For most of us, Zotac isn't the name that comes to mind when thinking about your next motherboard. Instead, brands like ASUS, Gigabyte or MSI are closer to the tip of your tongue. For HTPC users however, that all started to change with the release of several mini-ITX motherboards based on NVIDIA's GeForce 9300 and ION chipsets. Despite its initial teething problems, the Zotac ION ended up being the perfect motherboard for a DIY low powered HTPC capable of full 1080p video playback.

If you needed more CPU power, Zotac offered the LGA-775 socket GeForce 9300-ITX-WiFi. You got the same mini-ITX form factor, but support for Core 2 CPUs instead of the on-board Atom that its ION boards were limited to. With the release of Intel's first 32nm dual-core processors earlier this year, Zotac wanted to offer an updated platform for SFF or HTPC users who didn't want to sacrifice CPU performance. Based on Intel's H55 chipset and supporting the entire line of Core i3, i5 and LGA-1156 i7 CPUs, Zotac sent us its latest mini-ITX board: the H55-ITX WiFi.

There are a couple of possible directions you can take with the H55-ITX. First, you could choose to turn this into a low-watt HTPC by utilizing a Core i3 and relying on Intel’s HD graphics for your video needs. On the other hand, you could install an i5 or i7 and populate the PCIe slot with a dedicated graphics card for a nice mid-range gaming system. Cases such as the Silverstone SG-06 and the upcoming Lian-Li PC-Q08 would complement a system such as this perfectly.

With these two different directions in mind we have decided to test the H55-ITX with both integrated and dedicated graphics. Decide for yourself which direction works the best for you.

On a side note, even the performance computing market is seeing a transition away from the more traditional full-sized motherboards. In fact, ZOTAC markets only one full-sized ATX board in the US.

Performance Summary
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  • YellowWing - Monday, March 1, 2010 - link

    It happened to me too this morning, going from page to page. Looked to me like nasty malware.
  • ggathagan - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    Since you are now putting the performance summary at the beginning of the article, you need to make sure you also make note of relevant system details at that point.
    For instance, the performance graph doesn't make note of what add-in graphics card was used. You have to get 5 pages into the review before that information is supplied.

    Other than that, good article.
  • ScavengerLX - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the discussion on power consumption guys. Ideally, this system would work best with a low wattage (~200W) power supply that had better efficiency under 75W.

  • yyrkoon - Monday, March 1, 2010 - link

    Jashua, Sparkle makes just such a PSU. Well actually, its 220W but an 80Plus PSU.


    However, 220W, or even 200W is still over kill. Unless you go with discrete graphics. In which case an nVidia 9600GT, or larger in this system would draw too much power for it to handle.

    My Core 2 system with 4GB 1.8v memory, and a 9600GT peaks around 226W in some games. Generally, those games that make most use of the GPU and CPU. Such as world in conflict. These number do include a 19" WS LCD monitor too, but it only uses 23W consistently.

    Anyways, as another has already mentioned, any PSU is best loaded at 50% capacity for the best efficiency. Especially 80Plus PSUs. SO with IGP, and the i3, that would be ~150W. Good luck finding such a beast. And before any car enthusiast start mentioning these pico supplies . . . they are junk, and often not powerful enough to begin with( for this application ).
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - link

    The pico PSUs would probably be fine if you weren't using a discrete GPU.
  • ScavengerLX - Monday, March 1, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the link.

    Actually the PSU that comes with a Silverstone SG06 is nice, too. 300W, 80+ and SFX form factor. That case would be nice for the ZOTAC H55 + Discrete system.

  • juampavalverde - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    After seeing the pictures of the board, almost instantly i tought.. with that small space such powerful htpc... it wont be hard to fit an i3+h55 inside an ultraportable or netbook like, and the thing would be freakin fast in comparison with the atoms!
  • mschira - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    Hm, interesting board.
    I wonder if it would make sense to slot a fast RAID card into the PCI slot and a small Core i3 integrated VGA CPU and build a decent Linux mostly file centric server.

  • nikclev - Monday, March 1, 2010 - link

    I suppose it would depend on the particulars, but for a linux file centric server I'd skip the raid card unless you need more than 6 sata drives or need to leave the cpu free for other tasks. Just use software raid.

    In a way, this -IS- hardware raid, just not in the traditional sense. In effect, a decent hardware raid card is nothing more than a processor, some cache ram, a pci/pcie to sata interface, and perhaps a battery. All of these things can be duplicated without the card.

    The i3 becomes your raid processor, it happens to be much more powerful than you need for this application. (so you have room to do other tasks as well.)

    The system ram becomes your cache ram, (again, more than you need, so there is room for other tasks)

    and so on. Cap it off with an appropriate sized ups, and you have a nice home raid server (with no raid card!) with all the features that you would get in a midrange hardware raid card, and the ability to do a great deal more.

    All in all, a fun project. One thing to note: if you just want a decent speed home NAS, it's cheaper to either use microATX or purchase a Qnap/synology/etc pre-made. Not nearly as much fun though. :)

  • michal1980 - Sunday, February 28, 2010 - link

    your power supply is over kill, waste too much energy no matter the efficency.

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