MSI H55M ED55 Page: 1

Several weeks have passed since the release of Intel’s line-up of Core i3/i5 Dual Core processors and thus far we are still sampling through an ever growing selection of H55/H57 motherboards to complement these new processors. Today we’ll be taking a look at MSI’s latest offering, the MSI H55 ED55 Motherboard.

Most of you will not need any introduction for this particular hardware manufacturer, who has specialised in the sale of motherboards and graphics cards for a number of years and have more recently expanded into the mass market with their affordable “Wind” series of sub £300 Netbooks.

So what’s so important about these H55 and H57 based motherboards? First and foremost, these are the first motherboards to natively support 32nm processors and include the appropriate onboard equipment to utilise its integrated graphics module. Second and most importantly, these motherboards should be the beginning of lower ownership prices for current generation Intel products. Let's examine the technical specification of our H55 ED55 motherboard.

Processor Support Intel® Socket 1156 Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/ Pentium® Processor
Chipset Intel® H55 Express Chipset
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2000(O.C.)*/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
VGA Multi-VGA output support: HDMI, DVI-D, RGB
Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536@75Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB
Multi-GPU Support Supports ATI® CrossFireX™ Technology
Storage

Intel® H55 Express Chipset built-in
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10

One Ultra DMA 66/100/133 IDE controller integrated in JMicron® 363.
- Supports PIO, Bus Master operation modes.
- Can connect up to two Ultra ATA drives.

LAN Supports one PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111DL.
Audio Realtek® ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
USB Intel® H55 Express Chipset:
- 12 x USB 2.0 ports (6 x Rear, 6 x Internal)


In many ways, this motherboard has much in common with the Asus P7H57D-EVO motherboard that we previously reviewed and on that basis, we'll be pitching the MSI H55M ED55 directly against it in our testing process. Aside testing performance in general, we will also be evaluating the additional (and perhaps unique) features of the motherboard such as bundled software and tools.



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Arriving in a conventional glossy cardboard box, the H55M ED55 and it's accessories were packed securely enough to prevent even the least dexterous of postal workers from inflicting any damage.

   

In terms of accessories, MSI include a very standard set of equipment. Aside the mandatory Driver disc, I/O shield and manual, you'll find two SATA cables, a molex to SATA power adapter and a user manual. Note that this board does not come with a Crossfire bridge.

The motherboard itself is of a very conventional layout. The MOSFET cooling solution is particularly noteworthy with a high surface area and a heatpipe.

  

    

The H55M ED55 has a comprehensive rear I/O configuration including the choice of three video outputs. There is also three internal USB headers and a total of six SATA II ports, where four of which are mounted at a 90* angle.

   

Now here's the interesting stuff. On this particular motherboard, you'll find four embedded buttons. So the power toggle button is quite common on boards these days but the other three are a little...unique. The next two buttons are (and I kid you not) for incrementing and decrementing the base clock frequency of your processor. I'm a little unsure of how well it'll work but alongside this, you'll also find a glowing "OC GENIE" button as well. I shall return to this later on in the review. Until then, let's get testing shall we?



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Testbed

Intel Core i3 530 2.93GHz Processor
MSI H55M ED55 Micro ATX Motherboard
4GB Corsair PC3-12800C8 RAM
320GB Samsung Spinpoint F1 SATA II Hard Disk Drive
22x Samsung DVD+/-RW
nVidia GeForce 8800GT 512mb GDDR3 Graphics Card
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

BIOS

Unsurprisingly, MSI have retained their general BIOS layout. This is fine as for most it'll be intuitive enough.

   


Cell Menu. As you could've probably guessed, this holds all CPU and iGPU overclocking parameters as well as a host of memory settings. There's plenty of options to tweak and most importantly, voltage parameters are available for all important components and in the right quantity too.

   

MSI M-Flash is the brand's pre-windows flashing tool. Not only does the tool allow the user to update their BIOS, it also offers the option to dump the existing BIOS file to USB Media. The tool isn't quite as elaborate as Asus' EZFlash but will certainly come in handy regardless.

Overclocking - Max BCLK

As part of determining the motherboard's ability to overclock, our first port of call was to find the maximum Base Clock Frequency. While the vast majority of users will opt for their highest available CPU multiplier for overclocking, others may lower theirs in order to reach higher QPI and Memory frequencies.

The motherboard finally caved at 196MHz BCLK, where it would no longer boot into Windows 7. A maximum bootable BCLK of 194MHz was achieved, however we found our max stable at 191MHz. Not a poor show at all.

Overclocking - Max Stable

Much like the Asus P7H57D-EVO we previously reviewed, we were able to reach our "sweetspot" overclock at 4.10GHz and a configuration of 186*22. We were hoping to reach and possibly exceed 200MHz but nothing could make this happen with our sample board. That said, circa 190MHz will fulfill the needs of most air/water cooling oriented overclockers thanks to the high multipliers of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. If anything has to be said, if all H55M ED55's overclock as well as this sample, then one can almost guarantee a run for 4.0GHz.



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But what if messing around in BIOS is a concern for all you novices? Fear not, as MSI have included their very own software overclocking tool. MSI's Control Center allows the user to control all of the variables one would need to overclock, although it should be mentioned that the manipulation of most of these parameters are not on the fly and command a system restart.

