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Gigabyte H55N-USB3 – Big Features, Small Package
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by Rob Williams on August 18, 2010 in Intel 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.

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

Though the H55N-USB3 has been doing a bang-up job so far, it’s here that it falls behind every-so-slightly. The CPU load matches ASUS’ P7H55D-M EVO, but it sets a new record for the CPU average. Of course, these results are all super-low in the grand scheme.