Review: Quite highend at bargain price
This review will also be available in German shortly.
With Sandy Bridge just around the corner, it's time to get some bargains. Manufactures will sell off the "old" stuff and if you are interesting in overclocking the current line-up from Intel is the last chance to do so. The new CPUs will be drastically limited and you would need unlocked editions which will cost you an arm and a leg. Today we take a look at the MSI H55M-ED55, which sports the H55 chipset for current LGA 1156 CPUs.
MSI H55M-ED55 (provided by MSI)
ASRock 890GX Extreme3 (provided by ASRock)
ASRock H55M Pro (provided by ASRock)
Intel Pentium G6950, Intel i3-530 (provided by Mindfactory
AMD Athlon II X2 240e, 245 (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon II X4 620 (provided by AMD)
Scythe Kama Angle (provided by Scythe-Europe)
G.Skill 4GB Kit PC3-12800 (provided by G.Skill)
1067MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T 1.30V for Athlon II X2, Pentium G6950
1333MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T 1.30V for Athlon II X4, i3-530
MSI R4850-2D1G-OC (provided by MSI)
PC Power & Cooling Silencer 500W (provided by PC Power & Cooling)
Samsung F1 1000GB RAID-Edition (provided by Ditech)
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Cooler Master Stacker 831 Lite (provided by Cooler Master)
All tests are performed with XP SP3. As 64-bit software is still not very common, we stick with the 32-bit version. We will change to Windows 7 when we swap the graphics card for a DX11 capable one.
This µATX board is similar to any other board on the market. For some reason all the manufactures think it's a good idea to put two PCIe x16 slots on such boards. Due to the limitations of the chipset you just can forget about Crossfire or SLI. But you can use this slot with any other PCIe x1 card.
The backpanel contains most common connectors, with the absence of USB3.0. An office machine can live without it, at least you can connect external harddrives via the eSATA connector.
The only speciality this board offers is it's integrated MOSfet VRM design which offers lower power consumption. It's just a 4+2 phase design but has still enough headroom for seriously overclocking.
A Realtek ALC889 chip provides 7.1 HD onboard sound, while the RTL8111DL offers a Gbit LAN connection. The lonely JMB363 offers the eSATA connector and the H55 provides six SATAII ports without any RAID capability. MSI has not put an port80 diagnostic led on the board, but some LEDs show you if the board has power and of course how many phases for the CPU are in use.
The memory slots are very close to the primary PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, you upgrading your memory with an installed graphics card could be difficult. Also oversized coolers such a Scythe Grand Kama Cross won't fit, so make sure your third party CPU cooler will fit when you decide to install a graphics card.
While the ASRock board would not like to boot our i3-530 with 200MHz virtual FSB, the MSI did not cause such troubles. The VCore run at 1.225V.
Of course this time we did not stop with 4.2GHz and the MSI board was stable with 4.4GHz @ 1.35V, which is quite impressive.
Because the CPUs run very efficient at a VCore of about 1.100V we see no reason to attempt lowering the VCore itself. You could only shave off some millivolts, so we think it's not worth the effort.
As we have expected the unique MSI VRM solution works very efficient.
In our performance/wattage check with Cinebench we see AMD is closer as thought, especially when under-voltaged. That is because µATX do not waste power with features nobody needs, such as ten, twelve, sixteen or 32 phases and with less add-on chips. Of course the i5-750 runs on the MSI P55-GD65 board with our standard graphics card.
Before we can think of a conclusion we need to check the system costs and performance. As usual the Intel platform is a tad pricier and with the integrated graphics core overclocking works well too, but we think overclocking an AMD system is just easier. Performance wise AMD is not as far off as Intel would like them to be. The Athlon II X4 series is very cheap and at the same price level as the more feature-rich i5-6xx series, but the Athlon has four real cores compared to Intel's two cores with hyperthreading. Meanwhile costs are very close and it's just a matter of taste. For the AMD system we choose the MSI 785GM-E65 which does not sport the new SB850 but is otherwise a nearly perfect board.
With prices falling for H55 and P55 boards now maybe a good time to purchase such a system. Of course AMD is quite close in performance and cost, but need more power under load when not under-voltaged. To buy an AMD quad-core or an Intel dual-core with hyperthreading is your choice alone.
The MSI H55M-ED55 went into the market eight months ago and retailed at €99,- which is much too expensive for our taste espcially considering the few accessories. The direct competition ASRock updated their H55M Pro with USB3.0 and costs about €66,-. MSI has reduced the price massively, now you can purchase it for about €76,- which is justified. The board was stable during our testing, has very good overclocking capabilites regardsless it's not branded as "high-end". Just forget about the 1-button overclocking, because it does nothing but load a pre-programmed BIOS setting, which we find quite lame. Otherwise an excellent board with all the basic features you will expect, so we can recommend it.
Check out the next page for the complete results of our benchmarks.
As always here are all the benches we performed. The following game tests were done with a HD4850 installed: