You are here

Asus P7H55D-M EVO LGA1156 microATX Motherboard

Asus P7H55D-M EVO

February 1, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Asus P7H55D-M EVO

LGA1156 mATX Motherboard
Manufacturer
ASUSTeK
Street Price
US$135~140

In Clarkdale, Intel has
a pretty decent processor on their hands. It offers excellent dual core performance,
an integrated graphics chip that handles HD video well, and superb energy efficiency.
Of course a good CPU is only one piece of the puzzle. In many ways choosing
a good motherboard is perhaps the most important step in designing a custom
PC as its selection dictates what hardware can be added/upgraded which ultimately
determines what type of system it can be. It's also the most difficult component
to replace, so better to get it right the first time.

Our Clarkdale review package included a Core i5-661 processor and Intel's DH55TC,
a rather plain, basic board that did little to show off what the platform was
capable of. With a severely restricted BIOS, it's fine paired with a processor
running at stock settings that just needs to work and be stable. Enthusiasts
on the other hand who prefer to tweak and customize their experience would be
far happier with a board like the Asus P7H55D-M EVO.



The box.

Not only does Asus provide a much more relaxed BIOS policy, the P7H55D-M EVO
has plenty of additional features including eSATA, FireWire, and USB 3.0 powered
by a NEC controller. However, in other ways it's very much a budget motherboard,
lacking RAID as it is driven by the mainstream H55 chipset. Some more stripped-down
H55 mainboards from 2nd/3rd tier manufacturers can be found for well under $100.



Accessories.


Specifications: Asus
P7H55D-M EVO


(from the product web page)
CPU Intel® Socket 1156 Core™
i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/ Pentium®
Processors

Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology*

* The Intel Turbo Boost Technology support depends on the CPU types.

** Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Chipset Intel® H55 Express Chipset
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3
2133(O.C.)*/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory

Dual Channel memory architecture

Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual
CPUs. Some hyper DIMMs only support one DIMM per channel. Please refer to
Memory QVL for details.

** Refer to www.asus.com or this user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified
Vendors Lists).
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16

2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 (2.5GT/s, gray slots)

1 x PCI
VGA Multi-VGA output support:
HDMI, DVI-D, RGB

Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x [email protected]

Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x [email protected]

Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x [email protected]

Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB
Storage Intel® H55 Express
Chipset built-in


6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports

Marvell 88SE6111

1 x UltraDMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices

1 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA on-the-go)
LAN Gigabit LAN controller Realtek®
8112L Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET2
Audio Realtek 8-Channel High Definition
Audio CODEC

- BD Audio Layer Content Protection

- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking

- Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O

- ASUS Noise Filter
IEEE 1394 VIA® 6315N controller
supports 2 x 1394a port(s) (one at mid-board; one at back panel)
USB NEC® USB 3.0 controller:

- 2 x USB 3.0 ports (blue; at back panel)

Intel® H55 Express Chipset:

- 10 x USB 2.0 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
ASUS Unique Features ASUS Xtreme Design

ASUS Exclusive Overclocking Features

- GPU Boost

- TurboV and Turbo Key

ASUS Xtreme Phase

- 8+3 Phase Power Design

ASUS Exclusive Features

- Express Gate

- MemOK!

- ASUS EPU

ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution

- ASUS Fanless Design: Stack Cool 3

- ASUS Fan Xpert

ASUS EZ DIY

- ASUS Q-DIMM

- ASUS Q-Connector

- ASUS O.C. Profile

- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3

- ASUS EZ Flash 2

- ASUS MyLogo 2

- Multi-language BIOS
Overclocking Features Precision Tweaker 2

- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.00625V increment

- vIMC: Adjustable IMC voltage at 0.02V increment

- vDRAM Bus: Adjustable DRAM voltage at 0.02V increment

- vPCH: Adjustable PCH voltage at 0.01V increment

- vCPU_PLL: Adjustable CPU_PLL voltage at 0.02V increment

- iGPU: Adjustable iGPU voltage at 0.0125V increment

SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)

- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 200MHz at 1MHz increment

- Internal Base Clock tuning from 80MHz up to 500MHz at 1MHz increment

Overclocking Protection

- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x D-Sub

1 x HDMI

1 x External SATA

1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)

1 x IEEE 1394a

1 x LAN(RJ45) port

4 x USB 2.0/1.1

8 -Channel Audio I/O

1 x PS/2 Keyboard (Purple)

2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports

1 x DVI-D
Internal I/O Connectors 3 x USB connectors support
additional 6 USB ports

1 x IDE connector

1 x IEEE 1394a connector

1 x CPU Fan connector

1 x Power Fan connector

6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors

1 x Chassis Fan connector (1 x 4-pin)

Front panel audio connector

1 x S/PDIF Out Header

1 x 24-pin ATX Power connector

1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector

System Panel(Q-Connector)

1 x COM connector

1 x Clear CMOS jumper

1 x MemOK! button
BIOS 64 Mb Flash ROM , SPI, AMI
BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS,
ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Manageability WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR
by PME,PXE
Accessories User's manual

1 x I/O Shield

1 x UltraDMA 133/100 cable

2 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s cables

2 in 1 Q-connector
Support Disc Drivers

Anti-virus software (OEM version)

ASUS Update

ASUS Utilities
Form Factor uATX Form Factor

9.6 inch x 9.6 inch ( 24.5 cm x 24.5 cm )

PHYSICAL DETAILS

A board's layout is important in several regards. The positioning of components
can dictate compatibility with other products like third party heatsinks and
long dual-slot graphics cards. Poorly placed connectors can also disrupt airflow
and make the system more thermally challenging.



The P7H55D-M EVO's layout is excellent. The power connectors are on the
edges of the board and the IDE port is thankfully on its side. In addition,
the board's 6 SATA ports don't interfere with oversized graphics cards.




The CPU socket is surrounded by short, solid-state capacitors and has
plenty of clearance on all sides. There are two 4-pin PWM fan headers
located midway between the socket and the first PCI-E 1x slot.





The most striking feature of the board are the funky VRM heatsinks with
fins of various thickness sticking out at several different angles. They
are only 2.7cm tall measured from the PCB surface which is not enough
to cause any problems for third party coolers.





The back panel is stocked with S/PDIF, FireWire, eSATA, and a pair of
USB 3.0 ports distinguished by their blue color. HDMI, DVI and VGA are
also available for use but only when the board is paired with a Clarkdale
processor with Intel GMA HD graphics.




Narrower heatsinks like the Thermalright MUX-120 won't hang over the memory
slots, but wider ones may interfere with DIMMs with large heatspreaders.

BIOS

For enthusiasts, the options available within the BIOS can make
a good board, a great one. The ability to manipulate frequencies, voltages,
and fan control settings vary depending on the hardware and the amount of
trust placed in the user's hands by the manufacturer.



"Ai Tweaker" menu with maximum values entered.



"AI Tweaker" menu, continued.



"Hardware Monitor" menu.


BIOS Summary: Asus P7H55D-M EVO
Setting
Options
BLCK Frequency (CPU)
80 MHz to 500 MHz
CPU Voltage
-Fixed: 0.85V to 1.70V in 0.00625V increments

-Offset: 0.00625V to 0.50000V in 0.00625V increments
QPI Frequency
3200MHz to 6400MHz in 533MHz increments
IMC Voltage
1.10V to 1.90V in 0.02V increments

(1.10V default)
PCH Voltage
1.05V to 2.00V in 0.01V increments

(1.05V default)
DRAM Frequency
800MHz, 1066MHz, 1333MHz

(for Core i5-661)
DRAM Voltage
1.20V to 2.20V in 0.02V increments
Memory Timing Control
Advanced
Integrated Graphics
iGPU Voltage
0.5000V to 1.7500V in 0.0125V increments
iGPU Graphics Mode
32MB, 64MB, 128MB
iGPU Frequency
133MHz to 1500MHz in 33MHz increments
DVMT Memory

