Zotac H55-ITX Review - The World's First mini-ITX H55 Motherboardby Joshua Youngberg on February 28, 2010 12:00 AM EST
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For most of us, Zotac isn't the name that comes to mind when thinking about your next motherboard. Instead, brands like ASUS, Gigabyte or MSI are closer to the tip of your tongue. For HTPC users however, that all started to change with the release of several mini-ITX motherboards based on NVIDIA's GeForce 9300 and ION chipsets. Despite its initial teething problems, the Zotac ION ended up being the perfect motherboard for a DIY low powered HTPC capable of full 1080p video playback.
If you needed more CPU power, Zotac offered the LGA-775 socket GeForce 9300-ITX-WiFi. You got the same mini-ITX form factor, but support for Core 2 CPUs instead of the on-board Atom that its ION boards were limited to. With the release of Intel's first 32nm dual-core processors earlier this year, Zotac wanted to offer an updated platform for SFF or HTPC users who didn't want to sacrifice CPU performance. Based on Intel's H55 chipset and supporting the entire line of Core i3, i5 and LGA-1156 i7 CPUs, Zotac sent us its latest mini-ITX board: the H55-ITX WiFi.
There are a couple of possible directions you can take with the H55-ITX. First, you could choose to turn this into a low-watt HTPC by utilizing a Core i3 and relying on Intel’s HD graphics for your video needs. On the other hand, you could install an i5 or i7 and populate the PCIe slot with a dedicated graphics card for a nice mid-range gaming system. Cases such as the Silverstone SG-06 and the upcoming Lian-Li PC-Q08 would complement a system such as this perfectly.
With these two different directions in mind we have decided to test the H55-ITX with both integrated and dedicated graphics. Decide for yourself which direction works the best for you.
On a side note, even the performance computing market is seeing a transition away from the more traditional full-sized motherboards. In fact, ZOTAC markets only one full-sized ATX board in the US.