A COUPLE OF weeks ago a slide of Gigabyte’s upcoming mini-ITX motherboard leaked on a Taiwanese website, but we can now share with you the exclusive first pictures of the H55N-USB3 motherboard. This is Gigabyte’s first consumer focused mini-ITX board and it’s also the first mini-ITX board to feature USB 3.0 support.
As you can see from the picture of the box below, the H55N-USB3 not only features USB 3.0, but also Gigabyte’s unique 3x USB power feature that allows more power hungry USB devices to draw more power from a single port, be it a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 device. The board also features Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 3 features, Dynamic Energy saver support and the handy Smart 6 utilities.
Due to the space restrictions of the 17x17cm mini-ITX form factor standard you only get a single expansion slot in the shape of a PCI Express x16 slot and it has all the lanes connected to it. Gigabyte made a big deal out of the fact that they use a six layer PCB for this motherboard, as that is apparently needed in part by the USB 3.0 controller. The board also has a pair of full-size DIMM slots, four SATA ports, although there’s no RAID support as the H55 chipset lacks any kind of RAID functionality, as well as a pair of USB 2.0 headers. Gigabyte has also implemented Dual BIOS and we have to apologise for misleading you in the earlier post about this board, as it has a 4+2 power regulation setup rather than a 6 phase configuration.
Moving to the rear ports we have a fairly solid set of connectivity options including four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a PS/2 connector, eSATA, D-Sub, DVI and HDMI display connectivity, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out. For those wanting to use a graphics card with this motherboard rather than relying on Intel’s HD graphics, it’s worth noting that this board lacks the internal S/PDIF out header, so make sure you chose a graphics card that doesn’t require this.
Flipping the board over reveals several components on the back, including the Ethernet controller and parts of the power regulation circuitry. This is also in part why Gigabyte needed to use a six layer PCB. The H55N-USB3 should ship later this month and we were told to expect a sub $100 retail price which sounds like a good deal to us, especially when you consider that Zotac’s H55 sells for about $145, although that board comes with a mini PCI Express Wi-Fi card which does add some cost.
We’re hearing that Intel is keen on getting all its partners to make mini-ITX boards based on its H55 or H57 chipsets and we should see a lot of new mini-ITX boards in the coming months. Considering that most people would be happy with the performance of Intel’s HD graphics found in the Core i3 and Core i5 processors, we can see this market starting to grow. We’re also hearing that the demand for mini-ITX cases have already started to increase, but so far there are only a handful of models on the market that can cope with these more powerful and power hungry models.S|A
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