(XP only setting)
128MB, 256MB, Maximum DVMT
Fan Control
CPU Q-Fan Control
Standard, Silent, Turbo, Manual
Manual Settings (CPU Fan)
-CPU Upper Temperature: 40°C to 90°C in 10°C
increments

-CPU Lower Temperature: 40°C (fixed)
-Maximum Fan Duty Cycle: 20% to 100% in 10% increments

-Minimum Fan Duty Cycle: 00% to 100% in 10% increments
Chassis Q-Fan Control
Standard, Silent, Turbo

The BIOS allows for frequency/voltage modification of all the
main components (CPU, DRAM, chipset, IGP) with liberal limits; it should be
enough to satisfy overclockers and undervolters alike. Both of the board's
fan headers can be controlled using Asus' Q-Fan feature. There are three pre-configured
settings as well as manual options for the CPU fan header only. In manual
mode the maximum and minimum fan speed can be set as well as the upper CPU
temperature.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:



CPU-Z screenshot: i5-661 on load, TurboBoost enabled.



Testbed device listing.



Measurement and Analysis Tools

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:

Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
21.2
41.6
60.2
81.9
104.7
124.1
145.2
AC Input (W)
32.0
58.0
78.0
102.0
128.0
150.0
175.0
Efficiency
66.3%
71.7%
77.1%
80.3%
81.8%
82.8%
83.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won't go through the math; it's easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.

Testing Procedures

If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Cool'n'Quiet
or Intel SpeedStep are enabled (unless otherwise noted). The following features/services
are disabled during testing to prevent spikes in CPU/HDD usage that are typical
of fresh Vista installations:

  • Superfetch
  • Windows Defender
  • Windows Search
  • Windows Sidebar

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress CPUs we
use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces
higher system power consumption. To stress the IGP, we use FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

Our main video test suite features a variety of high definition video clips.
The videos are played and a CPU usage graph is created by the Windows Task Manger
for analysis to determine the approximate mean CPU usage. High CPU usage is
indicative of poor video decoding ability on the part of the integrated graphics
subsystem. If the video (and/or audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the board's
IGP (in conjunction with the processor) is inadequate to decompress the clip
properly.

H.264/VC-1 Video Test Suite

H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos on
the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray discs.
To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD.



1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 1
is a H.264 encoded clip inside an Apple
Quicktime container.





1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the "WMV-HD" moniker.




1080p | 24fps | ~33mbps
Blu-ray: Disturbia is a short section (chapter
4) of the Blu-ray version of Disturbia, the motion picture, played
directly off the Blu-ray disc. It is encoded with H.264/AVC.




1080p | 24fps | ~36mbps
Blu-ray: Becoming Jane is a short section (chapter
7) of the Blu-ray version of Becoming Jane, the motion picture, played
directly off the Blu-ray disc. It is encoded with VC-1.

x264/MKV Video Test Clip

MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia container
used for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clip was taken from a full length movie; the
most demanding one minute portion was used. We use Media Player Classic
Home - Cinema to play it as its default settings allow it to use DXVA (DirectX
Video Acceleration) automatically when used with a compatible Intel/ATI
graphics chip. For Nvidia graphics we use CoreAVC to enable CUDA (Compute
Unified Device Architecture) support in MPC-HC.



1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a hapless
robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

Power Consumption

Motherboard power consumption varies even between models using the same chipset
due to differences in power regulation, quality of components, and extra hardware
like third party controllers. As sucht, we measure power draw from both the
wall and from the AUX12V connector with the help of a pair of digital multimeters
and an in-line 0.1 ohm shunt resistor. The latter measures how much energy is
being drawn on the +12V line by the processor including inefficiencies lost
to the VRMs. This can help us narrow down the causes of power consumption differences
between two similar boards.

