ECS H55H-M V1

The ECS H55H-M (V1) is the cheapest board in our lineup today, costing around $80 at various e-tailors.

ECS H55H-M V1
Market Segment H55 General Use/HTPC
CPU Interface LGA-1156
CPU Support LGA-1156 i3/i5/i7 Series of Processors
Chipset Intel H55 Express Chipset
BCLK Speeds 133-600MHz in 1MHz increments
DDR3 Memory Speed 800, 1067, 1333 Frequency Ratios (Dependant on processor)
QPI Frequency No multiplier ratio control offered
Core Voltage Stock voltage ~ +0.315V in .005V increments
CPU Vdroop Compensation N/A
CPU Clock Multiplier CPU Clock Multiplier Ratio - changes do not work on H5M126A BIOS
DRAM Voltage DDR3 Auto (disabled), 1.536V ~ 2.166V in 0.01V increments (1.536V base)
DRAM Timing Control tCL, tRCD, tRP, tRAS, + 5 Additional Timings
DRAM Command Rate Auto, 1T, 2T and 3T
PCH Voltage N/A
CPU VTT (Uncore) Voltage Auto (Disabled) 1.05V ~ 1.68V in 0.05V in 0.01V increments
CPU PLL Voltage N/A
IGD VID Stock ~ +0.3V in 0.1V increments
Memory Slots Two 240-pin DDR3 DIMM Slots
Dual-Channel Configuration
Regular Unbuffered DDR3 Memory to 8GB Total
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 Slot
2 x PCIe 1 x Slots
1 x PCI slots
Onboard SATA/RAID 6 x SATA 3.0GB/s (Support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug)
Onboard USB 2.0 10 USB 2.0 ports (6) I/O Panel (one SATA combo), 4 via brackets
Onboard LAN Atheros AR8131/M GbE LAN (PCIe)
Onboard Audio VIA VT1705 6-ch HD Audio
Other Onboard Connectors 1 x S/PDIF Out, 1 x FP Audio, 1 x FP connector
Power Connectors ATX 24-pin, 4-pin EPS 12V
I/O Panel 1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo Port
1 x RJ45
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
1 x Serial Port
1 x DVI-D
1 x VGA/D-sub
3 Audio I/O jacks (Line in, Microphone and Line out)
Fan Headers 1 CPU + 1 Additional Header
Fan Control Full temp/speed fan control for CPU header via BIOS
No control offered for SYS-FAN header
Package Contents 2 x SATA cables, 2 x User Guides, 1 x Driver/software DVD, 1 x I/O Shield
Board/BIOS Revisions Used Board Rev: 1.0
BIOS Files Used: H5M126A
Form Factor uATX (9.6 in. x 9.6 in.)
Warranty 3 year standard (First 24 months = parts/labor, last 12 months = parts only)

The ECS H55H-M V1 feature set is best described as basic. There are no onboard HDMI output, eSATA or Firewire ports on offer. Further concessions are made in the choice of onboard components with VIA's VT1705 codec for audio duty and the Atheros AR8131/M supplying onboard PCI-E LAN. Naturally, the costs cutting extends to package contents too; like all the other vendors featured in our roundup, you get 2 SATA cables, a couple of manuals, support DVD and a rear I/O shield included—the bare minimum to get you up and running.

We understand some of ECS' feature set choices, although we feel that the omission of an onboard HDMI port is a step too far. One of the key attractions of the H55 chipset is the ability to run IGP video/audio out for HTPC use, but you can't do that on this board unless you use a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor. Analog audio output is limited to 2-channel, meaning a DVD-to-HDMI connector is a must if you want to experience 6 channel sound from this motherboard (unless you use a discrete soundcard).

The H55H-M V1 is also limited to a maximum of 8GB (4GB realistically) of memory due to having only two DIMM slots. Perhaps one would have been a little more forgiving of ECS' choices if boards like ASRock's H55M-Pro were not available at the sub $100 mark, offering almost everything missing on the ECS model.

Software

There's nothing fancy or exciting in the bundled software department; ECS includes a single tool called eJiffy (similar to ASUS' Express Gate).


eJiffy features a web browser, photo editing and chat functionality without having to boot into your primary OS. Before eJiffy can be used though, you have to install it onto your hard drive via your primary OS. Once you've done that, you'll find it takes just as long to boot into Windows 7 as it does to boot eJiffy—we fail to see the appeal of this software.

The Board


Slot layout on the ECS H55H-M V1 is reasonable, there's always a PCI-E x1 slot available regardless of slot loading. SATA ports are all right angled allowing access when longer peripheral cards are inserted into any of the slots.


The onboard EPS 12V 4-pin connector is placed very close to the 12V input inductor coil and PWM heatsink, leaving no room for an overhanging 8-pin EPS 12V connector to be inserted if that's all your PSU has. The only way to use an 8-pin EPS 12V connector is to bend the leads of the 12V input coil to make enough room—not exactly ideal.

CPU VCC power is supplied by uPI's 6206 in what looks to be a 3-phase implementation. We'd guess that max current handling is likely to be under 110 amps, enough to handle the swagger of a Clarkdale CPU at 4GHz and just about enough to sustain HT enabled Lynnfield processors at stock operating frequency.

A couple of onboard fan headers are provided for use and comprehensive fan control is offered for the CPU fan header via the BIOS. Unfortunately there are no control options for the SYS fan whatsoever. ECS do not provide OS level fan control or monitoring software with the H55H-M V1, and third party tools like SpeedFan don't work with this board either. The CMOS jumper is placed at the lower right hand corner of the board, something that you'll be reaching for frequently on the current release BIOS if overclocking this board (more on that subject in the overclocking section below).

