While it’s true that any new technology comes in quite expensive, it doesn’t long for it to come down in price and be enjoyed by the masses. And so it was that Intel announced the new lineup of H61 express chipsets based on budget motherboards earlier this year. Today I’ll be looking at the ECS H61H2-A and see how this $70 motherboard performs.
Opening the box I see that the ECS H61H2-A is supplied with a rear I/O panel, two SATA cables, a drivers CD and a manual. Pretty basic stuff, but at $70 I wasn’t really expecting much. I guess now is a good time to mention that the ECS H61H2-A ships with USB 2.0 ports (on the rear as well as onboard adapters) and SATA II (3GB/s) ports. Such are the bare specs (and perhaps necessities) of an H61 chipset that it doesn’t natively support USB 3.0 or SATA III.
Looking at the ECS H61H2-A, it looks pretty barebones with only two ram slots and one PCIe x16 slot. The only additional heatsinks are those on the VRMs near the CPU housing and on the H61 chipset below. Even the rear I/O panel seems a bit lackluster.
|º LGA1155 socket for new 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor/Intel® Core™ i3 series processor/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors|
º DMI 20Gb/s
|º Intel® H61 Express Chipset|
|º Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture|
º 2 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16 GB*
º Support DDR3 1333/1066 SDRAM
º *(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size we have tested is 8GB)
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS.
For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
|º 1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot|
º 3 x PCI Express x1 slots
º 2 x PCI slots
|º Support by Intel® H61|
• 4 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices
|º Realtek ALC662 6-channel audio|
º Compliant with HD audio specification
|º Realtek 8111E Gigabit LAN Fast Ethernet Controller|
|REAR PANEL I/O|
|º 1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors|
º 1 x D-sub(VGA)
º 1 x DVI connector(optional)
º 1 x RJ45 LAN connector
º 1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
º 4 x USB 2.0 Ports
|INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS|
|º 1 x Front panel audio header|
º 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 x 4-pin 12V Connector
º 1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
º 1 x 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
º 1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
º 1 x Speaker header
º 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
º 1 x SPDIF out header
º 1 x Clear CMOS header
º 1 x Serial port header
º 1 x Parallel Header
º 2 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 4 USB 2.0 Ports
º 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
º 1x 2-pin ME_UNLOCK header
º 1x Chasis detect header
|º AMI BIOS with 32Mb SPI ROM|
º Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Supports ACPI & DMI
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º F7 hot key for boot up devices option
º Support Page Up clear CMOS Hotkey
º Support eDLU
º Support eSF
º Support eBLU
º Support eJIFFY
º Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
º Support ECS M.I.B III Utility
• Graphic Voltage Adjustable
º Support Milti-language BIOS Utility
|º ATX Size, 305mm*195mm|
For testing the ECS H61H2-A I have used an Intel Core i7-2600K, Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 ram, Zotac GTX 580 AMP! Edition graphics card and Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB HDD with Windows 7 Ultimate. All of this is powered by a Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold PSU. For comparisons I have used our resident testbed Gigabyte P67A-UD7 and the recently reviewed ECS H67H2-I motherboard. These two motherboards cost 5 times and 2 times as much as the ECS H61H2-A respectively.
While CPU performance doesn’t seem to be too far behind the others, the ECS H61H2-A manages to outperform the H67H2-I in terms of gaming performance. In the real world scenario, you everyday operations will see little to no impact between a budget motherboard like this and a high-end board like the Gigabyte P67A-UD7. However, once you get into heavy video and photo editing, as well as games, then the H61H2-A starts showing why it’s a budget motherboard.
Realistically the H61 chipsets make sense only if you pair such a motherboard with an entry level Core i5 or Core i3 Sandy Bridge processor. Of course, the H61 chipset doesn’t allow for overclocking either, hence there’s no need for a “K” series Sandy Bridge processor to go with this motherboard.
Keep in mind that going with an H61 motherboard means no overclocking, or speed upgrades in the future from USB3.0 and SATA III drives. The best you can do is upgrade the ram (up to 16GB) and get a faster CPU & GPU down the line.
This was a rather difficult motherboard to rate. It's not got all the bells and whistles of even mid-range boards to garner a four-star rating, but it still provides a good enough performance that is close to boards costing twice as much (and more!). And for this price, I really don't have much to complaint about, so it doesn't deserve a 3.5-star rating either. As such, I can only recommend the ECS H61H2-A to those who will be using this motherboard with not much future upgrades in mind and those who want to build a budget Sandy Bridge based desktop. Whether this build is for office or home use, the ECS H61H2-A will adequately meet your needs in providing a stable, albeit basic, backbone for your computing needs.