At last, the wait comes to an end and the LGA1155 "Sandy Bridge" Intel Core family are unveiled. Naturally no one wishes to invest in soon to be discontinued hardware and so it makes perfect sense to have waited up until now.
It is not entirely guaranteed that the new Intel Core family will prove to be a noticeably superior performer to an equivalent LGA1156 part as it depends on your personal needs. Clearly many of you will be flocking towards P67 motherboards and 2500K/2600K processors in light of recent overclocking results. This however leaves those with lesser computational needs in the dark. So the plot thickens; what exactly does LGA1155 have to offer for entry level and midrange consumers?
If it so happens that you're after a more basic system with a bit more platform longevity than the outgoing LGA1156 family, then you are definitely in the right place.
Much like the situation with the outgoing i3/i5/i7 family, you will need to purchase a "H" series motherboard for Integrated Graphics support. Sadly a few of you might be left with a bit of a predicament. To be precise, the H67 chipset does not support processor overclocking at all. Yes, even if you purchase a "K" series processor with a H67 motherboard you are out of luck. If this is what you were after, click the back button on your browser now.
Despite the nature of this website, we are not one to make a final judgement on a product until it has been tested. So with ~£120 to spend, what Micro ATX motherboards are in store for you? Well we have two from Asus and Gigabyte; the P8H67M EVO and the H67MA-UD2H. To summarise these boards on paper, take a gander at our table.
|Motherboard Model||Asus P8H67-M EVO||Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H|
|Form Factor||mATX, 9.6" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)||mATX, 9.6" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm) |
Intel Pentium, Core i3, i5, i7 Processors
|Chipset||Intel H67 ||Intel H67|
|CPU - NO|
iGPU - YES
|CPU - NO|
iGPU - YES
|Memory||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB 1333/1066 DDR3||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB 1333/1066 DDR3 |
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16
|Multi-GPU Support||ATi CrossfireX Supported|
16x (TOP) / 4x (BOTTOM) Mode
| ATi CrossfireX Supported|
16x (TOP) / 4x (BOTTOM) Mode
|Onboard Video||CPU Embedded GPU Supported||CPU Embedded GPU Supported |
|Storage||Intel H67 |
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s
Marvell SATA + IDE
1 x IDE
1 x eSATA 3.0Gb/s
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s
3 x SATA 3.0Gb/s
1 x eSATA 3.0Gb/s
|LAN|| Gigabit LAN||Gigabit LAN |
|Audio|| Realtek ALC892 7.1||Realtek ALC892 7.1 |
|USB||12 x USB 2.0 (4 x Back, 8 x Internal)|
2 x USB 3.0 REAR
|14 x USB 2.0 (4 x Rear, 10 x Internal)|
2 x USB 3.0 REAR
|Firewire||2 x 1394a (1 x back, 1 x internal)||2 x 1394a (1 x back, 1 x internal) |
|Video I/O||DVI, HDMI, VGA, Displayport||DVI, HDMI, VGA, Displayport|
Fancy a closer look? Please turn over.
Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H - A Closer Look
We find ourselves familiar with the packaging, which is clearly of Gigabyte theme. The box is relatively compact however of sturdy material.
Amongst the packaging you will find a typical accessory set, consisting of 4 SATA cables, a manual and a driver CD. But enough of that, lets get to the motherboard itself.
As some of you may know, Gigabyte are beginning to transition towards a swarve black theme on their motherboards; this however seems to be a bit of a hybrid The PCB and expansions slots are reminiscent of the X58/P55 generation and yet they have opted for gun metal coloured heatsinks. No complaints of course, just a mild observation.
Despite being a mATX motherboard, connectivity is unlikely to be a problem for most. Aside sporting plenty of USB and SATA ports, there are also two PCI-E 16x (16x, 4x electrical) and two PCI-E 1x expansion slots as well. It would have been great to see more SATA 6Gb/s ports however it is not a great issue.
Asus P8H67-M EVO - A Closer Look
Gigabyte may have stuck to their roots with their packaging theme, however Asus have unleashed an all new colour scheme - that's right folks. Black.
Like the Gigabyte, the accessory set is quite conventional. Note that a CrossfireX bridge is not included in either package despite motherboard support.
