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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

We analyzed the Gigabyte H81M-S2PH, a value socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the Intel H81 chipset. It has only two memory sockets, one PCI Express x16 slot, two USB 3.0 ports, two SATA-600 ports, and supports legacy serial and parallel ports.

The Intel H81 is still the most basic chipset for fourth-generation Core i CPUs from Intel. The main differences between this entry-level chip and the high-end model of its generation, the Z87, are the lower number of SATA-600 ports and USB 3.0 ports (two versus six of each), the absence of RAID and SRT (Smart Response Technology) support, and the support for only one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. There is no support (at least officially) for changing the clock multiplier on “K” unlocked CPUs, which makes it a bad choice for overclocking.

You can see the Gigabyte H81M-S2PH motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the micro ATX form factor, measuring 9.6” x 7.1” (244 mm x 180 mm).

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 1: Gigabyte H81M-S2PH motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

Unlike high-end chipsets, the H81 does not allow the bandwidth of the PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot to be shared with a second (and a third) slot.

The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots.

Of course, this motherboard does not support CrossFireX or SLI technologies.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to Gigabyte, the H81M-S2PH also supports memories up to 1,600 MHz.

The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH has two memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 16 GiB with this motherboard if you use two 8 GiB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two identical memory modules.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 3: Memory sockets; install two modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The Intel H81 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has two SATA-600 ports and two SATA-300 ports, with no RAID support. The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH offers all of them. Figure 4 shows the SATA ports.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 4: SATA-600 (white) and SATA-300 (black) ports

The Intel H81 chipset supports 18 USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH offers only six USB 2.0 ports, two located on the motherboard’s rear panel and four available through two headers located at the motherboard; and two USB 3.0 ports, available on the motherboard’s rear panel.

The motherboard does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format using a Realtek ALC887 codec. This codec has the same specifications as the Realtek ALC892, except that the ALC892 has two extra channels for audio streaming. The main specifications for this codec include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog inputs.

The analog audio outputs are shared, which means if you want to install a 5.1 analog speaker set, you can not use the microphone and line-in inputs. There is no optical SPDIF output. There is a header labeled “SPDIF_O”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, legacy serial and parallel ports, VGA output, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, and the shared analog audio connectors.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 5: Motherboard rear panel

Figure 6 shows the simple set of accessories that comes with the motherboard.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 6: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The voltage regulator of the Gigabyte H81M-S2PH has three phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator is controlled by an ISL95812 integrated circuit.

Each phase is driven by two transistors, shown in Figure 7. We were unable to decode their part numbers.

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 7: Voltage regulator circuit

The motherboard uses solid electrolytic capacitors and ferrite coils.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]

The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (FA BIOS):

  • Graphics clock: from 400 MHz to 4000 MHz in 50 MHz increments
  • CPU Core Voltage: from 0.900 V to 1.200 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Core Voltage offset: from -0.100 V to +0.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU VRIN Voltage: from 1.700 V to 1.900 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Graphics Voltage: from 0.900 V to 1.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Graphics Voltage offset: from -0.100 V to +0.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU RING Voltage: from 0.950 V to 1.149 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU System Agent Voltage Offset: from -0.100 V to +0.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Analog I/O Voltage Offset: from -0.100 V to +0.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Digital I/O Voltage Offset: from -0.100 V to +0.100 V in 0.001 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) Core Voltage: from 0.950 V to 1.150 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) IO Voltage: from 1.400 V to 1.600 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Memory Voltage: from 1.160 V to 1.700 V in 0.02 V increments

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 8: Overclocking options

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 9: Voltage settings

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 10: Memory timing settings

Gigabyte H81M-S2PHFigure 11: Memory timing settings

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the Gigabyte H81M-S2PH include:

  • Socket: LGA1150
  • Chipset: Intel H81 Express
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8620E
  • Parallel ATA: none
  • Serial ATA: two SATA-300 and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (no RAID support)
  • External SATA: none
  • USB 2.0: six USB 2.0 ports, two on the motherboard real panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: two USB 3.0 ports, on the motherboard rear panel, controlled by the chipset
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
  • Thunderbolt: none
  • On-board video: controlled by the CPU; VGA and HDMI connectors
  • Audio: produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC887 codec (7.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs)
  • On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip
  • Buzzer: no
  • Infrared interface: no
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: one PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two PCI slots
  • Memory: two DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 16 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: one four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
  • Extra features: none
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.gigabyte.com/
  • Average price in the U.S.*: USD 70.00

* Researched at Amazon.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Nowadays, Intel offers a wide range of socket LGA1150 processors, including some entry-level ones. And there is no sense in building a PC with a low-end CPU using a high-end motherboard that uses the flagship Z97 chipset.

The Gigabyte H81M-S2PH is a typical value motherboard for Intel LGA1150 processors. Based in a basic chipset, it is inexpensive, and this is also reflected in the absence of extra features such as overclocking options, SLI support, etc. It also brings a low count of SATA-600 and USB 3.0 ports, since it uses a simple chipset and brings no extra chips to provide more ports. It will not draw the attention of extreme overclockers or gaming enthusiasts.

However, for the user who is looking for an inexpensive motherboard to build a computer based on a low-end Intel socket LGA1150 CPU, with one or two storage units and only one video card, and will not try any overclocking, the Gigabyte H81M-S2PH has a good cost/benefit ratio.