Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 - A Tiny Powerhouse

Launch SRP: S$189

The Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3

The Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3

Given its mini-ITX form factor, the layout and space of this Gigabyte board are crucial factors. Immediately, we saw that the PCIe 2.0 x16 graphics slot is too close to the CPU socket and the DIMM slots. While one could probably fit in a graphics card with a dual-slot cooler (if your chassis has the allowance), taking it out could be quite troublesome since the release latch for the PCIe slot is very close to the socket.

The other issue is that the retention clip for the DIMM slots are too close to the installed graphics card, so removing or installing a memory module could be slightly tricky. It's not impossible but it will be harder. Gigabyte is probably counting on users not to be fiddling with their systems too much after the initial installation given the mainstream tilt of this board, but we can't help but feel that they could have gone with the single side retention mechanism that we have seen on ASUS (e.g. the ASUS Crosshair Formula IV) and even MSI boards recently to solve this issue.

As for the board, you should know that it's based on Intel's H55 Express chipset, so the integrated graphics portion only works if you install a Clarkdale processor. The video outputs are the standard trio of HDMI, DVI and analog VGA while the BIOS allowed us to dedicate a maximum of 128MB of system memory to the graphics. Meanwhile, the dual-channel memory architecture accepts up to DDR3-1600MHz memory modules so there's even allowance for enthusiasts gunning for an overclocked system.

Audio comes courtesy of a Realtek ALC892R HD CODEC, which from our online search, seems to support bit streaming of Blu-ray audio through the HDMI port. The modest nature of this board also means that Gigabyte could go with just a 4+2 phase power delivery system, which is a huge contrast to the usual double-digit power phases touted by the company.

Storage options take a backseat, though there are four SATA 3.0Gbps ports onboard, with an eSATA option at the rear. They are located near the edge of the board, which should help when installing or removing drives. SATA 6Gbps however appears not to be a priority for Gigabyte, though as its model name says, this board supports USB 3.0 thanks to the ubiquitous NEC controller. There are a decent number of USB 2.0 ports too, and they all support Gigabyte's unique ON/OFF charge feature, where one can charge your iPod/iPhone/iPad devices while the PC is off and also at a faster than usual rate.

Finally, the distinctive features of any Gigabyte board is replicated here like it is a proper ATX board, from the solid capacitors used to the other highlights of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 feature like double the copper content in the PCB layer. The whole list of Gigabyte features is too extensive to list here, so check out the specifications tab here on our website or Gigabyte's own website. Just so you know, old favorites like Q-Flash and Dynamic Energy Saver are all present. 

Four SATA 3Gbps ports are found near the PCH. There's obviously no space for Gigabyte to add a SATA 6Gbps controller.

Two DIMM slots supporting a dual-channel architecture of up to DDR3-1666 (O.C). The retention clips are close enough to the single PCIe 2.0 x16 slot that we can see some issues here during installation/removal of memory modules.

The ATX 24-pin power connector with the two USB 2.0 headers and the front panel connectors.

Again, space is limited and the CPU socket with the holes for the heatsink is uncomfortably close to the other components.

This latch needs to be pressed to remove the graphics card, which is not something we relish doing when the board is fully installed. It's definitely too close to the CPU socket.

Shorting this two pins will clear the CMOS, so don't be poking around this board carelessly with your screwdriver.

The NEC USB 3.0 controller that's used by practically every vendor to enable USB 3.0 support.

The Good
Very competitive performance in benchmarks
Excellent BIOS with lots of tweaking options
The Bad
Board layout could be improved further, especially for the DIMM and PCIe slots