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GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up

Exactly what can you get from a GIGABYTE H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX motherboard? Let's load it up and find out!
@TweakTown
Published Mon, Aug 9 2010 10:21 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 01 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 19 IMAGES




After our short time with the H55N-USB3, we felt that we might be missing out on something. We knew from the testing that GIGABYTE had a great little board (literally), but we wanted to know if you could really push the H55N-USB3.

To find this out, we dropped in our Core i7 875K, 4GB of Corsair DDR3 RAM, the H70 Cooler, F120 SSD and our Radeon HD 5970. This hardware pushes the upper limit of what the H55N-USB3 can handle, so we are not sure if there is any room to overclock or not. Let's find out, shall we?

Overclocking




While we would like to tell you that we were able to push the CPU to a new high, we can't. It would seem that the combination of the 875K and the Radeon HD 5970 will not let you get any more. We could get into Windows even at high BCLKs, but even simple tests would crash the system. We tried everything, but in the end the system would just shut down. First the video would go out, then the system would power off and on.

To see if it was indeed the GPU, we pulled the 5970 out and dropped in an ASUS HD 5870 V2. Unfortunately, we ran into the same exact issue. Then we dropped in the least power hungry GPU we could find and saw the same thing. It really looks like this board just does not have what it takes to overclock the 875K. This is a shame really, as we saw decent clocks from the 661.

I think that if the board had even a couple more power phases, we could get more out of the 875K, but as built we just can't.

As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary. Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.

Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.

Test System Setup and Comments


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 30 | TweakTown.com


We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment GIGABYTE, Intel, AMD, Corsair, and Sceptre.

We had a feeling when going into this project that we would run into a few problems. The first indication was when we started to see overclocking errors on every post. These were popping up even though we had not even overclocked the CPU yet. Finally, we checked GIGABYTE's website and found a more recent BIOS. After installing that, the errors went away, but we still could not overclock the 875K.

After finding out that the board would not overclock, we decided to compare it to what we have seen with other boards in the P55 range as well as the 890FX from AMD. We thought it would be a very fun little test of this inexpensive and small board.

Synthetic Tests - Part I


With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic and real-world testing. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms. For our synthetic tests we use Everest Ultimate, Sisoft Sandra, FutureMark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.


Memory Bandwidth

Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems, slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra, Everest and HyperPi 0.99.


Sisoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Buy It Here

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 31 | TweakTown.com


The H55N-USB3 seems to lag behind the larger and faster P55 boards. Although we are not overly surprised we are a little disappointed.


Everest Ultimate

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.30.1983
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here

Everest Ultimate is a suite of tests and utilities that can be used for system diagnostics and testing. For our purposes here we use their memory bandwidth test and see what the theoretical performance is.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 32 | TweakTown.com

Stock Memory Performance


The numbers here are odd; for some reason Everest wanted to run as a single threaded app and pushed the CPU up to its single core max of 3.4GHz. We think we may see the beginnings of an issue here. Perhaps the lack of sufficient power phases is not the only problem.


HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 are trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 33 | TweakTown.com


The H55N with the 875K is about in the middle of the 1156 Core i7s. The thing that drags them down is the extra instance per core. Still, the board looks solid in this test.

Synthetic Tests - Part II


Disk Drive Controller

The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.

For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and Everest.


SiSoft Sandra

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 34 | TweakTown.com


Now that is some impressive HDD performance. It tops the bigger boards without missing a beat.


Everest

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 35 | TweakTown.com

Stock HDD Performance


Everest just confirms the faster performance for us.

Synthetic Tests - Part III


Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.


PCMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here

For overall system performance we use PCMark Vantage. This is run in both x86 and x64 mode to give the best indication of performance.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 36 | TweakTown.com


With the monster Radeon HD 5970 installed we knew that PCMark was going to be a breeze, although we did not expect to see the rather large gap that we have.


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here

For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations.

3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. As we are no longer using an NVIDIA GPU for testing (at least until we can get a GTX 4xx card) you will only see the CPU based PhysX results in the scores. For testing we use the Performance test run.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 37 | TweakTown.com


Nothing much to say here, as if you thought this one would turn out any other way. What is interesting is the CPU score. Despite being almost the same CPU as used on the P7P55WS and the P7F7E WS, the Core i7 875K lags a little behind when on the H55N.


