TODAY WE‘RE TAKING a look at two mATX H67 chipset motherboards in the $100 price range, namely the Gigabyte H67M-UD2H and the Intel DH67BL. We tested both boards with the Core i5 2500K processor as that is what we had at hand, but there’s no reason to buy a K series processor for an H67 board, as you can’t overclock the CPU when paired with the H67 chipset.
It’s worth pointing out that you can overclock the graphics and you can see the results for that in our Core i5 2500K processor review. This works on all of the Sandy Bridge based processor, no matter Core i3, i5 or i7, but again, it doesn’t seem to add much in terms of extra performance for Intel’s integrated HD graphics, although as we have as yet to test the slower 2000 series of integrated graphics, we can’t say what the performance increase is on non K series CPUs.
Forget about buying fancy memory if you go down the H67 route as well, since at least for now, you’re limited to 1333MHz memory, another arbitrary Intel “lock” on the H67 chipset. Increased memory speed should in theory at least have something of an impact on the graphics performance, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how this would play out, at least until Intel releases the Z68 chipset which should offer a combination of the features from the P67 and H67 chipsets.
But enough about the chipset, let’s take a closer look at the two boards. First up we have the Gigabyte H67M-UD2H which is one of the more basic models in Gigabyte’s line up. This doesn’t mean it’s feature-less though, as the board has four SATA 3Gbps ports and 2 SATA 6Gbps, a standard feature on all motherboards for Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors. It also has a x16 PCI Express slot as well as a secondary x16 slot, although this one only has four lanes worth of bandwidth and there’s also two x1 PCI Express slots. The board is labeled with CrossFireX support, although the second card in a x16/x4 setup would be somewhat bandwidth starved.
There are pin headers for an additional eight USB 2.0 ports, of which two feature support for Gigabytre’s On/Off charge feature. Oddly enough Gigabyte has included pin headers towards the front of the board for both a serial and a parallel port and we can’t say that either pin header is located in a great position and you’d have to source your own connectors as they’re not supplied with the board.
Around the back we’re looking at a PS/2 port, six USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, D-sub, DVI and HDMI display connectivity and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out. For those wanting more features, there’s the H67MA-UD2H which adds a DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports and eSATA. So overall not the most feature packed board, but it’s been designed to meet a price point and we’d expect that this board will come down in price over time.
Next we have the Intel DH67BL which shares its blue PCB with the Gigabyte board, but offers a slightly different feature set. On the slot side of things we’re looking at a single x16 PCI Express slot, two x1 PCI Express slots and a single PCI slot via an ITE bridge chip. You have to make do with three SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps ports as well, as one has been relocated for usage as eSATA. Intel has also added pin headers for an additional eight USB 2.0 ports and unusually two pin headers that are used for the Consumer IR spec, or CIR. Intel has also been a bit more generous than Gigabyte when it comes to fan headers, as although both companies have fitted four-pin connectors, Intel offers a total of three over Gigabyte’s two.
Around the back of the DH67BL we have six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, the aforementioned eSATA port, a DVI and HDMI port, a Gigabit Ethernet port – using an Intel network solution – and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PIDF out. Intel also offers an upgrade version of this board called the DH67GD which uses the same layout adding on a DisplayPort and FireWire port for an extra $5 or so which seems like a small cost to add for the extra features.
One of the benefits of Intel’s new platform was meant to be UEFI support instead of the tired old BIOS, however Gigabyte is temporarily sticking with BIOS, although they have added GPT boot support. The Intel board uses UEFI, however, it all still looks the same as the good old BIOS with no mouse support or any fancy looking menus. Overall this is the most disappointing part about both boards. It’s also worth noting that the Gigabyte board uses solid capacitors while Intel is using a mix of solid and electrolyte capacitors. Gigabyte has also used a more advanced PWM solution with active phase switching, something the Intel board lacks.
This is the part where the benchmark graphs are normally shown, but considering that the performance difference between the boards were within a point in most if not all benchmarks, or a second when it came to the video transcoding tests, we suggest you have a look at the benchmarks for the Core i5 2500K processor using the H67 chipset. We’re not trying to pull a fast one here, it’s just that the boards perform near enough identical, so close in fact that we can’t remember when we last saw two boards from two different manufacturers perform so close to each other. Maybe this is a sign of the times; we’ve reached mature manufacturing technology when it comes to motherboards that the main differentiator is now features, not performance, at least at entry level in the market.
As for recommendations, well we don’t have a retail price on the Gigabyte board as yet, but we’d expect it to be slightly more expensive than the Intel board, considering that its more basic sibling the H67M-D2 retails for $94.99 while the Intel DH67BL retails for $99.99. It’s a tough choice and really comes down to needs and wants, but we’d go as far as to say that the build quality of the Gigabyte board is better while Intel offers more features for your money and we’ll leave it at that.S|A
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