Sometimes it's difficult to determine the best option in a round-up of like products. Not today. Our favorites easily separate themselves from the rest of the pack, but before singling them out, let's take a moment to address the boards that didn't make the cut.
Obviously, Intel isn't targeting hard-core enthusiasts with the DH55TC. The board has corporate desktop written all over it, and its modest power draw is sure to appeal to anyone who manages tens, hundreds, or thousands of systems. However, I still can't get over how bare the board really is. The BIOS is missing even the most basic of performance tuning options, and the port cluster could use a lot more love. I just can't bring myself to recommend a board that's this basic yet costs only about $12 less than the much more feature-rich GA-H55M-USB3.
Pricing weighs heavily on our recommendations here at TR, and it's primarily for that reason that Asus' P7H55D-M EVO misses out on an award. Make no mistake about it: this is a very good motherboard. The EVO is the best overclocker of the bunch, has faster FireWire and USB 3.0 performance than the Gigabyte board, and even incorporates decent BIOS-level fan speed controls. However, the EVO also draws more power at idle than the competition. More seriously, it costs a whopping $138 online, making it nearly $30 more than the Gigabyte H55M-USB3. I'd have no qualms about running the EVO in one of my personal systems, but there's no way I'd pay such an exorbitant premium for the privilege.
Why pay that much more for the Asus when the Gigabyte gets you roughly the same feature set and performance for just $110? It's not like the H55M-USB3 is just cheaperit also serves up a second physical x16 slot, RAID support for two SATA ports, and a DisplayPort connector for integrated graphics. The H55M-USB3 is more power-efficient than the EVO at idle, too, and it's nearly as good an overclocker.
A bargain price tag doesn't excuse the H55M-USB3's painfully stone-age fan speed controls or its pokey FireWire chip. However, it softens the blow considerably, especially when the rest of the board is so solid. The GA-H55M-USB3 is easily the best value of the lot and an obvious Editor's Choice.
The H55M-USB3 isn't the only board we're singling out for distinction, though. Zotac's H55 ITX might be half the size of the microATX field, but with an LGA1156 socket and a PCIe x16 slot, you can put together a tiny system that packs one heck of a punch. What impresses me most about this diminutive design is the fact that it can easily serve as the basis for a desktop system, a home-theater PC, or even a gaming rig. The integrated Wi-Fi ensures that the PCIe x16 slot is available for other peripherals, and although USB 3.0 support would've been a nice addition, I can understand why it wasn't included.
With a $145 street price, the H55 ITX doesn't come cheap. But Mini-ITX mobos with real CPU sockets have always been expensive, and this latest one isn't unreasonably so. If you're in the market for something a little smaller than microATX, Zotac's H55 ITX is TR Recommended.
98 comments — Last by ltcommander.data at 11:50 PM on 04/05/10
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