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Zotac H55-ITX WiFi LGA1156 motherboard review

Seth Barton
9 Apr 2010
Zotac H55-ITX WiFi LGA1156 motherboard
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
102
inc VAT

The first Core i3/i5/i7 mini-ITX board, it's well designed for media center use but application performance isn't quite up to scratch.

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Specifications

LGA1156, Mini-ITX, Intel H55 Express chipset, supports: Core i3, Core i5, Core i7

We have to admit to being a little smitten with the mini-ITX form factor. These tiny square motherboards measure only 170mm down each side, and yet can form the basis of a fully-featured PC. Combined with a suitably diminutive case – like the smartAntec ISK 300-150 – you can build a PC little bigger than many nettops, but far more powerful, and specified to your own requirements.

Zotac's H55-ITX WiFi is the first mini-ITX board to support LGA1156-based Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. It uses Intel's H55 Express chipset, and so is compatible with the built-in graphics chips on the Clarkdale processors (Core i7-8xx, Core i5-6xx and Core i3 models). You can then use the HDMI and DVI outputs on the board – with VGA output integrated into the DVI socket.

Graphics performance from such chips is capable, but not outstanding. Their lack of anti-aliasing means they fails our usual Call of Duty 4 test, and even at low detail settings the game runs poorly. Many will use mini-ITX systems as media centre PCs, so we tested Blu-ray playback too, using our preferred Core i5-661. The video played fine but did account for 30% CPU usage – considerably more than that from ATI's latest integrated graphics (see opposite).

Thankfully, if you need better graphical performance there's a PCI-Express x16 slot provided. Most mini-ITX cases only allow for a single half-height expansion card, so you could fit a Radeon HD 5570 (see What's New, Shopper 267) for occasional gaming use. Doing so would prevent you from adding an internal TV tuner, as there are no PCI-E x1 or PCI slots. There's no USB3 or SATA III here either, just six SATA II ports, though we're not yet convinced these new storage interfaces are essential yet.

An 802.11n mini-PCI wireless card is fitted onto the board and connected to two aerial mounts on the rear, for which a pair of stubby aerials are provided. Alongside these sit a total of ten USB ports for adding peripherals, along with an eSATA port, Gigabit Ethernet and a single PS/2 port. As well as analogue sound outputs for 7.1 surround sound, there's an optical S/PDIF, or you can output audio over HDMI of course.

There are two DDR3 memory slots provided, allowing for up to 8GB of 1066 or 1333MHz memory. We fitted our usual 4GB of test RAM and a Core i5-750 processor, but were disappointed to discover that this board is a few points slower than any other H55 board we've tested. It may be due to the cramped layout causing heat build up and limiting Turbo Boost, but even a bigger heat sink didn't solve the problem.

The H55-ITX WiFi gives you the potential to build a pint-sized super computer, although it won't be cheap, costing around £200 for the board and a Core-i3 530 chip alone. Its benchmark performance was a little underwhelming, but in every other respect it's a great design.

Basic Specifications

Rating****
Processor socketLGA1156
Form factorMini-ITX
Size170x170mm
Processor supportCore i3, Core i5, Core i7
Processor external bus133MHz (2.0GB/s Direct Media Interface)
Chipset north bridgeIntel H55 Express
Chipset south bridgeIntel H55 Express
Passively-cooled north bridgeyes
Integrated graphicsYes
Supported memory typeDDR3 1066/1333
Maximum memory speedPC3-10600
Memory slots2
Maximum memory8GB
Dual-channel supportyes

Buying Information

Price£102
Supplierhttp://www.cclonline.com
Detailswww.zotac.com

Internal Ports

Power connectors1x 24-pin ATX, 1x 4-pin ATX
PCI-E x16 slots1
Dual graphics architecturenone
PCI-E x4 slots0
PCI-E x1 slots0
PCI slots0
Fan headers2
Floppy ports0
IDE ports0
Serial ATA ports6
RAID chipset (max disks)none

Features

Wired network ports10/100/1000
Sound (ports)Realtek ALC888 (5x analogue out, optical S/PDIF)
USB2 ports / headers10/2
Firewire ports / headers0/0
Legacy portsPS/2
Other portsDVI, HDMI, eSATA
Cables includedN/A
Brackets includedN/A
Software includednone

Setup and Overclocking

Voltage adjustmentCPU/RAM/Chipset
CPU clock max adjustment500MHz

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