April 24, 2014

ECS H61H2-MV Review

Written by John Morrison

Have you ever wondered if your dual-slot M-ITX chassis could be used more effectively? Wondered what the M-DTX boards that are listed on the chassis specifications sheet look like? Read on…

AMD revealed the DTX and M-DTX in 2007 to answer the call for small form factor motherboards, and to compete with Intel’s BTX and M-BTX (2005). Both disapeared quickly though, with only OEMs soldiering on. With only the limited OEM boards available, neither form factor really took a foothold in the enthusiast market.

Various manufacturers have produced a smattering of M-DTX boards for retail, with Zotac being the only notable one until now. The main issue was the fact they they almost always had Intel Atom or equivalent processors embedded. What the community wanted was upgradability, and support for the latest processors from either AMD or Intel.

Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) have just released this board, the H61H2-MV. Featuring the Intel H61 chipset for Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge Intel Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5 and i7, this board offers more upgrade options than you may expect. This board is aimed at corporate system builders and smaller shops selling pre-built systems, and carries a MSRP of under US$100.

 

Features and Specification

CPU º Supports new 2nd & 3rd gen Intel® Core™ family, Pentium, Celeron series processors in LGA1155 socket
º DMI 5.0GT/s
º TDP: 95W
º VRD 12.0
º Solid Capacitor for CPU side
Chipset º Intel® H61 Express Chipset
Graphics º Support Intel® HD Graphics 2000/3000(Intel 2nd
º Supports DirectX® 11
º Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Memory º Dual-channel DDR3 Memory architecture
º Supports DDR3 1600*/1333/1066/800/667/533 non-ECC,unbuffered memory
º 2 X 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket
º Support up to 16 GB*
º * Due to the operation system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
º * DDR3 1600 -Intel® Ivy Bridge CPU required
Expansion Slot(s) º 1 X PCI Express X16 Gen 3.0 slot (2.0 if Sandy Bridge processor is installed)
º 1 X PCI Express X 1 Gen 2.0 slot
Storage º Support by H61 Express Chipset
• 4 X Serial ATAII 3Gb/s
Audio º 6-Channel HD audio CODEC
º Realtek ALC662
‧Realtek ALC662 6-channel High Definition audio CODEC
‧Meets performance requirements for Microsoft WLP 3.08 Vista premium and mobile PCs
‧Six channel DAC supports 16/20/24-bit PCM format for 5.1 channel audio solution
‧Friendly user interface for 2-foot or 10-foot remote control applications
‧Emulation of 26 sound environments to enhance gaming experience
‧Voice Cancellation and Key Shifting in Karaoke mode
‧Compatible with Direct Sound 3D™, A3D™, I3DL2
LAN º Realtek 8111E Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller or,
º Realtek 8105E Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller or,
º Colay 8105E 10/100M Fast Ethernet Controller
º Wake-On-LAN
USB º Support by H61 Express Chipset
• 8 X USB2.0 port(s) Up to 2.5Gb/s
Rear I/O º 1 X PS/2 Keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
º 1 X Audio port (Line Out/Line In/Mic In)
º 1 X RJ-45 port
º 1 X HDMI port(s) (optional)
º 1 X DVI-I port(s) (optional)
º 1 X D-Sub (VGA) port(s)
º 4 X USB2.0 port(s)
Connectors and Headers º 1 X 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 X 4-pin 12V Power connector
º 1 X 4-pin CPU_FAN connector
º 1 X 3-pin SYS_FAN connector
º 1 X Front panel audio header
º 1 X Speaker header
º 2 X USB 2.0 header
º Support additional 4 USB ports
º 4 X SATA II 3Gb/s connector(s)
º 1 X CLR_CMOS header
º 1 X ME_UNLOCK header
BIOS º AMI BIOS with 32 MB SPI Flash ROM
º Supports M.I.B III Utility
º ACPI & DMI
º F7 hot key for boot up devices option
º Over-Clocking
º Dual Display
º Triple Display
º Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Multi-Language BIOS
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º Supports PgUp clear CMOS Hotkey
º CPU FSB adjustment(increase of 1MHz)
Form Factor º mATX Form Factor
º 195 mm(W) X 170mm(H)
OS Support º Windows XP
º Windows XP 64-bit
º Windows 7
º Windows 7 64-bit
º Windows 8
º Windows 8 64-bit
Certifications º CE/FCC Certification
º ErP/EuP Certification
º WHQL Certification
Bundled Software º ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eSF
º Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9, Muzee with trial version

The board comes in a cardboard box, with ECS’s unique marketing designs on the exterior, which looks quite nice.

