Let us have another look at our Sandy Bridge chipset comparison table.  If you bounced straight into this page of the article and missed the blurb on the front page, I mentioned the two main differences between the P67 and the H67.  On H67, we can use the integrated graphics on the processor at the expense of CPU overclocking opportunities, and if we do use a discrete GPU, we are limited to one only.  Considering that a large portion of the pre-built PC sales worldwide feature no-overclocking and limited graphics, the H67 offerings, in micro-ATX form factors, offer a path into a highly contested market between PC builders.

Chipset Comparison
  P67 H67 H61 P55 H57 H55
CPU Support Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156
CPU PCIe Config 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
RAID Support Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 10 14 14 12
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 4 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0)
PCIe Lanes 8 (5GT/s) 8 (5GT/s) 6 (5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 6 (2.5GT/s)

As with the discussion surrounding the Sandy Bridge processors, many people have questioned Intel’s decision to have most of the processors locked, and only a few overclockable.  The same question ultimately applies to the Sandy Bridge chipsets – why only allow CPU overclocking on P67 (and Z68 in the future)?  The answer here is simple enough – to help bring costs down.

Imagine the scenario that you are designing a motherboard.  You understand the market, and want to add many bells and whistles, but the company you work for obviously wants to lower costs.  If you are told that the chipset supports 95W CPUs, you have to add the power infrastructure on the board to match.  Add in a few phases to support that, and it is done.  Now take the same design to a chipset that supports overclocking.  Somehow, that 95-110W window goes out the door, and you have to cater for any manner of overclocker and power draw.  Then the onus is on you, and the company, to be the best and get the best results – within budget of course.  With H67 and its no overclocking rule, the market that wants a cheaper board can get that cheaper board.

That scenario is, of course, just one facet of what is a large industry to consider.  There is also another argument, that the CPU overclockable K series SKUs also have the best integrated HD 3000 (12 EU) graphics compared to their non-K counterparts, that only have HD 2000 (6 EU).  So in order to get the best integrated, there is an extra cost in getting that K series SKU and not getting to overclock the CPU in a H67 board.  In that respect, I would have to offer this proposal: Intel have engineered H67 to be in the position where people do not need GPU power or overclocked CPU power – enough to help accelerate encoding, run two monitors, play flash, but not much more.  If you cast your mind back to Anand’s comparison of the HD3000/2000, the 3000 is usually better than an AMD HD 5450 for gaming, but the 2000 is usually competing with the higher end Clarkdale 1156 CPUs.  If you are on a budget or a single GPU gamer where CPU power is not all too important, then H67 is aimed squarely at you as well.

I will be honest with you – I am a sucker for a fast machine.  I get weak knees when reading record-breaking benchmarks.  Thus, the H67 results did not exactly set my eyes ablaze.  However, I remember the time when I was a scrimping student.  I wanted high gaming performance at the lowest cost – if Sandy Bridge was out then, and I was specifically after the Sandy Bridge platform over anything AMD, then a H67 with an i3-2100 and the biggest graphics card I could afford would be a viable option.

The three boards we are looking at today are of slightly different price ranges – the ASRock H67M-GE/HT comes in at $120, the Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H for $125, and the ECS H67H2-M aims at the high end with $145.  Technically, all our media samples are the B2 stepping, which Intel has recalled regarding the potential failure of the SATA 3Gb/s ports.  If you remember, the predicted failure rate was up to 5% over three years.  We have double-checked with all the manufacturers regarding their B3 versions of these products. All have responded that the boards will be the same as the B2s, and thus performance should be the same when the B3s come on sale.

So, without further ado, let us jump into the first board of the trio.  ASRock, what have you got?

ASRock H67M-GE/HT: Visual Inspection
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  • Taft12 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    It's not accurate to call the i3-2100 a "true budget CPU" while we've got stuff like the Athlon II X2 and Pentium E5xxx on the market. Reply
  • cjs150 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I am pleased you said this, because this is something I do not understand either, H67 looks to be a waste of time

    ASrock seems the best of this silly catagory. I have one of their boards in a file server, nice board, just works without fuss. Perfect for a server. May look at them for next build, instead of my usual ASUS fetish.