The box theme may have changed however motherboard style is identical to the previous generation. This however is not a bad thing as Asus' board layouts for most of the part have been well thought out in general.
The only major difference between the Asus and Gigabyte in terms of connectivity is the former's implementation of a PCI slot. This is great news for those who don't wish to get rid of their expensive Creative X-Fi Sound Cards or similar from x years ago. Otherwise, the ability to use up to 3 PCI-Express devices still stands.
Intel Core i5 2300 2.80GHz LGA1155 "Sandy Bridge" Processor
Asus P8P67M EVO Motherboard
Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H Motherboard
Mushkin Redline DDR3 @ 1333MHz
Corsair AX1200w PSU
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Noctua NH-D14 Cooler
Overclocking - CPU & iGPU
As you should know by now, overclocking is strictly limited to the Core i5 2500k and i7 2600k processors. As mentioned earlier, we must stress that multiplier overclocking is not available on H67 motherboards. In a nutshell, if CPU overclocking is your intention, then these boards are not for you.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible for you to overclock your i3/i5/i7's integrated GPU. The process is simple enough and we were able to overclock our i5 2300's iGPU core from its nominal 850MHz to 1700MHz. No one can complain about a 100% overclock, however we will soon find out how large a difference it makes.
With the above in mind, we also felt that there isn't much to show from a BIOS perspective. If you are particularly interested in the style of Asus' EFI (GUI) based BIOS, then take a gander at the screenshots from our Rampage IV Extreme review.
Both BIOS' are very intuitive and in the case of the Gigabyte, will be familiar to many DIY builders already. About the only notable feature with both motherboards is the ability to overclock the CPU's graphics core frequency. This is possible in smaller increments and it is also possible to lightly adjust iGPU Voltage as well.
Enough descriptions, it is now time to hit the benchmarks!
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.
The CPU arithmetic test ascertains the processor's capabilities in terms of numerical operations. Two subtests named Dhrystone and Whetstone are carried out respectively. This is not a measure of latency and thus higher is better.
To start off with, the trusty CPU Arithmetic benchmark returns identical results thanks to its low error margin.
SiSoft Sandra offers both memory bandwidth and latency based benchmarks. It is quite possible that architectural tweaks will have made a significant impact in terms of both throughput and latency.
Our first observation are the utterly fantastic memory bandwidth results. While similarly specified RAM would achieve ~13GB/sec in this test, the new 1155 architecture is breaking 18GB/sec out of the box.
Aside minor differences, memory latency is the same across both H67 boards.
Without doubt, onboard cpu cache bandwidth is very fast indeed, but will our Core i5 2300 processor perform any differently between the two motherboards?
Yet again, the two systems are evenly matched. The results as a whole are very much in line with our expectations.
AIDA Extreme Edition
Returning to its roots by re-estabilishing the AIDA name, the latest iteration of the popular benchmark suite now includes optimisations over previous editions. With this in mind, remember not to compare these results against those conducted with older Everest software.
CPU Queen is based on branch prediction and the misprediction penalties that are involved.
This particular test shows an evenly matched scenario.
PhotoWorxx as the name may suggest tests processors by means of invoking functions that are common to Photo Manipulation including Fill, Flip, Crop, Rotate, Difference and Colour to B&W conversion.
Photoworxx however identified a sizeable difference in performance between the two configurations. That said, this test suffers from a larger than normal error margin.
This is an integer based benchmark that will test the CPU and Memory by means of the CPU ZLib compression library.
Normally is returned briefly showing both Asus and Gigabyte H67s on par.
AES is a widely used data encryption standard. Many iterations of the Intel Core processor family now include instruction sets specifically for this form of cryptography, resulting in very impressive figures.
The performance lead returns to Asus in the AES test.
Next up, Image rendering and more system wide benchmarks.
WPrime is a multithreaded benchmark, which is heavily dependent on arithmetic computation. We conducted the 32M and more extensive 1024M tests.
These results are very much in line with the similarly clocked Core i5 760 processor, indicating that Sandy Bridge's architectural tweaks did not come in handy here.
Persistence Of Vision RAYtracer is an application for creating three dimensional graphics. Within the program is a very popular benchmark that measures the processor's ability to render such images.