 

This leads us onto the OC Genie feature mentioned on Page 2. As much as we wished it to be a great feature for those who want a slice of Overclocking pie without the hassle of learning anything about it, we ran into trouble...

 

 

In order to activate OC Genie, you must enable it in Control Center but also press the big blue button on the motherboard. It should be noted that the moment the button is pressed a system restart is required. Much to our horror we returned from the reboot to discover that our processor was underclocked but had a big increase on the CPU vcore and VTT voltages. In a nutshell, OC Genie failed to deliver as for most normal individuals it will command opening your chassis, pressing a button and then dealing with a system restart to then find yourself with a slower and warmer CPU. As always, one's mileage may vary but the tool simply didn't agree with our system configuration.

MSI Live Update 4

 

MSI Live Update 4 is a very nifty tool that can be made to automatically find new drivers and bios' for your motherboard. You are also able to manually search and select the files that you wish to download and saves the hassle of navigating through MSI's own website.



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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.

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.

CPU Queen is based on branch prediction and the misprediction penalties that are involved.

This is an integer based benchmark that will test the CPU and Memory by means of the CPU ZLib compression library.

WinRAR

WinRAR's embedded Benchmark focuses on the processor's File Compression capability.


The H55M ED55 based testbed gets off to a very respectable start. For most of the part, the MSI holds near identical scores with the Asus P7H57D EVO, although in Everest Ultimate Edition's CPU Photoworxx test, an interesting performance advantage is noted at 2.93GHz.



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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.

HDTune

HDTune analyses the performance and health of your Hard Disk Drive. It's comprehensive test will determine minimum, maximum and average transfer rates.

Everest Ultimate Edition's memory testing suite determines the performance of your memory and your system's memory controller. Both Read and Write operations are tested.


This is where things get a little interesting. The MSI H55M ED55 holds an enormous lead over the Asus P7H57D EVO motherboard in all memory tests. Those of whom who know their memory will most likely realise that this says more about the results from the previous Asus report, rather than the MSI. On the basis of our findings with other Dual Channel DDR3 platforms and generic lists of performance data, the MSI performs very much as expected while the Asus seemed to be having issues. It should be noted that like all modern processors, the Core i3 530 has it's own embedded memory controller, however we were unable to find any issues with our processor.

It should also be mentioned that the MSI H55M ED55 does not have a SATA6.0Gbps controller. Our testing has highlighted that today's mainstream hard disk drives do not benefit from the faster interface.



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PCMark Vantage

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.

 

Passmark paints a picture about the system as a whole by testing processor, memory, hard disk drive, optical drive and graphics card.

Futuremark's 3DMark06 is a means of testing a system's capability as a gaming machine. It has aged a little, however remains to be an excellent benchmark for all round 3D testing.


Microsoft's HD Suite contains a variety of 720p and 1080p video clips. We selected one 1080p Video Clip and gauged performance on the basis of CPU utilisation and fluidity.

HD Video - wwww.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.

Left 4 Dead is a very popular hit and as such was a game that we wanted to throw at our Core i3 530's Integrated GPU. Let's see how well it performs.

Once again the MSI H55 ED55 has successfully held it's own against the more expensive Asus P7H57D EVO. This has also helped reaffirm the Intel GMA adapter's level of competence.



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All in all, we were left feeling quite impressed by the little MSI board. Throughout our entire suite of tests, the H55M ED55 maintained pace with our previously reviewed Asus P7H57D EVO; a motherboard that's priced over 50% higher than the former. I will concede however that the board has it's own set of limitations. For one, it's Micro ATX form factor means that Multi GPU solutions will be a tight (albeit entirely possible) fit at the cost of rendering all other expansion slots useless. The H55M ED55 also lacks the elaborate power phase design of the P7H57D EVO, which may restrict overclocks with more demanding Core i5 750/Core i7 8xx Processors. Finally, this board is not as "futureproof" as other H55/H57 boards due to the lack of USB3.0 and SATA 6.0GB/s ports.

But does any of this matter to you? How highly would you value a larger form factor, better power regulation and a small number of higher speed interfaces? This particular writer believes that if one is in the market for a bang for buck machine, then none of this should be a deciding factor. The endgame lies with the simple fact that the little MSI H55M ED55 performed identically to it's more expensive competition, overclocked to the same frequencies and saves you enough money to go out and buy a dedicated graphics card or a faster processor instead.

Our major gripe was the OC Genie tool as it well and truly flopped during the time we had to test it. The Genie tool is certainly not as "one second" an operation as it suggests, nor did it attain an overclock of any sort. By comparison, Asus' Turbo software performed flawlessly but as always, one's mileage may vary. Regardless, it's worrying that some individuals might be as unlucky as us with out "automated overclocking" endeavours and without realising will find themselves with a machine that is no faster but considerably warmer.

As a product it represents very good value for money. At a shade under £90 the MSI H55 ED55 is steadily approaching AMD 785G/790GX territory and when combined with the new Core i3 lineup, users now have a lot more choice in the mid-range market segment. Finally, when one considers it's Micro ATX form factor (this time on a positive note), this motherboard has the potential to be the basis of a fast and compact performance system.

The Good
- Price
- Performance
- Good Overclocker (in manual mode!)
- Expansion for it's size

The Mediocre
- Poor Overclocker (in auto mode!)

The Bad
- None

 

 

 

 



Thank you to MSI for supplying todays sample, you can discuss the review further in our forums.