or so, no problems, booted to an Ubuntu disk and it was sitting at idyle for awhile and pop. Needless to say I was very carefull on the second board after RMA. Its got about 40 hours on it, but I don't run it unless I'm in the room. To me unless somehow the folks on that thread and my own experiences are somehow a fluke its simply not well designed, with enough overhead for the 4 core cpu's. When I get the new system running, and downgrade/replace the CPU on it I'll give it to a friend or family member running a five year old eMachine (I have several of those always asking for an upgrade).

I forgot to mention the Lian Li case does have vent holes on the top, top back, back above the MB, back bottom and underside as well as the sides. I could mount the PSU so the fan draws air from the inside although the venting on the side looks to be done for it. With some homemade standoffs I could fit a nice gentletyphoon 120mm fan in there to stir things up, after I have it up and running I'll see how it does on the bench then closed in the case.

While I wasn't after a monster with the 300w PSU in the silverstone case, I did want something a little better than a World of Warcraft system. I still have my i7 920 for for the heavy stuff anyway, it wasn't a need. The Mini boards look like they are swimming in a Micro case thats why I didn't go with the mini P180, I like them I use a P182 for my main system and have assembled a P183 for a friend (that massive one with the big boy fan wart on the side).

RAM heatsinks I agree are for tossers ;-). Seriously I have had more trouble with high end RAM from OCZ, Corsair and others, these days Kingston just works.

I'll be real interested in your experience with the Shuriken. I live a bit east of San Diego and in the summer it gets above 100F.
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