PovRay shows both configurations performing similarly. No issues here.
The latest iteration of Cinebench's rendering benchmark takes greater advantage of multiple cores.
In the case of Cinebench, both scores are roughly 0.5 marks lower than the model Core i7 860 score. This is to be expected as this particular benchmark scales very well with hyperthreading technology.
PCMark Vantage is Futuremark's flagship "System Wide" benchmark. With a large focus on day to day operations, it's an excellent means of judging the capability of a computer as a whole.
Neck and neck with PCMark Vantage. In both cases, PCMark Vantage pushed over 9000 marks, which is very impressive for a lower midrange 1155 system.
This is where we started to test the Core i5 2300's Integrated GPU. By default the GPU operates at 850MHz (1100MHz) turbo, which we were able to adjust to 1700MHz. The module is not supposed to be a Crysis Warhead killer however we are hoping to show that it will cater for general media (high definition) and light gaming.
Flash HD - Youtube.com
Watching Flash based High Definition video is often more tasking on a system than you'd be led to believe. Let's see how our test setup performs here.
As shown with utilisation of ~25%, this processor and iGPU pairing has no trouble playing 1080p video without any stutters.
3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.
Interestingly the Gigabyte did not have a brilliant 3DMark run at default frequencies. It did however spring back to life once overclocked, matching the Asus score.
The results themselves are suitably promising with GPU scores that suggest similar performance to the Radeon HD 5450 and GeForce 9500GT. For most users, this is a more than ample amount of GPU grunt.
Resident Evil 5
RE5 is the latest 3rd party shooter of the collection, released in 2009. With the graphical settings dropped to modest levels, perhaps the Intel HD graphics will survive.
As expected, DirectX 10 causes a performance hit over DX9 mode, however in both cases the Intel HD Graphics module was quite playable with a larger distribution of frame rates sitting around the 30-35fps mark. For a setup that is not designed for modern games, this is a very reasonable result.
Medal of Honour
We wonder if Medal of Honour stood a chance of coping...
We weren't so lucky with MoH as minimum framerates plummeted mercilessly close to single figures. While both platforms performed identically, it certainly does not serve as a suitable configuration for this game.
Let's wrap this one up.
Really, this review was a means for us to both showcase the GPU capabilities of the new Core i3/i5/i7 range as well as take a closer look at compatible motherboards from two of the world's most popular motherboard brands.
So what did we make of them?
In terms of performance, we were pleased by what the Core i5 2300 had to offer. On the basis that we expect to see this processor for around £130, it is good to know that the consumer will receive a little more grunt (than the Core i5 760) for a smaller outlay. The deal is sweetened for those who have minimal graphics requirements as the Sandy Bridge's Intel HD Graphics has little to no trouble at playing 1080p video and can even deal with a couple of games. We suspect that other popular hits such as Counterstrike Source/Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead and similar will run without much fuss at all.
As for the motherboards, it quite difficult to distinguish between the two. Both perform near identically, have suitable board layouts and are expected to be very durable for the long term thanks to their 8 phase power designs. The Asus P8H67M EVO tips the scales somewhat with its novice friendly EFI BIOS however there is little else to say.
The biggest problem with these motherboards in our eyes could well be price. At £120, these motherboards are priced at P67 territory as well as performance based equivalents from the AMD camp. If you plan on building a computer for under £500, it is hard to justify spending this level of money on either the P8H67M or H67MA-UD2H when it is possible to purchase a similar AMD Phenom II X4/X6 and a AMD 880G motherboard for considerably less. If there was any reason to select the new 1155 platform for a general media system, it would be for its excellent video transcode performance, which we will highlight in the future.
As far as both motherboards are concerned, they are solid products. From an engineering perspective, they are both well built and are likely to form a suitable platform for plenty of mainstream users. Competitively speaking they are also both evenly matched so if you are in the market for a motherboard on a brand new platform, then these are prime candidates. However the success of these boards will inevitably depend purely on their price tag.
Asus P8H67M EVO & Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H Motherboards
- Board Layout
- Durability - 8 phase power reg + solid caps
- EFI BIOS (Asus)
- Potentially Price
The Bad- None
Thank you to Asus and Gigabyte for the boards on test here today, you can discuss your thoughts in the forums.