|ASUS P7H55D-M EVO LGA1156 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 24 February 2010|
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The Intel H55 Chipset
Intel's original Socket 1156 chipset, the P55 Express, was introduced in the third quarter of 2009. Designed as a lower-performing, "mainstream" alternative to the expensive X58 chipset, it had dual-channel memory support instead of triple-channel, and instead of the 36 PCI Express lanes of the X58, it had but 8, leaving graphics cards to depend on the 16 lanes built into the Core i3 and Coe i5 processors. Motherboard vendors adopted this chipset with a vengeance, rapidly transforming it into the enthusiast platform of choice, to the point where a system built around a good P55 motherboard could offer performance equal to that of an X58-based system, for much less money. While some criticized the P55's lack of triple-channel memory support and its inability to supply two full x16 PCI-E lanes for CrossFire or SLI graphics setups, Benchmark Reviews' tests of P55-based motherboards such as the ASUS P7P55D EVO showed that specifications don't necessarily translated into real-world differences.
With the introduction of the new "Clarkdale" Core i3 and Core i5 processors with their integrated GPUs, Intel also introduced three new supporting chipsets: the H55 Express, the H57 Express, and the Q57 Express. All of these chipsets are built on a 65nm process and are largely identical, differing only in the details. The Q57 is a business-oriented chipset offering features (such as Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O and Trusted Execution Technology) that are irrevelant for home users; the H55 Express (used in the ASUS P7H55D-M EVO that's the subject of this review) and the H57 express are the consumer-level chips. Here's a short table comparing the major features of these chipsets with the P55:
The major difference between the P55 and the H5x series chipsets is the latter's support for the integrated graphics built into the Clarkdale processors. Based on Intels "Graphic Media Accelerator" (GMA), previously integrated into motherboard chipsets, the "iGPU" can't be used on a motherboard with the older P55 chipset, although the CPU in the processor will work fine (although most P55 motherboard will require a BIOS upgrade to use them).
With so many functions moved from the chipset to the CPU, the motherboard chipset becomes less important to the overall performance of the computer. Looking simply at the Intel specifications, the H57 seems to be a P55 with integrated graphics support, with the H55 giving up RAID, AHCI, and a couple of USB ports. Which of these chipsets you choose depends mainly on whether you have a Clarkdale processor with an iGPU.