Overclocking

The current BIOS release is limited to using the stock CPU multiplier ratio only—there is a function to change the CPU multiplier ratio but it doesn't work. Anything other than stock and the board won't POST, requiring a CMOS clear to get things working again.


Sticking with the stock CPU multiplier ratio, we did manage to obtain a quick 4.25GHz from our retail i5-540 CPU using the 2:10 memory ratio (DDR3 -1850MHz), fully stable and capable of resuming from longer S3 sleep mode too. We had planned apples to apples comparisons with other boards using our i5-661 CPU, but the lack of CPU multiplier control would have placed us in the 4.6GHz+ region for stress testing, something we did not feel comfortable subjecting the board to.

BIOS

The "basic functionality" trend also extends into the realms of overclocking; the BIOS provides a coarse control of key voltage rails and no control of QPI or IGP clock frequency control/multipliers, limiting overclocking flexibility in certain scenarios. Under-voltage fans will also be disappointed to find out that there are no options to set the CPU core voltage below stock on the current BIOS.

There is certainly room for improvement in the memory timing department too; there are no individual AUTO functions for any of the DRAM sub-timings; you either leave them all on AUTO as a group or have to set all of them manually. Individual AUTO settings allow users to experiment with one setting at a time while they get to grips with how things work—we always encourage board vendors to provide such options.

If you do overclock this board, one of the things that will irk you is that if the board fails to POST, the only way to get back into the BIOS again is to clear CMOS. There is no automated overclocking recovery feature in the BIOS and there are no profile save locations to fall back on, so you'll have to re-enter all of your settings again from scratch. The simple inclusion of a watchdog timer or POST attempt counter would make this board far more overclocking friendly.

ECS do not provide a built in BIOS flash routine either. You'll have to use a bootable USB stick with DOS installed or use AMI's OS level BIOS flashing utility to complete the task instead.

As we pointed out above in the overclocking section, the current BIOS also has an issue with changing CPU multiplier ratios; the board won't POST at anything other than the stock CPU multiplier. Like most other vendors, this is a sure sign that ECS need to step up their in-house beta testing before releasing boards and BIOSes into the wild. While the H55H-M V1 is the cheapest board in our roundup, there's no excuse for having a partially functional BIOS, or holding back on user-friendly options that require some additional BIOS code to make the board competitive with other vendor products.

Index Gigabyte H55M-USB3
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  • ReaM - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    Hey, you promised to test Quadcores 860 and 750 on the H55. I am wondering how those run and overclock on that chipset.

    You promised in Part1!

    It all leads to: P55 for quads or H55?
    Reply
  • ReaM - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Never mind, I bought the p55m ud2 from Gigabyte, also thanks to you review for that board :)

    Thanks for posting this free tests

    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
    Reply
  • wysiwygbill - Monday, March 22, 2010 - link

    Contrary to the original announcements the H55-itx does NOT support dual link DVI and the maximum DVI resolution is actually 1920x1200. Reply
  • RodEvan - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Thanks Raja for the excellent review - I've held back on purchasing a motherboard awaiting 'Part 2'. I'm looking for a relatively low power consumption board for a windows home server setup.

    I was actually pretty amazed by the Gigabyte idle power results - as equal to the the MSIboard (44 watt).

    For much of the time the CPU will be used minimaly - only rising for the occasional media decoding task - so for me the Gigabyte boatrd seemed ideal - partcularly since for some HD media sata3 speeds might come in useful.

    But the section on power consumption concludes
    "Best overall power consumption figures belong to MSI, while boards laden with USB 3.0 features and SATA 6G trail in both idle and load situations."
    The Gigabyte board (H55-USB3), quite remarkably doesn't appear to trail at all on idle.... am I missing something here?.
    Reply
  • jed22281 - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    what did you mean by:
    "particularly since for some HD media sata3 speeds might come in useful."
    The board doesn't have SATA3 does it? Only USB3.

    And what HD media would benefit from SATA3 speeds?
    There isn't any HD media I'm aware of that'd come close to saturating sata2.
    Or am I misunderstanding what your were trying to say?

    Cheers
    Reply
  • RodEvan - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    No misunderstanding - I probably need to say a little more.

    I currently one one Sagetv media extender off the server. But am about to install two more. The system should ideally allow for 3 HD videos to be streamed off the same HD at the same time.

    I haven't done the calaculation - but having the option for SATA3 seemed like a good idea.

    I've also re-read the review a note that this board has "Gigabyte SATA 2 chip: 1 x IDE, 2 x SATA 3Gb/s (RAID 0, 1 and JBOD)"

    and NOT 2 *SATA3 g/bs ... my misreading,sorry for the confusion.
    Rod
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    what are you streaming in hd? Blu-ray specs call for ~54Mbps Peak.

    3 times that is 162. Which is just barely over Sata1 spec, well under sata2. Sata3 @ 600Mps would allow for ~11 streams (not counting for overhead).

    At that point I'd be more worried about drive/raid performace then saturating the bus.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Hi,
    Thanks for the feedback. The comment was made considering all three scenarios (Idle/full load/video playback), the MSI board came out on top in all three, hence the comment 'best overall power consumption'.

    Hope that clears it up..

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • NickCardwell - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    I would love to see an Anand review of the Intel DH57JG and Zotac H55ITX-A-E motherboards. I am looking to put one of them (probably the Intel) along with an i5-650 into a Lian Li PC-Q07 case. I love to build powerful systems for others but stick to small and simple for myself. Reply
  • Ogopogo - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    How do the Intel boards compare to these other boards? My main main criteria is stability.

    I don't know if a third installment of this upcoming but it would be interesting to see a test with a displayport H55
    Reply

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