Zotac H55-ITX-C-E: Stacked LGA1156 Mini-ITX Motherboard

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Like many of Zotac's previous offerings, the H55-ITX-C-E distinguishes itself with a great feature set, being outfitted with 6 SATA ports, a USB 3.0 controller, and a 802.11n mini PCI-E card with dual antennae. When it comes to LGA1156 mini-ITX boards, nothing delivers as many features.

This beast of a mini-board unfortunately has a dark side: Power consumption. Compared to the Asus P7H55D-M EVO, a microATX board with a similar feature-set, the H55-ITX applied much higher CPU voltage to our i5-661 test processor, resulting in a 20% increase in full load power consumption. On a typical microATX/ATX board, we would simply go into the BIOS and set the voltage manually, but being a mini-ITX mainboard, its range of voltages is very slim. Even after undervolting it to the limit, we were still about 0.75V shy of what we felt the Vcore should have been.

In addition, when we stressed the integrated Intel GMA HD graphics chip on our our i5, the increase in power draw was 5 times that of a typical H55 board. While few purchasers of this board will experience this confounding problem (few users are likely to game heavily with GMA HD), it's still distressing that such a big power leak can exist. Thankfully, the board's energy efficiency when idle and watching HD video is in-line with the P7H55D-M. (Editor's Note: Whether a BIOS fix will solve this power issue in the near future is something we'll monitor. Zotac has been informed of our findings; so far, their techs have no response.)

Those who see the H55-ITX and its 6 SATA ports as the potential cornerstone of a file server may overlook these problems depending on how often the system will sit idle. Generally we would recommend a lower cost microATX board for this function , like the ultra energy efficient Intel DH55TC. For a home theater PC, simpler and more cost effective solutions abound, though a Clarkdale/H55 combination does offer audio bitstreaming capabilities similar to that of the HD 5000 series of graphics cards. Still, we can only recommend the H55-ITX-C-E if you intend to use it as a compact but powerful gaming PC. After all, what's an extra 15W when you've got an i7 processor drawing 95W and a graphics card pulling down 150W?

Pricing is not yet available for the H55-ITX-C-E, but the A-E version without USB 3.0 has a street price of about US$130, so expect the updated version to go for about US$150 which is pricey but okay value-wise, due to its strong set of features. If you're willing to give up 2 SATA connectors, WiFi, and the mini PCI-E slot, the Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB is more affordable at only US$105. But for many, that's too much too give up.

Zotac H55-ITX-C-E
PROS

* Core i5/i7 support
* Feature-rich (6 x SATA, 802.11n, USB 3.0)
CONS

* High Vcore = high CPU load power consumption
* Unusually high IGP load power consumption

Our thanks to Zotac for the H55-ITX-C-E sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
AMD's 890GX Chipset
Asus P7H55D-M EVO LGA1156 microATX Motherboard
Intel Core i5-661: A 32nm CPU with Integrated Graphics
Gigabyte MA785GPMT-UD2H 785G Motherboard
Intel's LGA1156 and Lynnfield core
AMD's 785G Chipset Boards: 780G Evolved

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