It’s been a few years since we’ve written a full review featuring an Intel motherboard. The reason for that is simple; we just didn’t see some of the Intel boards as being competitive in terms of features, performance and pricing when compared to products from third party vendors. Probably not a good decision on our part because appearances can be deceptive... Take a look at our H55/H57 coverage and you’ll see that sub-vendors often struggle to get the basics right - here and here.

In hindsight, we should have added an Intel motherboard or two to those articles, because it would have been interesting to see how Intel measures up in the areas that truly matter. Better late than never we suppose, over the next month, we’ll be providing you with full reviews of three Intel boards; two are P55 chipset based, while the third and most exciting (if you like mini-ITX) is the DH57JG - formerly known as “Jet Geyser”. It’s the DH57JG that we’ll be looking at today; it should be on retailer shelves in a couple of weeks priced at around $125:

At present, Intel’s main rival in the mini-ITX segment is Zotac who released the H55-ITX last week. We’ve already got a review up on Zotac’s board here. It’s not a bad effort at all on Zotac’s part, our only gripe would have to be the asking price of $145, especially when you consider what’s available on m-ATX for less outlay.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for boards that work as advertised out-of-the box without the need for copious debugging from end-users. That’s probably a good precursor for this review, because Intel are only too keen to point out that these are the areas where they get things right. With that in mind, we lead you into our user-experience summary below...

Summary/Overview

There’s only one public BIOS release for the DH57JG so far, and it appears that Intel’s pre-launch validation process is capable of delivering a motherboard that’s almost retail ready. In truth though, there’s little on the DH57JG that can give rise to issues - Intel played it safe, or at least within the comfortable confines of their design. For starters, overclocking is limited on Clarkdale CPU’s by the absence of voltage control for processor VCore. BIOS options are basic; there is no direct control of CPU/IGP clock ratios and DRAM timing options are limited too. This all adds up to keep Clarkdale processors south of 3.8GHz unless you have a lucky sample that overclocks well at stock voltage.

Lynnfield processors will work in the DH57JG, and you get a tiny pocket of overclocking headroom that is capped by current/temperature monitoring and stock VID. We managed to get the board to post at 21X150 BCLK, but found processor core frequency throttles down to 3GHz or so under full load to ensure safety for the CPU VRM. Curiously, we did manage to change CPU core multiplier ratios on our i7 860 CPU by disabling SpeedStep – something that does not work on Clarkdales at all on the current BIOS. We’ve asked Intel for clarification on this matter and await a response. 

Another area which often gives rise to problems on third-party motherboards is bundled software, there’s not much for Intel to get wrong in this department because the DH57JG doesn’t feature any kind of OS level overclocking tools or power saving software as part of the package.

Board layout is similar to Zotac’s H55-ITX, in that the CPU socket is placed very close to the PCIe slot and also the memory slots. This leaves little room for tall/wide heatsinks, although we don’t think you need anything other than the stock Intel cooler on this motherboard given the limited range of overclocking at your disposal.

On the overclocking front, our i3 540 retail processor topped out around 3.5GHz on the DH57JG, while our i5 661 ES sample managed to retain stability at 3.85GHz on stock VID. It’s not quite the 4GHz we’d have preferred to see, but we should add that the real-world gains in performance between 3.5GHz and 4GHz aren’t huge anyway.

That leaves the all important plug and play features of the chipset to experiment with, and it’s an area we don’t have anything negative to report on. All of our peripheral devices worked fine as did resume from long S3 sleep states - even when overclocked.

For an in-depth look at performance and board layout, read on...

Performance Summary
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  • hansblix - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Agreed. I think I'm on the Mini-ITX bandwagon now. A tiny, quiet, efficient yet reasonably powerful gaming system would be a fun project. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    I think it would be neat if Intel came out with an 'extreme' m-ITX motherboard although they might have to omit the glowing skull. More robust components and options for overclocking might make it a superior choice to other mITX motherboard for SFF enthusiasts. It's nice that Intel at least properly implements VRM cyrrent protection, it is rather sad that there were many insteances of blown VRMs on some P55 boards. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    You guys need to check that spec chart and take a look at the actual mobo. I only see 4 internal SATA and one eSATA, no coax S/PDIF on the I/O panel (a two-pin header is mentioned separately) Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Sorry, I've updated the table... Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Any nice ITX gaming build articles coming out any time Raj? I'd like to see what awesome/cheap kind of tiny LAN party box I can get with a nice single slot card to run modern FPS. Do it under $1K for sure if possible.

    i.e. (possibly?)

    XFX single slot 5670

    Any solid, non-OCable ITX board is fine as long as it is good value and has good location of PCI-E x16 slot etc. (USB 3.0 if/when possible and either Intel or AMD is fine)

    4GB of ram (8GB if possible on two slots provided you find an excellent value ram set on the cheap)

    Case, preferrably black with solid PSU (or even better if you can fit a full modular one in with proper capabilities)

    Periphrals not required in the build, but it would be nice to see the OS added into the system, as Windows is required for LAN parties. Nobody hosts Linux gaming parties around here that I'm aware of.

    Might also make mention of a solid gigabyte switch like the 8port Rosewill one listed on Newegg for $29 (currently), and the free games available like EA's recent free release of a good portion of the C&C franchise series.

    Let's get gaming!
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Hi JD,

    I'll pass on the request, I think we should have someone to cover cases and the like onboard soon.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • Murst - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    I'm currently looking for a Micro ITX case to replace my Atom board in an Acer Easystore. I really like how the Easystore looks and how easy it is to add/remove drives, but the Atom isn't capable of handling software like PlayOn, and I want to use the EasyStore for streaming to my PS3.

    This board would be a pretty good fit (6 SATA is great- I only need 4, but a lot of mini ITX don't even have 4). However, what I don't want is a power hungy processor, and even the i3 is a 73W, which seems rather high.

    Hopefully Intel will come out with some lower power 1156 processors. Either that, or a Mini ITX board comes out with support for the mobile i3/i5/i7 processors. Actually, I really don't understand why no one sells mini ITX w/ mobile processor sockets. That would be ideal for really small HTPC or Home Server setups.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    There were mini-ITX boards for previous generation mobile processors (though they were expensive), I imagine there will be for current generation ones as well at some point. Reply
  • deruberhanyok - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Murst,

    You might want to check out SPCR's i5-661 article. Thought the i3 processors are given a 73W rating, actual power draw is much lower than that.

    In their tests, playback of an h264 blu-ray disc showed power use of 43W DC. Full system with CPU and GPU at load didn't even hit 70W. And that's with the i5-661, which would draw more power than a regular i3 due to its increased CPU and GPU clock:

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1013-page4.ht...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1013-page4.ht...
    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1013-page5.ht...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1013-page5.ht...

    They are already lower power than advertised. I think the i3 series could have been listed as 60W or even lower and still have had plenty of headroom in the power rating.

    This is, incidentally, one of the reasons I made the suggestion of testing in a more realistic system configuration than the test setup used here.
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    TDP doesn't mean power draw and was enver meant to imply power draw anyway so they aren't 'rated' to draw that much power in the first place. (Sorry, it's just one of my pet peeves when people equate TDP to power draw.) Reply

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