With Intel’s recent Clarkdale processor launch, the itch to build that new HTPC is no doubt greater than ever. Not only does Intel offer a wide-range of processors, but motherboard vendors are currently offering an incredible amount of H55 models. We’re taking a look at two here, Intel’s own DH55TC and ASUS’ P7H55D-M EVO.
When Intel launches a processor built on a new architecture that requires an also-new socket, it will send along its mainstream board in order for us to get our testing done. In some ways, this could be considered a “reference” board, but unlike reference cards in the graphics world, Intel actually sells all of the boards it creates, so there’s no reference, or prototypes here.
Though Intel has two current H55 models, the one sent to us is the ~$100 DH55TC, an mATX offering with a focus on media. It offers all we’d expect a Clarkdale board to have, and lacks little that might be of some use. It’s interesting to note that this board does not offer an IDE or floppy connector, which is something I’m sure will bother few.
Like most other Intel boards, this one is designed for a mainstream audience, and not for overclocking. You can tell this by the lack of power phases, and also thanks to the fact that it only uses a 4-pin motherboard connector. The DH55TC is instead designed for those who want a non-complicated board that offers all of the features they need. In that regard, this board delivers, and at a reasonable price-point.
If you’ve seen Intel boards before, the DH55TC will come as no surprise to you. It’s mATX, it features many of the same colors as other Intel boards, and it’s pretty simple in design, with no emphasis on bling (this isn’t entirely a bad thing).
Since Clarkdale, like most other current CPU architectures out there, utilizes a dual-channel memory controller, we’re given a 4x DIMM configuration, with support for up to 16GB of DDR3-1333.
For storage connectivity, Intel provides six S-ATA ports for use with hard drives or optical storage. Note that the board does not include an IDE or floppy connector.
For discrete graphics, the board includes a single PCI-E 16x slot, along with two PCI-E 1x and a single legacy PCI slot. To the right of these slots is the Southbridge, in all its passive glory.
Around the CPU socket, we can see there’s plenty of room for even the beefiest of coolers. We can also see some old-school voltage regulators, which aren’t all too common on mainstream boards today. As mentioned before, this board requires a 4-pin motherboard connector, not an 8-pin. If you have a PSU with an 8-pin cable that cannot be split into two parts, you can still properly plug in the appropriate four.
Looking at the back I/O port, we see six USB 2.0, a LAN, PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse and audio connectors (this is the first time in a while I’ve seen three connectors on any board, in lieu of the usual six). Aside from all this, for display purposes there’s HDMI, VGA and DVI. It’s interesting that despite DisplayPort being required for any resolution higher than 2048×1536, there’s no such connector here.
Intel’s boards are generally always simple compared to the competition, and to many, that’s part of the appeal. Intel focuses highly on stability, not overclocking, so when you pick up one of its boards, you know you’re going to be getting a reliable product. As long as you don’t try to overclock it, of course. But, that’s going to be hard to do anyway, given some of the limitations in the BIOS, as we’ll see next.