Cinebench R11.5 x64

Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 x64
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here

Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 38 | TweakTown.com


Once more it looks like the H55N does hold the Core i7 875K back a little. It is now entirely possible that the BIOS it not properly coded to handle the CPU and the lack of the power phases need to run it are showing up.

Real-World Tests - Part I


Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.

This is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.

For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI, and two games for gaming testing.


Rendering

Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory, and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.


LightWave 3D

Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
Buy It Here

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 39 | TweakTown.com


Lightwave 3D seems to back up the supposition that the H55N-USB3 is not able to deal with the 875K properly. This could also be the reason for all of the overclocking failure warnings we saw before we updated to the F4 BIOS. It seems like there is more work to do.


AutoGK

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here

AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 40 | TweakTown.com


Not too bad of a showing here for the little H55N-USB3. We are still guessing that it is not quite built for the 875K as the performance is not exactly where it should have been with the HDD performance we saw.

Real-World Tests - Part II


Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose uses multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frame per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.

*** A word on gaming as a motherboard test; ***

Despite the fact that most games are very GPU limited, we are still noticing HDD and even audio creating issues in gaming performance. Because of this you may see differences in the number of frames rendered per second between different boards. Usually the difference is very small but occasionally, because of bad tracing, poor memory or HDD performance this difference is significant. The issues are often more prevalent in older versions of DirectX but can still pop up in DX10 and 11.



Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (DX9)

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: First combat until the school is cleared
Developer Homepage: http://www.infinityward.com
Product Homepage: http://modernwarfare2.infinityward.com

Most of you know about the game Modern Warfare 2; it caused quite a bit of controversy in the latter half of 2009. The game is a first person shooter with a heavy combat emphasis. It follows the events in the first Modern Warfare very closely and brings back several characters from the original.

As with most games in the Call of Duty franchise, it features a heavy AI load. This is not because of a complex AI routine, but more due to the sheer number of enemies in any given combat situation. It is also our single DX9 based game in our testing suite. Settings are shown below.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 81 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 82 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 41 | TweakTown.com


Nothing like a 23 FPS lead over the competition at your slowest. That is what the 875K combined with the HD 5970 can give you, even on this tiny little motherboard.


Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com

Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here, so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".

In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal; unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. Settings we used for testing are shown below.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 83 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 42 | TweakTown.com


The H55N-USB with the 875K and HD5970 turns into quite the little gaming platform for Far Cry2. We are seeing frame rates that are 17 FPS ahead of everyone else.


Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11)

Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://badcompany2.ea.com/

Battlefield Bad Company is another sequel and also another game "franchise". Bad Company 2 is also our DX11 Shooter game. The game follows a fictitious B company team on a mission to recover a Japanese defector. This puts you back in World War II (at least for the beginning of the game) while the multi-player game is centered on much more modern combat. For our testing we used the single player mode. Settings are shown below.

GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 84 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE's H55N-USB3 Mini-ITX Motherboard Loaded Up 43 | TweakTown.com


Here we only see a 5FPS lead at minimum, but a nice healthy 26FPS lead on the average scale. Like we have said, a good GPU will get you there every time.


Gaming Conclusion

Although it is not likely that anyone will drop a Radeon HD 5970 onto a Mini-ITX motherboard, we do know that there are more than one SFF enclosure that has the space to allow this. This means that someone (Silver Stone and NZXT) has thought about having this kind of gaming power in this small of a form factor.

Personally, I got a rather large kick out of gaming on this and actually replayed all the way through Modern Warfare 2 just because it was so much fun to do.

Final Thoughts




We said it before and we will say it again; the GIGABYTE H55N-USB3 is an impressive little board. We have seen what it can do with a Core i5 661 in it and now we know what it can do when you load things up.

We are still disappointed that we could not get any kind of overclocking out of the board with the 875K installed, but we were more than happy with the other performance we saw. After all, it is not often that you do get to throw things like this together just to see what you get. We do hope to play with this board again in the future as GIGABYTE releases new BIOS versions for it. We also may drop in our Core i5 750 just to see if we can get different results from that.

For now, we are going to just reaffirm what we have already said; the GIGABYTE H55N-USB3 is a very impressive board with a great price. You can drop quite a bit of power onto the board and get some rather nice results in return. All of this is for around $105 from NewEgg.com; not a bad deal, huh?

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