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Budget Computing: Nine H55 And H57 Motherboards Compared

EVGA let the BIOS of its H55 model languish, and the early-revision snag of having no AHCI option put it behind in a few productivity benchmarks. However, after averaging those results with several games and encoding apps, we don’t expect to see a large overall difference.

Asus surprised us today by supplying its P7H55D-M EVO with a nearly perfect 133.4 MHz base clock, yet still matches MSI for a two-way performance lead. EVGA’s lack of AHCI dropped it nearly 2% behind those leaders, but the remaining field fell within 1% of each other.

The prices of each motherboard are spread across a wide spectrum, but buyers must also consider the motherboard’s intended use. We have a few recommendations.

Best for Media Centers: Gigabyte H55M-USB3

Asus’ P7H55D-M EVO and Gigabyte’s H55M-USB3 support the premium feature of USB 3.0 and also have HDMI outputs. Gigabyte offers the better value with its lower price.

The H55M-USB3 also beats Asus for use with graphics riser cards, since its PCIe x16 slot aligns perfectly with the riser card location of many low-profile cases. But perhaps the biggest advantage Gigabyte has over the other USB 3.0-capable product is its lower price, a factor that adds big value to its well-thought-out features.

Best for Compact Gaming: Biostar TH55XE

Several of today’s motherboards had two x16-length PCIe slots, yet none of those x4-bandwidth slots were suitable for CrossFire or SLI. Eliminating that feature from our gaming choices, Biostar’s low-cost and high-overclocking capability make its TH55XE a winner.

Best for Under $100: ASRock H55M-Pro

ASRock’s H55M-Pro supports four memory modules at high data rates, has a pleasing overall layout that should make installation easy within the confines of any microATX case, and boasted good overclocking stability with our dual-core processor in spite of its cooler-less CPU voltage regulator. Maximizing the implementation of “free” features also allows the board to take the lead in two specific low-cost markets:

  • Best for Multi-Monitor Office PC: The H55M-Pro can support two monitors from a processor’s integrated controller in additional to an x16 card in its four-lane slot. Adding monitors while retaining those connected to an integrated graphics engine doesn’t require a special x1 graphics card and users who need something better than integrated graphics for their primary displays can also add a card to its 16-lane slot.
  • Best for Service Replacement/Upgrade: The H55M-Pro supports the parallel port breakout plate required in many service upgrades to interface the security dongles of legacy software.

Best for Mini-ITX Gaming: ECS H55H-I

ECS beats Intel in overclocking, allowing gamers to get an edge in system performance. Coolers as large as Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 fit both it and the Intel board, but Intel’s smaller voltage regulator and lack of CPU voltage adjustment allow ECS to take a clear lead in this larger-than-book-sized market.

Best for Book-Size PC: Intel DH57JG

With six internal USB ports, RAID support, the lowest heat production, and highest energy efficiency, Intel’s DH57JG easily packs the greatest number of features into book-sized cases.

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