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
POST A COMMENT

67 Comments

View All Comments

  • gaidin123 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I've had this board for a couple weeks now paired with an i3-530 and it's been solid running at just under 160Mhz Bclk at stock voltage. It's by far the cheapest p55/h55/h57 mini-itx board yet it has more than enough features for most imho. Lian-li's got a few mini-itx cases out and hopefully the lan-gear guys get their mini-itx gamer case out at a reasonable price soon...

    Gaidin
    Reply
  • shamans33 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Can IGP and Discrete Graphics be enabled at the same time? Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    No that's a lock-out by Intel afaik.

    later
    Raja
    Reply
  • howiey - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Thanks for this review. It was thorough, concise and it actually addresses what many want to know aside from the OC issues. For example, S3 suspend is crucial for HTPC and basically a dealbreaker for many on the Zotac mini-ITX boards, yet a surprising number of reviews ignore this in their reviews, focusing on Crysis benchmarks at 5 different resolutions. Worse is that the conclusion is that it basically performs the same as other H55 boards, so NO new information is gained by the reader. That you read the comments about HDMI / DVI simultaneous output and actually followed up is commendable, so thanks for your efforts. Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the feedback! Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I was very interested in this board when they said it supported i7 chips, but a little less so now that I see the 85w limit. That cuts the supported i7s down to exactly one, the 82w i7-860S. Still, no one else bothered to enable the 860S on their H55/57 m-ITX boards, so they get exclusive credit for that. Reply
  • Grug - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I just built one of these for my sister. i3-540 CPU and the WinSis mitx case at Newegg. I've never built one that small and was amazed how much power was packed into a tiny little case just the size of two laptops stacked on top of one another.

    For anyone who doesn't game and need an external GPU and just wants a high performance day to dayer, these ITX solutions are as good as it gets. I would replace my full sized ATX case in a heartbeat if the damn GPU vendors weren't such power pigs. I want a low profile GPU that works at under 75W and allows me to play modern games at 1900x1200. Until that happens (probably a few years at least), I consider NVidia/ATI inept.

    My only disappointment was that you couldn't undervolt. I wanted to undervolt it a bit to try to cut down even further on the already low heat output.
    Reply
  • dlmartin53 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I know this is off subject but it seems the AMD motherboard scene is non-exsistant judging by the fact you have to go way back to see any mention of that other camp. You do mention them in testing data but no AMD Mboards reviewed for many months? I like all the Intel coverage, but would like to see more than just reviews of the latest AMD chip coming out.

    I will get off my soapbox now, thanks.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    Last AMD board we reviewed was the - the ASUS M4A89GTD Pro in March:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2959

    We'll be adding some 890FX coverage in at some point - got another couple of guys working with me now, so things should improve.

    Regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • nubie - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    Well, they did 'invent' the DTX specification, where you get 2 slots. Good both for the dual-slot gaming crowd, and the people who want wifi and a RAID card, or a single slot video card.

    After they released the DTX spec I was excited, but I don't think a single board came out of it.

    Those in the know will buy an HP "DTX" motherboard from their SFF systems, but being OEM I don't think they are the greatest motherboards (no idea if any of them support the Athlon II x2, the only chip I would want in an AMD mITX/DTX system. ) Also they use a non-standard connecter, not good. Pluses would be dual-channel ram and a pcie x16, but it was a couple years ago, and look where we are today, a whole bunch of boards with those features.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now