INTEL’S SANDY BRIDGE processors are scheduled for a January 2011 launch, but as you’ve seen over the past few weeks, motherboard manufacturers are already showing off their new motherboard models based on the next generation chipsets. We attended an Asus preview event just over a week ago, but we weren’t allowed to post any details of the new boards until today, so let’s start with a really small board.
Asus has had quite a selection of mini ITX boards in the past, but most of them have been Atom based. However, Asus recently launched an AMD solution in the mini ITX category. Now the P8H67-I Deluxe is the company’s first high-end Intel mini-ITX board and as the name suggests it’s based on the H67 chipset. This is a seriously feature packed board; although in all fairness it has very little that we haven’t already seen from Zotac in terms of features, in fact we’d go as far as to say that Asus has at least borrowed some inspiration from Zotac for this board.
That doesn’t mean that the P8H67-I Deluxe is a bad product, quite the contrary. There’s very little to wish for on this tiny board, although it has a couple of unique solutions that you’ll either love or hate. For starters, Asus decided to use SO-DIMMs instead of full size DIMMs to save PCB space. Now this is hardly a motherboard for the overclocker, so the fact that you’re limited to 1600MHz DDR3 memory shouldn’t prove to be too much of an issue. At least these days, SO-DIMMs aren’t significantly more expensive than standard DIMMs thanks to the widespread adoption of notebooks, although 1600MHz modules are still priced at a premium compared to 1333MHz modules.
As with many mini-ITX boards, Asus has fitted a PCI Express mini card slot, although this is only a half-length slot and as such you’re limited in the type of cards that can be fitted. Again, this isn’t really a problem, as Asus has already populated it with an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card which is included with the board. Asus has also fitted a pair of USB 3.0 host controllers on the board, although unlike what we’ve seen so far, these are from Asus’ subsidiary Asmedia and not from Renesas. Hopefully Asmedia will have gotten its USB-IF certification by the time this board launches, a problem the company is not alone to suffer from. There are two rear USB 3.0 ports and a further two via a pin-header which appears to have become the standard pin-header across several brands of motherboards.
Asus has also fitted a full x16 PCI Express slot which means that if Intel’s new integrated graphics doesn’t cut it for you; you can fit any standard graphics card in the board. Around the back you’ll find a pair of antenna connectors for the Wi-Fi card, a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, D-sub, DVI and HDMI display connectors, an eSATA port, a Bluetooth dongle (non-removable), a Gigabit Ethernet port, three audio jacks and an optical S/PDIF out. You’ll also find a USB 2.0 header for a further two ports on the board and two SATA 6Gbps and two SATA 3Gbps ports.
Not a bad little board at all and we should hopefully be getting one for testing ahead of Intel’s Sandy Bridge launch. It should make a pretty decent home theatre PC and media server or just about anything else you’d need it for. Considering that many users don’t add any internal upgrades to their PC, why bother getting a box bulky box when you can fit something like this instead of a space hogging chassis? Well, one problem is that most mini-ITX boards cost more than their mATX equivalents, so it’ll be interesting to see what Asus is going to charge for this board when it launches sometime early next year.S|A
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