DC Power Consumption: Idle/Load
Test State
Asus P7H55D-M EVO
Intel DH55TC
System
CPU + VRM
Diff.
System
CPU + VRM
Diff.
Idle
31W
9.9W
21.1W
18W
5.3W
12.7W
CPU Load
73W
47.2W
25.8W
60W
46.0W
14.0W
CPU + GPU

Load
78W
50.1W
27.9W
67W
51.2W
15.8W
CPU Load (Turbo)
76W
49.0W
27.0W
63W
48.0W
15.0W
CPU Load + GPU Load (Turbo)
80W
51.7W
28.3W
69W
52.7W
16.3W
CPU + VRM power measured from the AUX12V connector
(combined DC draw of VRMs and CPU).

When we initially reviewed the Clarkdale platform, we were blown away by the
low power consumption attained when pairing the Core i5-661 and Intel DH55TC.
The same processor on the P7H55D-M EVO is not nearly as efficient. Strangely,
the power measurements of the CPU and VRMs showed a 5W difference when idle
that evaporated when the system was placed on load. But whether idle or on load,
the system consistently used 11~13W more. This is a puzzling result that we
can't explain.

DC Power Consumption: Video Playback
Test State
Asus P7H55D-M EVO
Intel DH55TC
Rush Hour

(H.264)
37W
31W
Coral Reef

(WMV-HD)
38W
31W
Disturbia

(Blu-ray H.264)
51W
43W
Becoming Jane

(Blu-ray VC-1)
46W
39W
Space

(x264/MKV)
43W
not tested
TurboBoost disabled during video playback testing.

The power discrepancy continued during video playback tests. As the exact same
hardware was used with both motherboards, it appears that something on the P7H55D-M
EVO is constantly using extra power regardless of what the system is doing.

As the graphics core is integrated on the processor itself and not the motherboard,
we omitted CPU usage figures as they were the same. Please refer to our Core
i5-661 review
for more detailed test results regarding Intel's GMA HD
graphics.

Fan Control

To test the board's fan control, we connected the CPU fan to a manual fan speed
controller so we could slow it down to induce higher CPU temperatures. A 92mm
Scythe Kama 2500rpm PWM fan was connected to the CPU fan header and a 92mm Xigmatek
2800rpm PWM fan was connected to the Chassis fan header. Fan speeds and temperatures
were monitored using Asus' PC Probe utility as the system was stressed.

Fan Control
Criterion
CPU Fan

(2500rpm)
Chassis Fan

(2800rpm)
Min. Fan Speed
600rpm
740rpm
Trigger Temp.
30°C
N/A (constant)
Max. Fan Speed Temp.
52°C
N/A (constant)
CPU fan settings: 20°C lower temperature, 50°C
upper temperature, 70% maximum fan speed, 20% minimum fan speed. Chassis
fan set to "Silent." Ambient temperature: 22°C

The board's automatic fan control followed the manual settings accurately though
if when temperature exceeded the upper temperature by 2 degrees or more, it
overrode the maximum fan speed and pumped it up to 100% for safety reasons.
The Chassis fan spun at a constant speed depending on which Q-fan setting was
selected. The CPU fan header can only control PWM fans but the Chassis fan header
can control fans using both PWM and 3-pin fans.



Asus' Fan Xpert utility.

The Fan Xpert utility allows users to set the fan speed settings from the desktop
as long as the application is running in the background. It includes a middle
temperature/fan speed target point to customize fan control further.

SpeedFan Support

For Windows users, SpeedFan is our application of choice for fan control. It
can be configured to raise or lower multiple fan speeds to designated limits
when any specified temperature threshold is breached.



SpeedFan on the left, PC Probe on the right.

Unfortunately the current version of SpeedFan does not support the P7H55D-M
EVO.

EPU 6-Engine

From time to time, we like to investigate Asus' EPU (energy processing unit),
a feature on its Intel motherboards that claims to reduce energy use, in large
part by adjusting the power phases of the board depending on the load state
of the system. In the past we've found that their EPU utility performs minor
tweaks like minor adjustments to CPU frequency and voltage, making it all but
impossible to determine whether the feature is actually working as it should.

