Let us have another look at our Sandy Bridge chipset comparison table.  If you bounced straight into this page of the article and missed the blurb on the front page, I mentioned the two main differences between the P67 and the H67.  On H67, we can use the integrated graphics on the processor at the expense of CPU overclocking opportunities, and if we do use a discrete GPU, we are limited to one only.  Considering that a large portion of the pre-built PC sales worldwide feature no-overclocking and limited graphics, the H67 offerings, in micro-ATX form factors, offer a path into a highly contested market between PC builders.

Chipset Comparison
  P67 H67 H61 P55 H57 H55
CPU Support Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156
CPU PCIe Config 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
RAID Support Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 10 14 14 12
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 4 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0)
PCIe Lanes 8 (5GT/s) 8 (5GT/s) 6 (5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 6 (2.5GT/s)

As with the discussion surrounding the Sandy Bridge processors, many people have questioned Intel’s decision to have most of the processors locked, and only a few overclockable.  The same question ultimately applies to the Sandy Bridge chipsets – why only allow CPU overclocking on P67 (and Z68 in the future)?  The answer here is simple enough – to help bring costs down.

Imagine the scenario that you are designing a motherboard.  You understand the market, and want to add many bells and whistles, but the company you work for obviously wants to lower costs.  If you are told that the chipset supports 95W CPUs, you have to add the power infrastructure on the board to match.  Add in a few phases to support that, and it is done.  Now take the same design to a chipset that supports overclocking.  Somehow, that 95-110W window goes out the door, and you have to cater for any manner of overclocker and power draw.  Then the onus is on you, and the company, to be the best and get the best results – within budget of course.  With H67 and its no overclocking rule, the market that wants a cheaper board can get that cheaper board.

That scenario is, of course, just one facet of what is a large industry to consider.  There is also another argument, that the CPU overclockable K series SKUs also have the best integrated HD 3000 (12 EU) graphics compared to their non-K counterparts, that only have HD 2000 (6 EU).  So in order to get the best integrated, there is an extra cost in getting that K series SKU and not getting to overclock the CPU in a H67 board.  In that respect, I would have to offer this proposal: Intel have engineered H67 to be in the position where people do not need GPU power or overclocked CPU power – enough to help accelerate encoding, run two monitors, play flash, but not much more.  If you cast your mind back to Anand’s comparison of the HD3000/2000, the 3000 is usually better than an AMD HD 5450 for gaming, but the 2000 is usually competing with the higher end Clarkdale 1156 CPUs.  If you are on a budget or a single GPU gamer where CPU power is not all too important, then H67 is aimed squarely at you as well.

I will be honest with you – I am a sucker for a fast machine.  I get weak knees when reading record-breaking benchmarks.  Thus, the H67 results did not exactly set my eyes ablaze.  However, I remember the time when I was a scrimping student.  I wanted high gaming performance at the lowest cost – if Sandy Bridge was out then, and I was specifically after the Sandy Bridge platform over anything AMD, then a H67 with an i3-2100 and the biggest graphics card I could afford would be a viable option.

The three boards we are looking at today are of slightly different price ranges – the ASRock H67M-GE/HT comes in at $120, the Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H for $125, and the ECS H67H2-M aims at the high end with $145.  Technically, all our media samples are the B2 stepping, which Intel has recalled regarding the potential failure of the SATA 3Gb/s ports.  If you remember, the predicted failure rate was up to 5% over three years.  We have double-checked with all the manufacturers regarding their B3 versions of these products. All have responded that the boards will be the same as the B2s, and thus performance should be the same when the B3s come on sale.

So, without further ado, let us jump into the first board of the trio.  ASRock, what have you got?

ASRock H67M-GE/HT: Visual Inspection
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  • rustycurse - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    on page 1:
    "The same question ultimately applies to the Sandy Bridge chipsets – why only allow CPU overclocking on P67 (and Z68 in the future)? "
    I was always thought that term 'Sandy Bridge' is applied to CPU technology and 'Cougar point' to the chipset or am I wrong?
    ...but about shown mobos ... neither of them suit my tasks. I won't buy it
    Reply
  • crispbp04 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    "The ECS H67H2-M is a few serious check points against it as a board to use."

    is or has?
    Reply
  • WasabiVengeance - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Quick question: How many of those vid outputs can the board actually use simultaneously? Previously intel chipsets were limited to 2. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    "However, I remember the time when I was a scrimping student. I wanted high gaming performance at the lowest cost – if Sandy Bridge was out then, and I was specifically after the Sandy Bridge platform over anything AMD, then a H67 with an i3-2100 and the biggest graphics card I could afford would be a viable option."

    That would be a huge waste of money. Why buy an i3-2100 if you're just going to plug in a gpu anyway? And why buy an H67 when it clearly costs $50 beyond what it should, especially since it has no northbridge.

    An ASRock M3A770DE motherboard AND an Athlon X3 cpu together costs the same as one of these H67 scams. Not to mention the $125 for the intel cpu. No way. If I needed more cpu performance I would get the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition and still have an extra $50 that could go into a better gpu.
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    For budget gaming, H61 seems the better choice by far, with motherboards in the $60-65 range, At that price the price advantage of AMD budget CPUs go away (at stock speed anyway) and the intel HSF is quieter than stock AMD HSF from what I've read.

    SilentPCReview compared Intel Core i3-2100 vs. AMD Phenom II X2 565 and the intel won on both performance and power use. Spend a bit more for an i5 and you'll have a solid midrange gaming system.at a budget price.
    Reply
  • ritchan - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    "With H67 and its no overclocking rule, the market that wants a cheaper board can get that cheaper board."

    Yet these reviewed boards are still on average more expensive than an AMD board in an equivalent market segment. Which support overclocking and core unlocking. Also, bargain bin motherboards haven't been known for their overclocking prowess, i.e. the power window argument doesn't hold. If you're buying cheap, you get that power window anyway.

    Also notice how the cheaper AMD boards like the 870-UD3R or MSI's boards come with absolutely no heatsinks on the VRMs. Bye bye, power window argument.

    Stop trying to justify negative market segmentation. The H67/P67 split is a step back from where things were before, and it only gives Intel a good excuse to charge extra for overclocking enabled chipsets in the future. Wait, they're already doing that... and you're sugarcoating it for them.
    Reply
  • glad2meetu - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I think Intel has done a very poor job with the Sandy Bridge release. Intel appears like it is lost in the woods these days and needs a new CEO.

    I think I would choose a ASUS or a Gigabyte motherboard if I had to pick one for Sandy Bridge. I am surprised how poor the Intel chipsets are. Intel inside no longer means anything special.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The CPUs are special. The rest of the platform, not so much. If Z68 had been included at launch, and all 6 series chipsets had included USB3 and all SATA ports 6Gbps (not just 2) then I would have a different opinion. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Is a cooling fan for RAM really necessary on a platform that allows essentially no overclocking and has relatively fixed memory settings?

    Also, Intel advertising these CPUs as having a certain multiplier in single-threaded mode then not letting the motherboards use that multiplier is a load of bull.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Well done, Gigabyte! And it's a shame how poorly the others are doing in comparison. I fI wanted high power consumption I could just stick with an old machine or get an AMD..

    Not wanting to start a bashing / flame war. It's just that in my eyes the exceptional power consumption (especially idle) of the Sandy Bridge + IGP (plus excellent performance) is what makes it really attractive for really many roles.

    MrS
    Reply

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