January 3, 2010 saw the lift of Intel's embargo on the Clarkdale family of processors and supporting H55/H57 series chipsets. Boards featuring these chipsets have been in our labs for a few weeks now, and we have been busy testing them to figure out which one makes the most sense to buy. After a solid two weeks on the merry-go-round, leaving us with eye-bags larger than potato sacks and eyeballs redder than a Baboon's backside, we are finally in a position to deliver part one of our coverage.

Before we continue further, it makes sense to start with a couple of H55 and H57 chipset diagrams for a refresher and overview:



Intel Chipset Pricing
Chipset Pricing (1000 units)
Intel Q57 $44
Intel H55 $40
Intel H57 $43
Intel P55 $40

The diagrams lay out the topology simply enough; what they don't make clear is that Clarkdale CPUs are confined to single GPU configurations by Intel when used in conjunction with H55/H57 motherboards. That does not mean to say that you can't run dual GPU configurations on H55/H57 altogether though; you can if you use a Lynnfield series processor, if the motherboard vendor has taken the trouble of placing the appropriate lane switches onto the board.

The only way to get dual GPU capabilities from Clarkdale CPUs is to use them in a supporting P55 motherboard. Weird, no? The segregation would make sense if Intel offered the H55 and H57 chipsets to vendors at a substantially reduced price in comparison to P55. Clearly, that's not happening at present, as the H57 costs $3 more than the P55 before you've even put a component on the motherboard.

So where does this leave H57? The only thing it has to offer Clarkdale is a few extra PCI-E lanes, two extra USB ports, and RAID. If you're going to use the IGP, you don't really need the extra PCI-E lanes, which essentially means that you're paying for the option to run RAID on the H57 PCH. We also fail to see the attraction of running a Lynnfield processor in an H57 board; the H57 boards would need to come in at least $20 cheaper than entry level P55 boards, or offer some form of performance enhancement for it to start making sense.

In light of this, we're expecting vendors to bring H55 boards at a maximum of $130 (hopefully less), while H57 boards should be offered at a price reflecting the difference in chipset and associated parts costs only. The $150~$200 bracket is best left to mid/upper tier P55 motherboards and entry level X58 offerings, rather than have H57 competing in these segments.

Our focus for this two part series is to look primarily at the sub-$150 H55/H57 motherboards. A $200 board did make it into the test lineup before the dual GPU information was made clear to us by Intel and the board vendors. We've kept it in the running for now, just to see what H57 offers over H55 in terms of performance and overclocking.

Today's full lineup of test subjects is the ASUS P7H55D-M EVO, ASUS P7H57D-V EVO, the ASRock H55M-Pro, and the MSI H55M-ED55. Don't be alarmed if you don't see your favorite vendor in the current test list; two boards from Gigabyte have just touched base in our labs, while boards from BIOSTAR and ECS are currently en route. We'll be looking at all of those in part two of our coverage, where we'll also offer up our final verdict on the best choice.

We've got plenty of fat to chew over in part one first, so let's move on to our user experience summary of each board before we focus on the finer elements of today's test samples.

Board Summary/Overview
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  • Rajinder Gill - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    For i3 530 results, you can compare the i3~i5 deltas in Anand's coverage here;

    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    That gives as a basic idea of what to expect. The actaul IGP consumption variance from board to board will be aroud 10~15w I'd expect. I can run some fo this stuff in the follow up.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • hyvonen - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Hi Raja,

    The MSI H55M-ED55 looks awesome for low-power HTPC, but the lack of undervolting is an incomprehensible miss on MSI's part. If they are as gung-ho about low-power as they claim, they should most definitely offer undervolting too.

    Could you guys suggest to MSI that they should add undervolting options to their future BIOS releases? I know Anand's team has a lot of influence on manufacturers, and this could really help out MSI and their customers alike.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Sure thing, I'll pop it in a message to them.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • hyvonen - Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - link

    Thanks - this is much appreciated. Reply
  • YellowWing - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the link to Anand article, but all of his power figures are for a machine using a graphics adapter. The i5-661 and i3-530 clock the graphics at different rates. So... imho it would be ideal to see idle and load figures for the i3-530. Reply
  • hyvonen - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    SilenPCReview has a pretty good review on i5-661, where the system is configured for HTPC purposes (i.e., IGP & superlow power). They even touch on PSU efficiency at low power levels (the efficiency is pretty awful, even for a 450W 80plus PUS).

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/intel-clarkdale">http://www.silentpcreview.com/intel-clarkdale

    I've already decided to go with a PicoPSU that should give me about 80% efficiency at 20-30W idle.
    Reply
  • hyvonen - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Oh, and I wanted to point out that i5-661 was idling at extremely low power levels in that review. Moreover, I've seen another review somewhere comparing i5-661s and actual i3-530s - in that review, the i3-530 idle power was higher! My guess is that the idle power levels are so low in both that it's all within measurement noise. Reply
  • nuudles - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Any news on when we will start seeing mini-ITX H55/57 boards? With more and more mATX boards mini-ITX is becoming the mATX of a couple of years ago.

    I know that there is one DFI mini-ITX p55 board at Newegg, but it is $147 with shipping, plus something like a i3 530 would be an ideal match for a mini-ITX H55 for a very small + low power system (HTPC, etc).

    Or if you add a small-ish video card like a 5750 then you have a nice and small (non-hardcore) gaming system.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    We expect some of these vendors to have M-ITX boards somewhere over the next few months (hopefully).

    Zotac have a H55 model that should be on sale soon:

    http://pden.zotac.com/index.php?page=shop.product_...">http://pden.zotac.com/index.php?page=sh...mp;optio...


    Nothing concrete yet from the big players in terms of release dates/models etc unfortunately.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Monday, February 1, 2010 - link

    Hello Raja and everyone:

    Would you be so kind and point me to a site or anything that has Intel and AMD chips compared? Live Lynnfield vs Clarkdale vs everything?

    I have been into hardware for a loooong time but i was doing some science work lately and i am out of grip with latest chips.

    Thanks everybody. This review was great
    Reply

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