EVGA H55 ATX
We expected at least one manufacturer to respond to our “features for the money” theme with a full-sized motherboard, and EVGA filled that gap with its H55. The short name hides an otherwise mid-featured motherboard with an enormous voltage regulator heat sink, two x16-length PCIe slots, and dual-monitor support for integrated graphics across DVI, VGA, and DisplayPort interfaces.
We’re not entirely sure how well an integrated graphics motherboard fits into the product portfolio of a graphics card manufacturer, although EVGA could use the lackluster performance of Intel’s HD Graphics engine as a compelling reason to advise a GPU upgrade. The firm’s H55 price even falls between its P55 LE and P55 SLI, although current rebates make the better-featured P55 SLI a more interesting value for anyone who isn't planning to use the Clarkdale-based processor's integrated graphics.
Anyone with a greater appreciation for full-sized integrated graphics solutions will likely move on to notice the lack of PCIe x1 slots. The x16 slot and integrated graphics engine are mutually exclusive, so buyers who really need the board for its combination of integrated graphics and expansion card support will be limited to one PCIe card through its four-lane secondary x16 slot. Three legacy PCI slots sweeten the pot for old-timers.
EVGA does an excellent job of keeping its front-panel connections out of the difficult-to-reach bottom rear corner, placing front-panel audio above the four-lane PCIe slot. The bottom front corner supports a single FireWire and two dual-port USB 2.0 headers, along with the two SATA ports and the Ultra ATA interface of a JMB363 ATA controller.
In addition to its good layout, the H55 from EVGA boasts power, reset, and CLR_CMOS buttons along its bottom edge; a PORT 80 diagnostics display, six fan connections, a row of voltage detection points between DIMM slots and the upper edge, and a redundant CLR_CMOS button on the I/O panel. All of these features could assist competitive overclockers seeking record results for the H55 chipset.
EVGA’s H55 BIOS contains most of the settings of its similarly priced P55 SLI with the most important voltage and clock speed settings on the main page of its Frequency/Voltage Control menu.
The H55 allows tuners to set boot voltage and running voltage separately to overcome “cold boot” issues, adding DRAM reference voltage adjustment to assist memory overclockers. Integrated graphics core voltage is adjustable, but its clock setting is missing from BIOS.
The H55 memory submenu includes only the most important timings, each adjustable to automatic mode when manual values are uncertain. It’s often necessary to return to the main menu and manually select a corresponding QPI frequency after adjusting DRAM clock ratio, where complete configurations can be saved as one of four user profiles.
The EVG H55 is far from inexpensive, yet its installation kit contains only two SATA cables.