ECS H55H-I Review: Mini-ITX at a Sensible Priceby Rajinder Gill on May 6, 2010 6:59 AM EST
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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...
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...