Despite the mainstream nature of the H55 chipset, manufacturers have gone to some extent of bolstering their offerings with a host of extra features, both hardware and software. One would think that the cost would increase dramatically with that but with Intel's own plain as vanilla reference design in the same price bracket, it would appear that costs have been manageable, or perhaps the Intel name comes with a premium price.
One would also think that dual-GPU configurations were the norm in the retail sector from the three brands that came with two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. We believe that's not the case but like some of the other additional features found on these boards, notably MSI's OC Genie, it's about having more than your competitors, even if it escalates into some form of race.
It could be that all these features are due to the fact that generally, the performance of these boards are similar. Sure, they may differ slightly from benchmark to benchmark, but there was no clear winner in our benchmarks. Having the integrated graphics core with the processor means vendors have even less control over that aspect. What's left then is about the layout/design and cost, along with the proprietary technologies and software as the distinguishing factors. Here then is our breakdown of how the five motherboards fared on a 10-scale rating:
|Performance||Features||Value||Street Price (US$)|
|ASRock H55M Pro||8.0||8.5||9.0||95|
|ASUS P7H55-M PRO||8.0||8.0||7.5||110|
The ASRock H55M Pro is what we have come to expect from the vendor, unpredictable and affordable. The appearance may not be as polished as other brands and the layout could be a bit better but it has a decent set of features and best of all, a price point below a psychologically important US$100 mark. In terms of value, the Gigabyte with its better features and reasonable price probably equals the ASRock, but we felt that the ASRock deserves it, our Most Value for Money Award.
ASUS' entry, the P7H55-M PRO is a decent board, with all the polish and quality that one expects. It is however less than competitive in terms of features and price. While we have no issues with the board's feature set as it is, given its target audience, no doubt users would prefer a lower price point if possible.
When it comes to features, it's hard to say no to Gigabyte's H55M-UD2H, which seems to have all kinds of extras hardware-wise. From the presence of a DisplayPort to the rich variety of storage related options, it's remarkable that Gigabyte has managed to keep the price as competitive as it is. This is more so when one considers the cost of Ultra Durable 3, which entails having solid capacitors and extra copper in the PCB. Not to forget that it has decent utilities bundled to make it more user friendly for various needs. For its blend of features and price, we rate this board as the best of the bunch and the Winner of this roundup.
Intel has rarely competed well against other brands when it comes to retail motherboards and the plain DH55TC doesn't change anything. Its performance is fine, but the lack of frills along with a price that's more than matched by other rivals ensures that it won't be getting our vote.
Finally, the MSI H55M-ED55 is, make no mistake, a very good board. Arguably the best in terms of power efficiency from our results, with a long list of features and quality components, it is definitely a top H55 board. The proprietary technologies like OC Genie enhance its value but only if you have a use for them, which we'll argue is not that essential for the H55 target group. You have to pay for those features however and its US$130 price will deter users who are not looking for the extras. There are other more affordable variants from MSI if you're still interested though.