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Closer Look: Zotac H55ITX-C-E
OK, let's get started. When you open that little box, you'll see Zotac includes many accessories which aren't normally seen in other ITX products. They do include a driver's CD and a full user's manual with a quick installation guide. Zotac decided to include 3, instead of 2 S-ATA cables as they feature 6 S-ATA ports instead of 4 ports. They also include a 4-pin to 4-pin CPU connector extension which is great for those using bigger PC cases or just to help cable management and they also include a DVI-VGA adapter. As a "premium feature", they include a pair of Antennas and their proper cables to install them from the motherboard to the I/O panel. While they included two antennas, it's not a dual band capable wireless adapter. It just improves signal by allowing you to set different angles for proper reception.
As I've said before, the Zotac H55ITX-C-E comes with a slightly different PCB design compared to the H55N-USB3 and the ECS H55H-I. Zotac places their 24-pin connector next to the RAM slots, instead of putting it near the S-ATA connectors. This could make things easier as now you need a shorter cable to reach the ATX connector, or just to help you improve cable management. The rest practically remains the same, with some small differences that aren't so important to be mentioned. Zotac also added a MOS-FET heatsink which will help to improve temperatures and perhaps, increase the overclocking ratio.
Here's a closer look to the CPU socket. This kind of motherboards has their socket placed very near to the memory/PCIe slots. That means you'll have a hard time to fit (if possible) a bigger CPU heatsink as you might end with an un-usable slot. There are also some small solid-capacitors which could hinder CPU heatsink installation, so please have a look at them before buying your new heatsink for this motherboard.
The I/O panel has plenty of connections for a Mini-ITX motherboard. Zotac includes a PS/2 keyboard port for those who still prefer them against USB keyboards. Zotac also includes 6 USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 (blue) ports hosted by the NEC's controller. Perhaps, something lacking here is the D-sub connector, but Zotac already includes a DVI-VGA adapter in case you need it. Additionally, there's also an optical SPDIF and 7.1 channel support plugs, and finally an eSATA (red) port. There's a small push-button to reset BIOS configurations (very useful for overclockers) and above it, you'll have your pair of WiFi antennas after you install them in the H55ITX-C-E.
This motherboard comes with a little heatsink above the Southbridge. While it does its work, it can get pretty hot if your case hasn't got the proper air-flow. At its left, you can find the 3v+ batter and between this and the heatsink, the CMOS jumper, which is pretty difficult to access. Luckily, Zotac added a push-button at the I/O area.
Since this motherboard bundles lots of circuits to support its features (WiFi for example), they had to make some arrangements on the PCB's design. Because of that, they added some little integrated circuits and MOS-FETs at the back of the board just near the CPU backplate. Look at the left/inferior corner. They also added some circuits and diodes there!
Here's a closer look of the small circuits I told you about. They're so close to the socket's backplate that they won't allow you to put heatsink retention's backplates. That leaves you with fewer options as you'll need to look for a push-pin heatsink unless you're using Intel's stock heatsink. I do understand that this board wasn't done for extreme overclockers, but anyone who wants a quiet system will try to install a bigger heatsink in their HTPC, just to discover they can't, at least, not with this motherboard.
Let's take an even closer look at some of the unique features on this motherboard...