[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Let’s take a look at one of the first socket LGA1155 motherboards that will reach the market, the ECS H67H2-M, based on the forthcoming H67 chipset for future Intel processors based on the “Sandy Bridge” architecture with integrated video.

The next-generation Intel CPUs, codenamed “Sandy Bridge,” will be released in January, 2011, and will use a new socket, called LGA1155 or “socket LGA1155.” To match this new CPU generation Intel will launch two chipsets, the H67 and P67. The first one is targeted to computers with integrated video (keeping in mind that the video itself is produced by the CPU, and not by the chipset), while the second one is targeted to mid-range and high-end motherboards without integrated video.

The H67H2-M will be available in the microATX form factor, making it a strong candidate for HTPCs (Home Theater PCs). Finally ECS is using a more sober color patter on their products instead of using three hundred different colors. ECS decided to use white and gray on the H67H2-M, making it to have a very professional looks, even though the shades of white and gray used on the USB headers and SATA connectors don’t quite match the one used on the expansion slots and memory sockets.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 1: ECS H67H2-M motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ECS H67H2-M comes with only one PCI Express x16 slot. This is not a problem, as this product is targeted to users that will use the integrated video of the CPU.

The H67H2-M also has two PCI Express x1 slots and one standard PCI slot. If you install a dual-slot video card you will “kill” one of the PCI Express x1 slots.

It is important to understand that the H67 chipset doesn’t support PCI slots anymore, and the PCI slot is provided by an ITE IT8892 bridge chip.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor – and not the chipset – that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture.

The ECS H67H2-M has four memory sockets and, since currently DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard, if you use four 4 GB modules.

The first and third sockets are white, while the second and fourth are gray. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in the white sockets, otherwise your computer won’t turn on.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]

The Intel H67 chipset is a single-chip solution, and is also known as PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, but it doesn’t support RAID. The manufacturer decided to route one of the SATA-300 ports to the motherboard rear panel in order to give the product one eSATA-300 port. The other ports are located on the motherboard edge, and four of them are rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. The problem here is that the SATA-300 ports are white and the SATA-600 ports are dark gray, being the opposite color scheme used by all other manufacturers, confusing users. We hope ECS can fix this.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 4: SATA-300 (white) and SATA-600 (dark gray) ports

This motherboard doesn’t come with ATA-133 or floppy disk ports.

This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and eight available through four headers located on the motherboard. It also has two USB 3.0 ports soldered at its rear panel, controlled by an EtronTech EJ168A chip.

No FireWire port is available.

The H67H2-M comes with eight-channel audio, generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately Realtek doesn’t publish technical specifications for this codec at their website. The portrayed motherboard comes with an on-board optical SPDIF connector, and you can either install a coaxial SPDIF connector or route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in the HDMI connector using the available “SPDIFO” header.

The analog audio jacks are independent if you use a 5.1 speaker set, but if you have a 7.1 analog speaker set you will have to “kill” either the mic in or the line in jack. This isn’t necessarily a problem, because if you want to have a 7.1 speaker system you will probably connect your computer to a home theater receiver or a digital speaker set using an SPDIF or HDMI cable.

The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Realtek RTL8111E chips, which are connected to the system using PCI Express x1 lanes and thus not presenting any potential performance issues. These ports support the teaming feature, which allows your computer to connect at 2 Gbps with your network, if your network switch also supports this feature.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with VGA connector, DVI-D connector, HDMI connector, DisplayPort connector, external clear CMOS button, four USB 2.0 ports, eSATA-300 port, two USB 3.0 ports (blue ones), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, shared analog 7.1 audio outputs, and optical SPDIF output.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 5: Motherboard rear panel

As you can see, this motherboard has four different kinds of video connectors, allowing you to connect it to any kind of HDTV or video monitor available on the market today.

Other smaller features present at the H67H2-M include the presence of on-board power and reset buttons, POST diagnostics display (which shows the CPU temperature after the system correctly passed the POST testings), the use of 15µ gold contacts (usually motherboards use 5µ gold contacts), and eJiffy (an operating system stored inside the motherboard read-only memory that allows you to access the Internet without needing to load the operating system or even without having a hard disk drive installed, being equivalent of ASUS’s Express Gate and MSI’s Winki).

In Figure 6, you can see all accessories that come with this motherboard.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 6: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The ECS H67H2-M comes with a six-phase voltage regulator circuit. Of the six available phases, four are used to generate the CPU main voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. Vcore), one is used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller and the L3 memory cache (VTT), and one is used to generate the voltage required by the CPU integrated video controller (VAXG). Therefore, this motherboard has a “4+1+1” configuration.

The motherboard comes with two passive heatsinks on top of the voltage regulator transistors, connected to each other using two heatpipes.

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 7: Voltage regulator circuit

ECS H67H2-M motherboardFigure 8: Voltage regulator circuit

All capacitors used on this motherboard are solid and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ECS H67H2-M include:

  • Socket: 1155
  • Chipset: Intel H67
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Three SATA-300 and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset
  • External SATA: One eSATA-300 port controlled by the chipset
  • USB 2.0: 12 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and eight available through four headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Two ports soldered on the motherboard rear panel and controlled by an EtronTech EJ168A chip
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
  • On-board video: Yes, generated by the CPU
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (eight channels, no further technical information is provided), on-board optical SPDIF output
  • On-board LAN: Two Gigabit Ethernet ports controlled by two Realtek RTL8111E chips, connected to the system through PCI Express x1 lanes, supporting teaming
  • Buzzer: Yes
  • Infrared interface: No
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: One PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, two PCI Express x1 slots, and one standard PCI slot
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR3-1333)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan, and one three-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
  • Extra Features: POST diagnostics display
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
  • More Information: https://www.ecs.com.tw
  • Average price in the US: This product wasn’t released yet on the day we published this First Look article

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]The ECS H67H2-M will be an interesting option for users building a fast HTPC based on a forthcoming Intel socket LGA1155 CPU: it has four different video connectors, on-board optical SPDIF output, two Gigabit Ethernet ports featuring teaming (i.e., 2 Gbps if you have compatible hardware), SATA-600 ports and USB 3.0 ports. The absence of FireWire ports may be an issue for users that have camcorders with this kind of connection. Of course users demanding more features and/or a better voltage regulator circuit will have to look for a different product.