ECS H61H2-M Review - Where to Buy

By on May 3, 2011

Now with all the B3 stepping goodness.

ECS H61H2-M Review

Since the launch of the budget Intel H61 platform for the Sandy Bridge processors, I was wondering when the Micro-ATX motherboards will start shipping. After the recently reviewed ECS H61H2-A motherboard, which had pretty decent performance for its price, I’ll be looking at the m-ATX version of the same board.

The ECS H61H2-M comes with the new B3 stepping chipsets, so the deteriorating SATA performance is gone now. What we have here is the new Intel 6 series chipset, with all the basics of a good current generation m-ATX motherboard. Some of the main highlights include having onboard VGA & DVI output, 3x USB 3.0 ports and Dual DDR3 memory support for up to 16GB.

As far as the layout is concerned, the H61H2-M looks like a budget motherboard through and through, which is not to say that its performance and quality are hindered in any way. It’s just a very Plain Jane motherboard with a simple layout and minimalist cooling.

The 6 channel HD audio, 4x USB 2.0 ports, LAN adapter and PS/2 connectors are rounded up with the 4x SATA 2 (3Gb/s) ports to complete the ECS H61H2-M. Of course, there are two PCI slots and a PCIe Gen 2 x 16 slot as well. So there's nothing remarkable here, but at $70 you shouldn’t be expecting anything out of the ordinary either. USB 3.0 was my only main concern here since using this board in an HTPC would mean faster speeds onceUSB 3.0 external HDDs become commonplace in the near future.

LGA1155 socket for latest 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ Family Processors
DMI 5.0GT/s
Intel® H61 Express Chipset
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 8 GB
1 x PCI Express x16 Gen2.0 slot
1 x PCI Express x1 Gen2.0 slots
2 x PCI slots
Support by Intel® H61
4 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices
VIA VT1705 6-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
Compliant with HD audio specification
Atheros AR8151 Gigabit Lan
(co-lay  Atheros AR8152 10/100 LAN)
1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
1 x D-sub(VGA)
1 x DVI Port (Co-Lay HDMI Port)
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x RJ45 LAN connector
2 x USB 3.0 ports (USB 2.0 optional)
1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
1 x 4-pin 12V Power connector
1 x 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
1 x 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
1 x Front panel audio header
1 x Front panel switch/LED header
1 x Speaker header
1 x SPDIF out header
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
2 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 4 USB Ports
1 x Chassis intrusion header
1 x TPM header
1 x Serial port header(COM)
1 x Parallel port header (LPT)
1 x  CLR_CMOS header
AMI BIOS with 32Mb SPI Flash ROM
Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
Supports ACPI & DMI
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
F7 hot key for boot up devices option
Micro-ATX Size, 244mm*220mm

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 a 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 ($330) and the recently reviewed ECS H61H2-A ($70) motherboard.

In terms of raw performance, you’re not losing out by much on CPU side as seen from 7-zip (multicore), WinRAR (single-core) and Cinebench R11.5 (multicore). On the gaming side, the performance seems equal across the board, so both the i7-2600K and the GTX 580 are being used to their maximum potential.

In my opinion the ECS H61H2-M beats out the H61H2-A due to two major factors: USB 3.0 and Dual channel DDR3 ram on 4 slots. The ECS H61H2-M has a small form factor, extremely competitive performance, and some nice basic features. Yes, there are no extra frills on the side, mainly no SATA III or CPU overclocking capability, but that's a limitation of the H61 platform itself. For a decent HTPC or even a gaming rig with a limited budget in mind, the ECS H61H2-M is as good as it gets.
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