by Rob Williams on March 8, 2010 in Motherboards
Finding a great H55 board to match up with your Clarkdale CPU isn’t hard, as the market currently has a great selection. But Gigabyte’s H55M-USB3 stands out, as it has a superb feature-set for its ~$100 price tag, and also proves itself in our tests as being a great all-around board, and one that seems to have no limit in overclocking.
It goes without saying that power efficiency is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds today, and for good reason. Whether you are trying to save money or the environment – or both – it’s good to know just how much effort certain vendors are putting into their products to help them excel in this area. Both AMD and Intel have worked hard to develop efficient chips, and that’s evident with each new launch. The CPUs are getting faster, and use less power, and hopefully things will stay that way.
To help see what kind of wattage a given configuration draws on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.
To test, the computer is first boot up and left to sit at idle for five minutes, at which point the current wattage is recorded if stable. To test for full CPU load, LinX is run with 2560MB memory usage for a total of five minutes. During that run, the highest point the wattage reaches on the meter is captured and becomes our “Max Load”. Please note that for our H55 testing, no graphics card is installed. Instead, we use the IGP on the processor.
Of the three H55 boards we’ve tested so far, neither differentiates too much from the other where power consumption is concerned. Gigabyte’s board performs the best while at full load, while Intel’s far less feature-rich DH55TC shaves 2W off the idle power draw.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve taken a look at a fair number of motherboards spanning multiple chipsets, and no particular board comes to mind as being terrible. Compare that to how things were just five years ago or more, where many boards were almost luck of the draw. Today, all of the available offerings are extremely well-designed, and if you’re willing to spend $100 or more on an mATX offering, you’re going to get a sweet product.
As I mentioned on the first page, the official price for this board is $110, but currently an e-tailer is selling it for $100, and then will give a mail-in rebate to make it $90. Even at $100, this board is simply fantastic. It offers a wide-range of features (even including four display connectors), has a great design, has a robust and easy-to-use BIOS, and as seen on the previous page, can overclock like no one’s business.
Regardless of whether you are looking for a sweet mATX board for the sake of an HTPC build, or you simply want a smaller PC for your regular PC or gaming rig, it’s hard to go wrong with the H55M-USB3. If there are two minor nicks (which can’t even be considered nicks, given the price), it’s the lack of vertically-mounted SATA ports and also the lack of SATA 3.0. Both of these omissions are understandable given the price, but they’re important to point out in case you need either of them.
It’s boards like this one that really, really make me try to convince myself to build a killer SFF PC. Trying to resist the urge…
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