    One thing though that really bugs me. Why on all the Micro-ATX boards out there do they insist on having the top PCI-E so close to the bottom end of the memory sockets. Have the MB manufacturers not noticed that high end memory is shipping with cooling fans? Several times I have found it impossible to fit a graphics card and the memory fan, virtually every time at the very least I have to ensure that there are no possible shorts by putting electricians tape around the bottom of the memory fan clup on. MB manufacturers it is not difficult, move the PCI-E slot down by 5mm or the memory sokets up by 5mm
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Not a bash, but fans on DDR3 ram is mostly frivolous waste. Heck, most ram today doesn't even need fancy heatspreaders because they run so cool. This is about the H67 chipset so I don't think many would waste time/money on buying high end memory that offers little in the terms of performance. Don't worry, Z68 is coming soon and you'll be able to buy your full ATX board that you can load up with the latest and greatest in parts to get that XTREME o/c. This chipset is not marketed for you. Reply
  • ArtShapiro - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I'd like to think that I (a decided non-gamer) am the target audience.

    I currently have a physically large (huge?) desktop system in a Chenboro 105 case. No way this monster can fit in the alcove in my computer desk, so it sits on the floor with the usual scads of cables coming from the desk. What a royal pain to move, clean, etc.

    I suspect this summer I'll have an H67 system in a tiny (maybe Antec 300-150) case, little bigger than my tiny Asus TS mini Windows Home Server machine. With no graphic card, this thing should be efficient and dwarf the performance of the existing monster.

    The H67 setup fits my needs to an alarming degree!

    Art
    Reply
  • Concillian - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I suspect this summer I'll have an H67 system in a tiny (maybe Antec 300-150) case, little bigger than my tiny Asus TS mini Windows Home Server machine. With no graphic card, this thing should be efficient and dwarf the performance of the existing monster.

    The H67 setup fits my needs to an alarming degree!


    What about this system cannot be handled by a significantly cheaper H61 motherboard? I missed that part of why H67 was perfect.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    He's not a gamer, but maybe he wants the SATA 6Gbit ports? 4 memory slots? USB 3.0?

    H61 boards are lacking, well, a lot if you're want anything beyond ultra-entry-level.
    Reply
  • ArtShapiro - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    Pure power. The cost is irrelevant (within reason); the increased processor of, say, the 2500/2500K will be a nice thing in processor-heavy applications and will probably ensure a longer relevant lifetime for the machine.

    I figure it's worth it to shell out a little more upfront for the H67.

    Art
    Reply
  • bobbyto34 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Thanks a lot for testing DPC Latency. This can be a major issue for DAW's users. Reply
  • Spoelie - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I would concede that an integrated GPU is a very valuable tool for any computer user. It can be used to eliminate variables when troubleshooting a system, and to prevent downtime when the discrete GPU passes away. For this reason and this reason alone I personally don't buy a system without an integrated GPU anymore, even though I always have discrete GPUs. At least in 2 cases this has helped me tremendously.

    My personal preference is a cheap but good overclocking mATX board with (support for) iGPU & at least 1 eSATA port. Couldn't care less about SLI/XFire & RAID5, so the 785+SB710 board I now use was perfect, but without USB3 and SATA6 it's starting to show its age. One of the reasons I haven't switched to SNB is that Intel can't provide me that platform yet.

    Here's to hoping for cheap mATX Z68 and cheap(er) K series CPUs.
    Reply
  • bigboxes - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    That's why I always have a spare video card for just such an emergency. Since my motherboards tend to be on the higher end they don't have video out anyways. I wouldn't want the mfg to take away other ports just to include video out. It makes sense on HTPC applications as well as low end or micro-ATX boxes where utility is the priority. I just buy a cheap card that is $30 after rebate and leave it in the box until I need it for troubleshooting or in case of emergency. Reply

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