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Budget Computing: Nine H55 And H57 Motherboards Compared

Conclusion

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.

  • wintermint
    Nvm, it's on the CPU.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    wintermintDo anyone know how good is the integrated graphics found in these mobos? Can it handle some games?
    It's not on the motherboard, it's on the CPU. Different CPU's have different clock speeds for the GPU. And it can't even play most games, let alone play them smoothly:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-clarkdale-core-i5-661,2514-11.html
    Reply
  • liquidsnake718
    useless... this is just for HD movies and simple web based games, onboard gpus on motherboards are even better than this intel..... i wonder if this was larrabee...... or if larabee will really come to fruitition as I read in a toms article its basically dead.... however i wonder if this was larrabee.....
    Reply
  • anamaniac
    I'm sad to see Quantum Force (Foxconn's enthusiast line, such as the Bloodrage) die.
    At least Foxconn still makes really cheap stuff...

    Honestly though, I'm more interested what's the lowest voltage you can get on stock clocks and DDR3 1066 cas6.
    =)
    Reply
  • dertechie
    wintermintDo anyone know how good is the integrated graphics found in these mobos? Can it handle some games?
    The IGP is integrated into the Clarkdale CPU. I believe it is simply a further evolution of the X4500HD, and can at least now claim to be on rough par with ATI's integrated graphics, assuming that AMD hasn't done much to up the ante in the 800-series chipsets. Check the reviews of the i5-661 and the i3-5x0s. The 661 is the fastest IGP they sell (there's a reason reviewers all got that particular chip), at 900 MHz, the others are clocked at 733 MHz or 533 MHz. No, it can't run Crysis.

    Larrabee is dead, it wasn't worth it to Intel to actually build it. The project isn't dead, but Larrabee Mk I will never see mass production silicon.
    Reply
  • enzo matrix
    Why do you guys only ever compare P55 and P57 boards? What about AM3? Or even 775 and AM2+?
    Reply
  • anamaniac
    wintermintDo anyone know how good is the integrated graphics found in these mobos? Can it handle some games?
    http://techgage.com/article/overclocking_intels_core_i5-661/1

    Intel i5-661.
    CPU at 4.3GHz. IGP at 1133MHz. Both are at stock clocks.
    ASUS P7H55D-M EVO
    Crysis Warhead (1024x768, assuming low settings), 26FPS.

    It can play Crysis. =)
    Reply
  • ta152h
    enzo matrixWhy do you guys only ever compare P55 and P57 boards? What about AM3? Or even 775 and AM2+?
    At least they moved to H55/H57, which is a platform that should sell a lot, rather than the brain-damaged P55 platform, which most sites spend a lot of time trying to convince (not that successfully, based on the bad sales) is a great platform.

    Lynnfield/P55 is such a strange product, and appeals to such a limited segment of the market. It's not cheap, but it's a high-end product either. So, you get squeezed by x58, which is the real platform, or LGA 775, and now H55/H57 from below. It's not a big market segment, and I think it makes Intel's line a little confusing to average consumers, especially since the Clarksdale CPUs overlap it in cost from below, and the Bloomfield do from above.

    It's obvious Intel didn't want to release CPUs with an IMC for the mainstream until they could move the IGP on-board the CPU. Since the IGP has to use the memory controller, there are compromises however you do it when you have an IMC. You either go to the processor, or you add the logic on the IGP (making it redundant), so Intel avoided that problem by putting it on the processor. The P55 is again neither fish nor fowl. It's got limited PCIe lanes, but doesn't have an IGP either.

    There's a small segment where it makes sense. It's power efficient and the performance is only slightly less than Bloomfield in many situations, but I think the average consumer is going to find the H55/H57 much better for their needs (an IGP is critical in this market), and the enthusiast will want the full-blown Bloomfield. For that reason I think these motherboards are significant even though the P55 isn't. Maybe you don't want it, but, you'll probably have a friends/family neighbors asking about a computer with these products. They aren't technical marvels with their weird memory controller placed in the video controller, but aside from the distasteful technical compromises Intel made, they still address the market and needs of most people very well. The only one that is so offensive I could never bring myself to recommending is the new Pentium version. It probably is fine for most people, but it's so offensive, it's painful to recommend. I think LGA 775 is better at that point. Or AMD, of course.
    Reply
  • daniel266
    WOW ! one more article about intel !! why im not suprised... hope that this comment dont disapear magically...
    Reply
  • JohnnyLucky
    Thank you for including audio & video encoding benchmarks and productivity benchmarks.
    Reply