Not a bad start from Gigabyte overall, barring a few glitches we found with current BIOS releases and a couple of very minor things in bundled software.  The first BIOS glitch is the AHCI SATA optical drive time-out - the work around for this is easy enough and a patched BIOS that sorts the problem should soon be available. The second issue relates to the problems that surfaced when changing to multipliers between 23x and 25x on an i7-875K Lynnfield; which results in the board POSTing at speeds other than what you’ve actually set – it should be a quick fix.  

Had these issues not have surfaced; we’d be conducting a silver or bronze award ceremony at this point. However, we’re still on a crusade to encourage vendors to perform a little more in-house testing before they release products to retail so we’re holding back. Out of the sixteen other boards we’ve reviewed this year, there was only one other we considered for an award (ASUS’s excellent M4A89GTD Pro), and we held back there too, because we had to suggest a BIOS fix. Consider what we’ve said here today a part-accolade for the H55N-USB3 - it missed out on an award by a whisker.

Other than those gripes, the H55N-USB3 is a smooth operator in every way.  All of our plug-in peripherals work and overclocking/stability with Clarkdale processors is also excellent.  The whole journey is made very easy by Gigabyte’s BIOS, needing very few changes to reach high bus speeds.  That alone makes the H55N-USB3 the board to go for if you’ve got any kind of Clarkdale overclocking or underclocking in mind – the boards we’ve tested from ECS, DFI, Intel and Zotac don’t have the same level of options, finesse or control.

Headroom for overclocking Lynnfield processors isn’t going to set the world on fire, but is bang on-par with DFI’s P55 MI-T36. Both boards have similar limits in power delivery, so it’s going to come down to subjective preferences; either Gigabyte’s BIOS (assuming the multiplier issues cited above are fixed), and slightly higher memory speed possibilities, or DFI’s component layout which leaves more room for processor cooling.

 

Looking at things in a more discerning manner, there are a few things we’d liked to have seen Gigabyte do to really elevate the H55N-USB3; a cleaner under-socket area for aftermarket coolers, onboard WiFi, and perhaps the addition of the Dolby up-scaling package that Gigabyte bundles with their micro-ATX motherboards - as they’re essentially the same price as the H55N-USB3.  The other reason we can think of that you might want to look past the H55N-USB3 is if you’re looking to run RAID – Intel’s DH57JG is the only out-of-box mini-ITX choice for socket 1156 at present.

Apart from that, when we focus on what each vendor is offering on their mini-ITX boards as a total package, we think there are far more reasons to choose the H55N-USB3 than to shirk it. On balance, this is the best mini-ITX board currently available for Clarkdale and certainly the one we’d go for – it’s a keeper.

System Benchmarks
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  • jakefalcons - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    I would choose a gigabyte motherboard over a dfi one right now seeing as how dfi is pulling out of the retail motherboard. just my 2 cents Reply
  • jakefalcons - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    edit *retail market excuse me >< Reply
  • Soulkeeper - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    That's a nice looking board.
    Gigabyte is my favorite right now :)
    Would be good to see an AMD mini-itx too
    Reply
  • jaydee - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    ECS did us all a favour by introducing their H55H-I at an incredible $79, forcing Intel and Zotac to lower the price of competing models down to $110.


    Where can you get the Zotac board for ~$110? It's ~$138 at newegg right now.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Sorry my bad. I heard Zotac were going to shift the price down to $110. Corrected!

    Regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • bumble12 - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Newegg did have the Zotac for $110 a couple weeks ago when I was seriously considering getting one. They're always adjusting prices based on stock / demand... Reply
  • P4spooky - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Great review. Would be nice if you can start including some HTPC specific tests in your review especially for boards targeted for the HTPC market like this one. I would like to see Audio bitstreaming capability, any issues related to it for example. Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll discuss this with the rest of the team and see what we can come up with.

    -Raja
    Reply
  • Saltbread - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    I second the need fore HTPC specific tests. I was really expecting that they would be some in his since I believe the Zotac review leaned in that direction as well. I'd REALLY like to see a shootout HTPC wise with the Zotac vs ECS vs Gigabyte!!

    BTW, could anyone suggest a mini ITX case with an external 5.25 external slot I could put a bluray drive in? Are there any slot loading bluray drives anywhere on the market?
    Reply
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