by Rob Williams on August 18, 2010 in Motherboards
Some might say that “bigger is better”, but when it comes to today’s PCs, that doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, you can easily build a feature-rich and high-performance PC that can be entirely hidden from view. Mini-ITX motherboards exist to help with that, and where those are concerned, Gigabyte’s H55N-USB3 is well-worth looking out for.
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.
I expected slightly more impressive results than this here, but I guess for the most part, even though the board is much smaller than mATX, we’re not exactly ridding much functionality. Still, the H55N-USB3 did drop the wattages all around when compared to, well, any of the other H55 boards we’ve tested.
A couple of months ago, I took a look at a similar board from Gigabyte called the H55M-USB3, and overall, I was impressed. The board was full-featured, proved to be a good overclocker, and was priced right. In the end, I awarded the board one of our Editor’s Choice awards, and with the H55N-USB3, that feat has once again been accomplished.
When I first received this board, I wasn’t sure what to think. Alright… I did. I was bored just looking at it. But that’s because I was naive, and didn’t quite understand the potential of these things. I’ve reviewed many motherboards, and most of the time, they were either ATX or even eATX offerings. Whenever I found myself with an mATX, I’d consider it to be small. Then this thing hits my doorstep, and it almost felt like I could fit it into my pocket.
Once I gave the board a chance, though, I began to come around… and became a bit “inspired”, hence that article about the Blu-ray ripping. Now, I feel like I’m on the right path to building an HTPC, and I have full intention of using this board as the base. With a board like this, building a small PC with huge potential couldn’t be easier. If you think back to how things were just five years ago, thinking about what’s possible today should almost give us shivers.
If your HTPC goals match all of what I’ve said so far, then I heartily recommend this board. Currently, it retails for around ~$110, which puts it on par or makes it more expensive than an mATX board, but in the end, it’s a small premium to pay for the benefit of being able to build such a small PC.
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