A Tiny Budget Package
Ushering in the new year and the 32nm era was Intel's Clarkdale family of processors. Integrated graphics and affordable prices for these dual-core processors will endear them to mainstream users. To help these consumers, we previously did a comparison between five different microATX motherboards using the Intel H55 Express chipset, one of the main chipsets supporting the Clarkdale. Today, we set our sights on a similar mATX H55 board from ECS.
Old School Green
The green PCB on the ECS H55H-CM brings back some memories; most motherboard vendors now have such a choice of colors
that they rarely pick green, not that there's anything wrong with this color. The board itself is square, due to its mATX dimensions and the features onboard appear to follow the chipset standard.
Surprisingly, this board lacked a DVI output and instead, we found a really old school parallel port. The HDMI port is present and should make up for this, though those with DVI-only monitors will have to improvise. The audio jacks too are limited to three outputs for a 6-channel HD audio CODEC support with no S/PDIF outputs at the rear I/O.
Average and Functional
This embrace of legacy features continued; during our inspection, we spotted a floppy drive connector, but yet we failed to find a IDE connector for PATA support. This decision left us slightly puzzled since one is more likely to have the latter than the former.
You do get the full six SATA 3.0Gbps ports from the chipset, but due to the layout of the board, two of them are potentially blocked if the user installs a dual-slot graphics card. Given the budget nature of this ECS board, we're betting that it's an unlikely scenario.
Besides the single PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, there's a PCI slot and two PCIe x1 slots. With the number of integrated features, from the Gigabit LAN to the HD audio and Intel HD Graphics, we are quite confident that most of these expansion slots will be underused.
The few solid capacitors on the PCB reminded us once again of this board's budget nature. There's a small, passive heatsink for the chipset but that's all you'll find. As we said, this board is not targeted at power users who will ratchet up the clock speeds.
While we don't have a street price for the ECS H55H-CM, we estimate that it should be less than US$100, with a price lower than quite a few of its competitors. After all, the feature set on this board is fairly basic, with some legacy choices that may find a niche group of users still attached to such older devices. Besides some minor layout issues, this board should suit mainstream users who are not too particular about getting the best and latest technologies.