On the back it lists all the features:

Inside the box you will find a clearly written English Manual (with quick start guides in other languages), a rear I/O shield, a pair of red SATA 2 cables, and a DVD featuring drivers and the above bundled software.

 

A Closer Look

The rear I/O area of the ECS H61H2-MV features a pair of PS/2 ports for older keyboards and mice, 4x USB 2.0 ports, and a DE-15 port for VGA output from the Intel integrated graphics from the processor. It also features a RJ45 LAN port, connected to either a Realtek Gigabit controller, a Realtek 10/100 controller, or a Colay 10/100 controller. The model supplied for review has the Realtek 8105E 10/100 controller.Next to this is the 3 ports for 5.1 channel audio. While this may appear to be sparse, it’s the expandability that this board features that will more than make up for this.

This is the Pièce de résistance of this board – the expansion slots. Featuring a PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot as well as a PCI Express 2.0 (3.0 with an Ivy Bridge processor) x16 slot, this board will definitely make good use of your dual-slot M-ITX chassis. You could use a single slot, air cooled or watercooled, graphics card as well as your choice of sound, RAID, USB 3.0 or LAN card to fully customise the system to your needs.

The board features quite a bit of room around the CPU socket, spacing it further away from the RAM and expansion slots than most of the contemporary M-ITX H61 boards. This enables the use of ‘fatter’ tower coolers, or ‘beefier’ top-down, low profile coolers. This is a welcome change to the norm, and one that our community has been wanting for quite some time. The board has a 3+1+1 phase PWM power supply with all solid capacitors for the CPU, more than enough for the 95w maximum TDP supported. With little ability to overclock, this choice should offer a stable, long working life.

To add to the rear I/O options, the board features 2 USB 2.0 headers, enabling you to run 4 USB ports to wherever you desire in your chassis. As well as this there is a FP_Audio header at the bottom of the board, which lets you route the audio cable neatly behind the card using the x16 slot, making for a cleaner, tidier chassis. I do have one issue with the board layout – the clear CMOS header is in an awkward position under the x16 slot. While the chipset offers little by the way of overclocking options, be prepared to remove an expansion card if you manage to incorrectly set an option in BIOS. This is negated somewhat with the use of the PgUp key on a PS/2 keyboard to clear BIOS, but the manual is lacking in information on this aspect.

The board has a 4-pin PWM CPU fan header located at the very top of the board, with a 3 pin chassis fan header located next to it. The 24-pin and 4-pin power sockets are well placed, at, or near the edge of the board, making sure you can have a neat internal cable layout, which is a boon for airflow. The 4 SATA 2 ports are placed near the centre of the board. This could cause issues with large coolers, but coolers like the Prolimatech Samuel, orientated with the gap over the chipset, should clear this acceptably.

Final Thoughts

ECS is pioneering the new generation of M-DTX boards, and we applaud this. Small Form Factor is all about using the space available in the best way possible, and this board will enable you to do exactly this. With excellent expansion capability, this board could be what you are looking for for a highly capable HTPC, home server, or a budget gaming rig.

Pros:
-M-DTX!!!
-Lots of room around the CPU socket for larger coolers
-Colour scheme (black, grey, white) is excellent, and will make for some excellent builds
-Price (under US$100 MSRP when released)

Cons:
-The CMOS header is impossible to get to with cards installed
-The SATA ports could cause conflict
-Sparse rear I/O
-Board is more of a brown than a black, but this is to be expected at the price point

Overall though the experience with this board was pleasant, and has given me many ideas for custom rigs. In the next article, we will look at benchmarks for this motherboard. I give this board a

LOSIAS/ITXGAMER Recommended Award

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