It’s been a few years since we’ve written a full review featuring an Intel motherboard. The reason for that is simple; we just didn’t see some of the Intel boards as being competitive in terms of features, performance and pricing when compared to products from third party vendors. Probably not a good decision on our part because appearances can be deceptive... Take a look at our H55/H57 coverage and you’ll see that sub-vendors often struggle to get the basics right - here and here.

In hindsight, we should have added an Intel motherboard or two to those articles, because it would have been interesting to see how Intel measures up in the areas that truly matter. Better late than never we suppose, over the next month, we’ll be providing you with full reviews of three Intel boards; two are P55 chipset based, while the third and most exciting (if you like mini-ITX) is the DH57JG - formerly known as “Jet Geyser”. It’s the DH57JG that we’ll be looking at today; it should be on retailer shelves in a couple of weeks priced at around $125:

At present, Intel’s main rival in the mini-ITX segment is Zotac who released the H55-ITX last week. We’ve already got a review up on Zotac’s board here. It’s not a bad effort at all on Zotac’s part, our only gripe would have to be the asking price of $145, especially when you consider what’s available on m-ATX for less outlay.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for boards that work as advertised out-of-the box without the need for copious debugging from end-users. That’s probably a good precursor for this review, because Intel are only too keen to point out that these are the areas where they get things right. With that in mind, we lead you into our user-experience summary below...

Summary/Overview

There’s only one public BIOS release for the DH57JG so far, and it appears that Intel’s pre-launch validation process is capable of delivering a motherboard that’s almost retail ready. In truth though, there’s little on the DH57JG that can give rise to issues - Intel played it safe, or at least within the comfortable confines of their design. For starters, overclocking is limited on Clarkdale CPU’s by the absence of voltage control for processor VCore. BIOS options are basic; there is no direct control of CPU/IGP clock ratios and DRAM timing options are limited too. This all adds up to keep Clarkdale processors south of 3.8GHz unless you have a lucky sample that overclocks well at stock voltage.

Lynnfield processors will work in the DH57JG, and you get a tiny pocket of overclocking headroom that is capped by current/temperature monitoring and stock VID. We managed to get the board to post at 21X150 BCLK, but found processor core frequency throttles down to 3GHz or so under full load to ensure safety for the CPU VRM. Curiously, we did manage to change CPU core multiplier ratios on our i7 860 CPU by disabling SpeedStep – something that does not work on Clarkdales at all on the current BIOS. We’ve asked Intel for clarification on this matter and await a response. 

Another area which often gives rise to problems on third-party motherboards is bundled software, there’s not much for Intel to get wrong in this department because the DH57JG doesn’t feature any kind of OS level overclocking tools or power saving software as part of the package.

Board layout is similar to Zotac’s H55-ITX, in that the CPU socket is placed very close to the PCIe slot and also the memory slots. This leaves little room for tall/wide heatsinks, although we don’t think you need anything other than the stock Intel cooler on this motherboard given the limited range of overclocking at your disposal.

On the overclocking front, our i3 540 retail processor topped out around 3.5GHz on the DH57JG, while our i5 661 ES sample managed to retain stability at 3.85GHz on stock VID. It’s not quite the 4GHz we’d have preferred to see, but we should add that the real-world gains in performance between 3.5GHz and 4GHz aren’t huge anyway.

That leaves the all important plug and play features of the chipset to experiment with, and it’s an area we don’t have anything negative to report on. All of our peripheral devices worked fine as did resume from long S3 sleep states - even when overclocked.

For an in-depth look at performance and board layout, read on...

Performance Summary
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  • Forgetsalvation - Thursday, March 25, 2010 - link

    I talked to Intel presales support, i was informed that essentially this motherboard's BIOS has been locked down so that it will not support the core i7.
    unfortunately i did not discover this until after i purchased this motherboard and a i7-860.

    I was very hopeful when I saw this review showed a i7-860 that worked, how ever i still can not get my system to boot.

    Do the moderators have any suggestions for me, i very much want to run this combo but I am running out to time to return these parts if they will not work
    Reply
  • Erick Thompson - Monday, March 22, 2010 - link

    I would love to use the M350 case from mini-box, but the largest power supply I can get is 102 watts. With this board and a i3 530 (using integrated graphics), along with a SSD drive, it seems like 102 watts would be enough, if pushing the edge a bit. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  • fbd - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Yeah im interested in that also... I see that actually u tested a Core i7 in the board but i read in the documentation of the board that it is designed to support cpus up to 87W TDP only, while the i7 has 95 W. What does that mean? Is some kind of hardware part ( e.g. circuitry) of the board not sufficient to support an i7 or what? Or does it support it only at lower speeds? Im a bit confused. What does this mean: "We managed to get the board to post at 21X150 BCLK, but found processor core frequency throttles down to 3GHz or so under full load to ensure safety for the CPU VRM". Does it mean that if u put a stock core i7-860 into the board it wont be able to operate over 3ghz? What about turbo boost then? It cant go over 3ghz either? Thx for any reply. Reply
  • abnderby - Saturday, March 06, 2010 - link

    Inoticed your comment about not reviewing many intel boards. Yes I do agree with you on the fact that they do not offer the best package of thrills and frils. But it has been my experience with many of the other manufacturers that the quality and length of service of their boards are no where near that of Intels. I have run into many issues with other boards after a year of 24/7 use. Some of the board components would fail or the boards would die.

    Over the last 12 years I have only had 2 Intel boards die with less than 5 years of service. None of which were my workstation/server boards or high end PC boards. Intel does put in a tremendous amount of quality that lasts.

    Currently I run 1 dual xeon that is 6 years old with 2 3.6 GHz xeons with 64 bit Windows 7. It stills runs flawlessly. I run a core 2 on intel uBTX 3 years now flawlessly.

    So please your crowd out here is not just enthusiests that like or have to overclock everything. Many of us want the high quality and long lasting systems. Intel boards must be in that mix.

    Duane
    Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Friday, March 05, 2010 - link

    Jet Geyser is one of my favorite thermal features in Yellowstone. Around the corner from the Fountain Paint Pots. It's not a very big one though. Wonder if Intel had it in mind when naming their board Reply
  • mschira - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Hi
    I love these powerful low power systems!
    I would be very interested in tests of a file server based on these board.
    Like using a Highpoint RocketRAID 2322 system.

    Cheers
    M.
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    The P45 based mini-itx board from Intel had a lot of issues. I am not sure if I would jump on this one myself. Reply
  • hnzw rui - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    As far as I'm aware, Intel doesn't have a P45 Mini-ITX board. They do have an Intel DG45FC which is a G45 board. Reply
  • play2learn - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Usb 3.0 and 32 nm graphics...Then maybe! Reply
  • blyndy - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    It looks like m-itx is the new m-atx, which is great. Reply

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