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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  • BansheeX - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    This board is pretty much the successor to the DG45FC, so it would have been better to run performance and power consumption comparisons with that.

    It would also be worthwhile to explain the market for these boards and what they're capable of. These boards are for people who want silence and a small form factor, but don't want to sacrifice performance. True, an Atom box costs less and consumes significantly less power, but you might be surprised to know that an E8400 on a DG45FC with a few drives can still run on 80W DC adapter + 120W picoPSU. I'm doing this myself and have never had a hiccup. I'd imagine that 80W would not be enough if you added a video card, but I don't do that.
    Reply
  • SKE4826 - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - link

    This board is nice overall. I have two of them with SSD's for HTPC and BRPC. Both overclock overclock my i5's nicely. 3.2Ghz 650 pushed to 3.6Ghz and 3.33Ghz 661 pushed to 4.Ghz.

    The BIOS update on these board is a nightmare - I cannopt stress this enough - I may never buy an Intel MB again. Not once has it worked right, via either of the mothods. It doesn't get much worse than this for a BIOS update. I have built several hundred systems over the past 25 years and never have I seen a BIOS update process worse than this. I would love to watch anyone try and say otherwise.

    Other than that, I love this ITX setup with my tiny Antec 150 cases.
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