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Budget Computing: Nine H55 And H57 Motherboards Compared

When asked to provide its best features-for-the-money motherboard, ECS surprised us by sending a mini-ITX unit. Short on size, but par for the course with regard to features, the H55H-I supports up to two monitors from its HDMI, DVI, and VGA connectors. It also offers eSATA, and both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs.

Anyone who’s ever wondered why so many mini-ITX cases have dual slots when the motherboards support only a single card need look only at the H55H-I’s PCIe x16 2.0 slot, an interface that can support even the fastest graphics cards. Finding a high-capacity power supply to fit those small cases becomes the biggest challenge in building an ultra-portable gaming PC.

Yet, we know that AMD’s DTX standard is the real reason why cases such as Silverstone’s Sugo SG05 have two slots, and crowding around the CPU socket makes us wish the larger “tiny” standard had prevailed. Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 performance CPU cooler still fits the H55H-I in standard orientation with memory modules up to 35mm tall.

It’s difficult to criticize the H55H-I layout without suggesting alternatives that simply don’t exist. The mini-ITX form factor leaves no room at the front edge, so builders who need something a little smaller than microATX are often forced to live VIA’s dream, regardless of its limitations.

BIOS Features

Overclocking settings might be the most surprising feature of ECS’ H55H-I, with voltage and frequency limits that probably exceed the capabilities of any component that fits into such a small area.

Setting the performance level to Enhanced reveals the CPU ratio setting, but prevents the system from booting. Putting aside that little BIOS glitch, we were able to use the full range of DRAM timings, adjust CPU base clock, and set reliable voltage levels for our dual-core processor.


The capacity limits of typical mini-ITX cases removes any reservations we might have otherwise had about the presence of only two SATA cables in its installation kit.

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