So far we’ve looked at three different mini-ITX motherboards here at Anandtech over the past 6 months. While each of the products we’ve reviewed have ticked a certain number of boxes, when you look at the feature sets of similarly priced m-ATX boards one of the irksome common denominators (among other things) with the mini-ITX offerings is that you essentially pay more for less. Well, ECS may just have delivered the perfect cost to feature ratio with the H55H-I, a $79 mini-ITX motherboard based on the Intel H55 chipset:

Ordinarily you might sneer at the mention of ECS, but in this instance basic functionality and layout very much fits; especially when you consider what vendors like Intel and DFI are offering on their boards for a price premium – those boards cost over $120.


No PS/2, but everything else you need is there...

All ECS need to do with the H55H-I is provide a workable BIOS and good plug-in functionality to steal the show. Of course, those two things are often easier said than done...

Overview/Summary

One thing we’ve learned while reviewing mini-ITX boards thus far, is that anything related to overclocking is best left as a minor consideration if you want the boards to last. The reason is simple; the SFF of these boards and vendor desire to keep manufacturing costs down leads to power handling that is just about sufficient to handle today’s processors at stock operating frequencies. With that in mind, most vendors have taken a few precautions to ensure that users cannot push things too far. Most of the time, this involves the removal of key voltage options from BIOS and/or by limiting the range of supported processors to keep current draw within bounds.

ECS’s approach to this situation is to throw caution to the wind. Full i3/i5/i7 support is currently offered according to this link - though there's supposed to be an 87w TDP cap.  Over-voltage options for CPU VCore, VTT and VDIMM are also allowed for all processors. This somewhat gutsy move allows ECS to keep their nose out ahead of Intel in both the number of supported processors and the overclocking department. It is a little concerning though that the VRM solution used for VCC is probably only good for 90 amps at best (its three phase using 30 amp FETs). This is enough to take Clarkdale processors to 4GHz and perhaps a little beyond, but we’re a little dubious in recommending you push further because we’ve yet to see an over-current protection circuit that works as it should on a motherboard - quite often you’ll pop a FET before OCP kicks in. In light of this, the Lynnfield processors are certainly best left at stock.

One of the things needing attention on the current BIOS is the “broken” CPU multiplier ratio control. ECS provides an option to control CPU multipliers, but if you set anything other than stock the board fails to POST. This obviosuly limited our ability to test S3 resume states anything higher than 160 BCLK, because we’d be pushing the CPU past a point where we feel comfortable. We can confirm that it does work up to that point though, which is better than nothing and at the very least competitive with all the other mini-ITX boards we’ve tested to date.

Overclocking concerns aside, basic testing passed without a glitch. There’s nothing bad for us to report on the peripheral front or when it comes to comparative performance; the grouping of numbers is within bounds – meaning the H55H-I is a capable runner...

Performance Summary and Overclocking
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  • nubie - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    The industrial market uses (used?) ISA cards.

    Try Soyo, Supermicro, and Jetway for industry boards.
    Reply
  • Powerlurker - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    http://adek.com/ATX-motherboards.html

    I needed to spec one a couple years ago for a piece of lab equipment (I too work in a chemistry lab). It looks like this is the website for the motherboard manufacturer. http://www.commell.com.tw/Product/SBC/P4BWA.HTM
    Reply
  • nubie - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    How could I forget Commell,

    Thanks :)
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, May 07, 2010 - link

    I've purchased several of the ADEK boards to support some old ISA motion controllers we have. The motherboards are around $300, while a new motion controller (these are quite advanced) would have cost about $4000. They work great! Reply
  • Earthmonger - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Really, it is. I could previously count the number of socket 1156 ITX boards on one hand. This ECS is a welcome addition.

    "However, if you're thinking of overclocking with this board, we'd say that ECS is a couple of BIOSes away from a glowing recommendation"

    What ITX board would you recommend for overclocking, then? 'Cause I'm always thinking about it. Where's that EVGA ITX powerhouse at? lol
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    Unfortuantely, all mini-ITX boards are limited in one way or another. Either by voltage options (insufficent current handling capacity), and/or the need of some BIOS polish as in the case of ECS.. I'm hoping we see someone put a 180amp capable VRM on one of these baords soon...lol

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Yes that would be nice and I don't buy the 'limited space' argument either. There are plenty of good overclocking microATX boards that don't use a ton of space for VRMs. I was hoping DFI would push things in this area but not yet...maybe since they are supposedly focusing on smaller form factors going forward they will. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Well, not quite legacy free. Isn't that a VGA connector? :) Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Mostly it matters for people doing low level OS development because PS2 requires much less software support than USB. If you're not hacking the linux kernel/porting it to new hardware it, along with RS232 are only really needed for high price hardware interfaces. Reply
  • lwatcdr - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    PS/2 ports and legacy serial and parallel ports can be a very important.
    Remember this is a Mini-ITX board. A good number of these end up in industrial settings.
    Things like CNC machines, and lab equipment use good old serial and parallel ports to interface. They may also have a custom front panel that uses a PS/2 interface.
    Even floppy's are still used on some systems like that and some of the software for them even runs under dos!
    For a nettop or desktop you are correct. They less than useful but there is a large market segment that will need them for a long time. BTW USB to serial converters tend to be crap.
    Reply

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