|A member of the Funky Media Group|
|Review: Gigabyte H55N-USB3 Motherboard|
|Posted by Winston|
|Tuesday, 09 November 2010 00:03|
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Mini-ITX motherboards have been around for some time now, but it is only now that manufacturers are seeing a big potential in these tiny little motherboards. The Mini-ITX is a motherboard form factor originally created by VIA way back in 2002. Mini-ITX motherboards are very small. The specification requires that the boards are 170mm x 170mm (6.75" x 6.75"). These motherboards usually have a processor soldered on to the board, and an all-in-one chipset providing networking, graphics and sound. This means that you'll be able to have a full computer system, just by adding some memory, a hard drive and a power supply.
Mini-ITX motherboards have many uses, including the building of customised systems for users who have specific requirements. Things like surveillance systems, AV systems and even industrial equipment. It's compact size is the key to its success. However, this is also its downfall. Most Mini-ITX motherboards are usually not that powerful, and often use lower-end components for reduce cost. And this is why you'll find a majority of Mini-ITX motherboards with a processor alredy soldered on to the board, and an all-in-one chipset providing networking, graphics and sound.
Times have changed since 2002, and with the advance in technology, Mini-ITX motherboards have benefited with great results. We're now seeing Mini-ITX motherboards that feature processor sockets for upgrading the CPU (not soldered anymore), as well as better all-in-one chipset solutions. Take for example Nvidia, they've been pushing their ION chipset for the past year, and it seems to be working. We now have ION based netbooks, nettops and mini PC systems, all of which can run Windows 7 starter with now problems at all. Nvidia are not the only ones producing all-in-one chipsets. Intel has been at it for years, much longer than Nvidia. So they're pretty much experts in this field.
It shouldn't be too hard for manufacturers to take these all-in-one chipsets, and integrate them into their Mini-ITX motherboards. In fact, for many of them are already producing Mini-ATX motherboards, so it's just a matter of using the Mini-ITX form factor instead. Last year at the Cebit 2009 exhibition, we saw many Mini-ITX motherboards on display. Zotac was really going for it ... showcasing their ION based Mini-ITX motherboards, as well as their nettops and mini PCs. So, as this area grows, I think we'll be seeing a lot more Mini-ITX motherboards from manufacturers, especially in 2011.
In this review, we'll be taking a look at the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 Motherboard. It's one of the smallest motherboard we've come across that supports overclocking. The board itself is comes in a Mini-ITX form factor and measures only 170mm x 170mm. It's absolutely packed with great features including support for USB3.0, built-in HD graphics with HDMI, DVI and 15-pin D-sub output, eSATA, 2 x DDR3 DIMM slots, 1 x PCI-E slot (x16). What's more, it comes with all of Gigabyte's innovative features such as Ultra Durable 3, USB power, 2oz Copper PCB, Dynamic Energy Saver, and much much more.
The Gigabyte H55N-USB3 has got to be one of the most feature packed Mini-ITX motherboard we've ever seen. I mean, just take a look at the feature list above. When you see the size of the H55N-USB3 ... it's amazing how they can fit so much into such a tiny motherboard. What makes this motherboard interesting is its overclocking ability, making it extremely appealing to overclockers and enthusiasts. Incidently, according to the manual, the Intel H55 chipset features onboard HD graphics with a frame buffer/shared memory of upto 128Mb+2Mb (selectable in the BIOS). However, you'll need an Intel Core i5 - 6xx or Core i3 - 5xx processor to enable the onboard HD graphics (see photo below).
As you probably know, the onboard graphics isn't really up to much, so in our tests we decided to use a Geforce GTX 460 as our main graphics card. This will enbable us to get a more consistant result during comparison with other motherboards we've tested.
For overclocking, the motherboard includes Gigabyte's M.I.T. BIOS which is great for overclocking. It offers a wealth of options for various BIOS tweaking including adjustments for CPU multiplier, clock rate, bus speeds and voltages, as well as adjusting memory timings, DDR speeds, XMP profiles and voltages.
Talking about overclocking, HWBot and Gigabyte have started a neat overclocking competition using ... yes, you've guessed it ... the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 motherboard. You can check out HWBot's website here ... http://hwbot.org/competition/gbt_h55_mitx. So with this in mind, it proves that the H55N-USB3 has the overclocking capability needed to compete with the big boys ... it's not the size that matters, it's what it can do that really counts!
Looking at the full specifications of the motherboard, I'm expecting the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 to perform as good as any P55/A based motherboard. It will be interesting to see how good this motherboard is at overclocking. We'll be testing the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 motherboard, using the following components, which includes ... an Intel Core i5 - 650 procesor (LGA 1156), Geforce GTX 460 (1Gb GDDR5), 4Gb Crucial Ballistix Tracer, Arctic Cooling Freezer13 CPU cooler and a Thermaltake ToughPower 875W power supply.
OK, let's get down to the nitty gritty and take a closer look at the specifications and features of the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX motherboard ...