On the P7H55D-M EVO, the same thing seems to apply. For example when idling
without EPU installed, CPU-Z reported a core voltage of 0.944V. With EPU installed,
calibrated and set to Auto, there was 0.024V decrease. In Medium Power Saving
mode, on load, the CPU voltage decreased by 0.16V while the CPU frequency was
slowed by 2MHz. These adjustments did very little to alter actual energy consumption,
with our instruments measuring less than a 1W difference whether measured from
the wall or at the AUX12V connector.



EPU 6-Engine interface.

The one good thing about the EPU feature is the ability to switch from stock
CPU settings to underclocked/undervolted at a couple of clicks of the mouse.
Putting the system in Max. Power Saving mode made our i5-661 run at 1.2GHz and
0.840V (which is basically the minimum the board's BIOS allows) regardless of
CPU load. Still, doing so only dropped the power draw during video playback
by 2~3W with no change when the system was idle.

Cooling

Lower cost boards ship with simple heatsinks on the chipset(s) while those
targeted at enthusiasts typically have large heatpipe coolers and heatsinks
on the voltage regulation modules near the CPU socket. A well-cooled motherboard
can deliver better power efficiency and stability.

Heatsink Temperatures
Board
PCH
VRMs
Intel DH55TC
39°C
39~44°C (bare)
Asus P7H55D-M EVO
54°C
40~45°C
Thermalright MUX-120 with stock fan @ 5.6V (900 RPM).

Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Cooling was not an issue on the board as the hottest point on the PCH and VRM
heatsinks measured only 54°C and 45°C respectively after 15 minutes
at full load as measured by an IR thermometer. The power draw of a dual core
i5 is not enough to justify VRM cooling though as the DH55TC with its bare MOSFETs
did not get particularly hot either.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Asus P7H55D-M EVO is a very solid board with a good layout and plenty
of features including eSATA, FireWire and USB 3.0, though it lacks RAID as the
chipset does not support it. Compared to the Intel DH55TC, it offers a lot more
features and uses higher quality components including better inductors, more
solid-state capacitors, and VRM heatsinks. The board also has a nice BIOS with
a more than healthy range of frequency and voltage options for all the major
components. You'll be happy with it whether you like to overclock to get free
performance increases or if you prefer to increase your system's energy efficiency
through undervolting. The board's fan control is okay, with customizable settings
available for the CPU fan, and a three-speed static setting for the secondary
fan header.

The only true weakness we could find was the board's mysterious extra power
draw compared to the DH55TC. Strangely, we measured an extra 5W DC draw from
the CPU and VRMs when idle which disappeared on load, even though the total
system difference remained almost constant at 12W DC regardless of the system
state. It does have extra controllers powering the IDE/eSATA, USB 3.0, and FireWire
ports, but this doesn't quite explain the measurements we recorded.

The P7H55D-M EVO carries a $135 price-tag, apparently making it the most expensive
H55 board on the market at the moment. Even with the extra features it's rather
high considering Gigabyte's GA-H55M-USB3 has similar specifications and only
costs $110. Gigabyte's board has only minor differences including the addition
of a DisplayPort connector, two PCI slots rather than one PCI and one PCI-E
1x slot, and a lack of VRM heatsinks.

Asus P7H55D-M EVO
PROS



* eSATA, FireWire, USB 3.0

* Liberal BIOS options for overclockers and undervolters
CONS



* Higher power consumption than DH55TC

* Price

Our thanks to ASUSTeK
for the P7H55D-M EVO sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Intel
Core i5-661: A 32nm CPU with Integrated Graphics


Intel D510M0 Motherboard: Atom 2.0

Gigabyte MA785GPMT-UD2H 785G Motherboard

AMD's 785G Chipset Boards: 780G Evolved

Intel DG41MJ: Affordable 775 Mini-ITX

DFI LanParty JR 790GX-M3H5 mATX
Motherboard

* * *

Discuss this article in the
SPCR forums.

Google

www SPCR