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Gigabyte H55M-USB3 – The Ultimate $100 H55 Board?
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by Rob Williams on March 8, 2010 in Intel 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.

Multi-Media: TMPGEnc XPress, Blu-ray Playback

TMPGEnc Xpress 4.5

When it comes to video transcoding, one of the best offerings on the market is TMPGEnc Xpress. Although a bit pricey, the software offers an incredible amount of flexibility and customization, not to mention superb format support. From the get go, you can output to DivX, DVD, Video-CD, Super Video-CD, HDV, QuickTime, MPEG, and more. It even goes as far as to include support for Blu-ray video!

There are a few reasons why we choose to use TMPGEnc for our tests. The first relates to the reasons laid out above. The sheer ease of use and flexibility is appreciated. Beyond that, the application does us a huge favor by tracking the encoding time, so that we can actually look away while an encode is taking place and not be afraid that we’ll miss the final encoding time. Believe it or not, not all transcoding applications work like this.

For our test, we take a 0.99GB high-quality DivX H.264 AVI video of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay with stereo audio and transcode it to the same resolution of 720p (1280×720), but lower the bit rate in order to attain a modest file size. This test also utilizes the SSE instruction sets, either SSE2 or SSE4, depending on what the chip supports.

The results are once again close, but Gigabyte’s board comes out on top, but just barely.

Blu-ray Playback

Intel’s Clarkdale is built with HD content in mind, so it’s only right that we exercise that between our motherboards to see which one fares best overall. For all intents and purposes, Blu-ray or other HD playback on any of these motherboards won’t prove to be an issue, but our goal is to see overall which board performs better where overall CPU usage is concerned. Like with most of our other tests, we don’t expect huge variations here, but we again want to make sure that one motherboard doesn’t have a significant issue worth pointing out.

To help track our CPU usage, we use Everest 5 Ultimate Edition, from Lavalys. It allows us to keep track of the CPU usage on an overall and per core basis, with the former being the number we report below. For our testing, we use the Blu-ray movie Fast & Furious, which is encoded in VC-1. We begin recording our CPU usage with Everest as soon as we begin the main movie, and we stop recording after 30 minutes has elapsed.

Fast & Furious

The average result for the Gigabyte board is rather interesting, given it proved to be almost 3% lower than both the ASUS and Intel offerings. Even the max value is lower than both of the others. Not a bad showing (no pun of course)!


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