Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 review
Absolutely tiny, but ideal for anyone looking to squeeze a media-centre PC into a tight space
Review Date: 24 May 2010
Reviewed By: Mike Jennings
Price when reviewed: £90 (£106 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The early-adopter phase for USB 3 is beginning to pass, and prices are slowly falling on a diverse array of motherboards. Gigabyte’s GA-H55N-USB3, for instance, includes a pair of USB 3 ports into a tiny mini-ITX form factor.
It’s only 168mm wide but Gigabyte has done a remarkable job of cramming in the features. The backplate has a pair of USB 3 sockets and five USB 2 ports, plus eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, six audio jacks, a PS/2 socket and even optical S/PDIF. Three display outputs are there too – HDMI, DVI-I and D-SUB – although you’ll need a processor with onboard graphics to take advantage.
There’s also a single PCI Express x16 slot for adding a graphics card – we’d assume low-end but there’s nothing stopping you pushing things – meaning the trade-offs are only really in the lack of future expandability.
A pair of 1,666MHz DDR3 DIMM sockets means you’re limited to 8GB of RAM, and with four SATA/300 sockets you can forget that new SATA/600 disk you had your eye on. We also found barely enough room to fit a stock Intel heatsink, so that rules out anything more elaborate.
Suffice it to say fiddling with components isn’t easy on such a small board. Enthusiasts will also find themselves hampered by a lack of the usual trinkets and onboard readings found on high-end boards.
Nevertheless, the presence of USB 3 ensures the board will prove useful in years to come, and the LGA 1156 processor socket supports an ever-expanding range of Intel processors. The rest of the board is well-stocked, and provides most of the mod-cons needed to put together a decent system.
Its size means the GA-H55N-USB3 will necessarily appeal to a niche audience, but Gigabyte’s sterling work makes it ideal as the base for a cutting-edge yet diminutive PC.
Author: Mike Jennings
Its a tight Squeeze
I can't work out how to fit anything but a basic graphics card given the lack of space between the PCI Express card and the heatsink. Its a massive improvement of the current limited small desktop PC options
By Manuel on 25 May 2010
Re: Its a tight Squeeze
Manuel, video cards on this form factor would have the heatsink and fan facing downward so only the back side of the card would be facing up toward the rest of the motherboard. If you wanted a case to fit a dual slot video card, a recent offering from Lian-Li fits the bill perfectly in the form of the PC-Q08:
It is built for mini-ITX, has USB 3.0 ports on the front, and, most importantly for your needs, has dual expansion slots to accommodate a beefy dual-slot graphics card. To cool a Core i3/i5 in that small of a case, you would almost have to get something like the H50 cooler from Corsair:
Hope that helps.
By brady_myitpros on 25 May 2010
Ideal, but hardly cheap!
Firstly these things, and their competitors, have yet to appear anywhere in the UK. So building an HTPC with one as I want to do is not easy!
Secondly, they are VERY expensive. A good quality Gigabyte AM3 board is £30 cheaper!
Thirdly the Clarkdale CPUs required to use the chipset graphics enablers are also VERY expensive. The cheapest decent i3 is around £100.
An AMD-based system using a motherboard with integrated graphics and an equivalent CPU would be maybe £60 or £70 less....
By wittgenfrog on 4 Jun 2010
Would not recommend
Maybe it's just a bad luck, but two of these cards failed on me in about 6 months.
By aa111 on 20 May 2011
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