Gigabyte H55N-USB3: De Facto LGA1156 Mini-ITX Board?

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Gigabyte H55N-USB3

October 23, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Gigabyte H55N-USB
LGA1156 Mini-ITX Motherboard
Manufacturer
Gigabyte
Street Price
US$105

We consider the motherboard to be one of the most important components in a PC build. It is the heart of the system, not just because everything plugs into it, but because it determines what hardware can be used, essentially defining what it is and what it can ever be. Unlike most components, replacing a motherboard is no small alteration — in essence it changes the machine's identity. When it comes to mini-ITX boards, if you want horsepower comparable to what you would typically find on larger form factors, the choices available are expensive and few.

For enthusiasts looking for the best desktop performance they can get in a diminutive size, Intel's LGA1156 socket is obviously the one to consider. LGA1156 quad core processors compete very well against AMD's quad and even hex core chips. At the lower end of the spectrum, Pentium/Core i3/Core i5 dual cores models are also capable and feature Intel GMA HD graphics which perform more or less on par with AMD's current crop of integrated GPUs. Perhaps more importantly, the Intel chips have better energy efficiency and thus run cooler; this can be helpful in cramped mini-ITX cases.


The Gigabyte H55N-USB3 box.


Accessories.

At first glance, the Gigabyte H55N-USB3 is nothing to write home about. There are several elements that pop out of the box that try to catch your eye, but there isn't anything that really stands out about the actual product. Except for the inclusion of USB 3.0, it has the standard features found on most H55 chipset boards. Appreciation comes later when you realize what else is out there — the number of mini-ITX LGA1156 boards is limited.

Its main competition comes from Intel's DH57JG, and the Zotac H55-ITX-C-E (there is also an older H55-ITX A-E model that lacks USB 3.0) and as we discovered during our preliminary motherboard testing for our Silent Home Server Build Guide, there are caveats to both. The DH57JG delivers excellent power efficiency but a locked down BIOS and the H55-ITX-C-E offers extra features at the cost of very poor power efficiency. On paper, the H55N-USB3 seems to be a solid compromise, particularly as its US$105 street price is $15~$35 cheaper. Mini-ITX parts have inherent price premiums so being able to save a few bucks gives it a few points right off the bat.

Gigabyte H55N-USB3: Specifications
(from the product web page)
CPU 1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor/ Intel® Core™ i3 series processor in the LGA1156 package (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
2. L3 cache varies with CPU
Chipset 1. Intel® H55 Express Chipset
Memory 1. 2 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 8 GB of system memory (Note 1)
2. Dual channel memory architecture
3. Support for DDR3 1666 (O.C.)/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest supported memory speeds and memory modules.)
Onboard Graphics Integrated in the Chipset: (Note 2)

1. 1 x D-Sub port
2. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 3) (Note 4)
3. 1 x HDMI port (Note 4)
Audio 1. Realtek ALC892 codec
2. High Definition Audio
3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
4. Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN 1. 1 x Realtek RTL8111E chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots 1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
Storage Interface Chipset: 1. 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 4 SATA 3Gb/s devices
2. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s connector on the back panel supporting up to 1 SATA 3Gb/s device
USB Integrated in the Chipset:
1. Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)

NEC D720200F1 chip:
1. Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on the back panel

* USB 3.0 10x performance is a maximum theoretical value. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.
Internal I/O Connectors 1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector Connectors
2. 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
3. 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
4. 1 x CPU fan header
5. 1 x system fan header
6. 1 x front panel header
7. 1 x front panel audio header
8. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
9. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
10. 1 x debug card header
11. 1 x chassis intrusion header
12. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
Back Panel Connectors 1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port Connectors
2. 1 x D-Sub port (Note 2)
3. 1 x DVI-D port (Note 2)(Note 3) (Note 4)
4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5. 1 x HDMI port (Note 2)(Note 4)
6. 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
7. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
8. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s connector
9. 1 x RJ-45 port
10. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/ Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller 1. iTE IT8720 chip
H/W Monitoring 1. System voltage detection
2. CPU/System temperature detection
3. CPU/System fan speed detection
4. CPU fan speed control (Note 5)
BIOS 1. 2 x 64 Mbit flash
2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
3. Support for DualBIOS™
4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features 1. Support for @BIOS
2. Support for Q-Flash
3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
4. Support for Download Center
5. Support for Xpress Install
6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
7. Support for EasyTune (Note 6)
8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
9. Support for Smart 6™
10. Support for Auto Green
11. Support for ON/OFF Charge
12. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software 1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System 1. Support for Microsoft® Windows 7/Vista/XP
Form Factor 1. Mini-ITX Form Factor; 17.0cm x 17.0cm
Remark 1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
2. Most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME/2000/XP SP1/SP2. If drivers are available from the vendors, we will update them on the GIGABYTE website.
3. Minimum 200 Watts Power supply is suggested on this model.
Notes (Note 1) Due to Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
(Note 2) To use the onboard D-Sub, DVI-D, and HDMI ports, you must install an Intel CPU with integrated graphics.
(Note 3) The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
(Note 4) You can use only one of the onboard digital graphics ports (HDMI and DVI-D) for output when in the BIOS Setup program or when during the POST screens.
(Note 5) Whether the CPU fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU cooler you install.
(Note 6) Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.


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