Intel's Clarkdale is a multiple purpose CPU + GPU. It has been designed by Intel to offer a wide range of performance and price opportunities. To cover this properly Intel has decided to release multiple chipsets. These are not completely different, but contain subtle differences that establish each in its own market.
At the bottom is the entry level H55 which lacks RAID support and a few other higher end functions. Next up on the list is the H57 which does contain RAID support and is a little more functional and powerful than the H55. The last is more of an extension than a top-end chipset; this is the Q57. It is more of a business level offering and has support for Intel's Active Management Technology. This last item would make an excellent option for use in a business environment.
With our coverage of the 32nm Core i5 661 we saw H55 performance. Now we take a look at a H57 based board from GIGABYTE. This board is very much a higher end product than the H55 and has been added to by the engineers at GIGABYTE. This is the GA-H57M-USB3 and as the product name implies, it contains USB 3.0 support. Follow on with us as we find out if the H57 from GIGABYTE truly offers better performance for your Clarkdale loving.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Although we did not get the full retail package, we do know from talking to GIGABYTE that the contents will be aimed at the value space. Do not expect a ton of high-end cables or too much in the way of software.
GIGABYTE did send us the image above to give you an idea of what the retail box will look like. It is pretty standard stuff really and not much to get excited about.
The layout of the GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 board is based around a micro-ATX form factor. This makes for a little bit of a cramped board and is something that you would not normally see in what is intended as an entry level board (albeit a high-level one).
Looking at the upper portion of the board, we do see that GIGABYTE has kept the CPU area very clean. This is good for systems that have limited airflow and also allows for someone to use a better air cooler than the stock one that ships with the Core i5 661.
However, to maintain the clear field of the CPU area, they have had to clutter the area around the RAM slots. Here we find that GIGBYATE has stuffed in a 14-pin ATX power connector as well as a PATA and floppy socket. These are so close they become an issue when connecting them once installed in a case (especially if that case is a Small Form Factor).
GIGABYTE has placed the 8-pin aux power adapter in the usual place and has even thrown in a nice extra feature; this is a pair of four-pin fan headers which are great for high-performance air cooling. As I mentioned before, it is clear that while this is an entry level product, GIGABYTE is giving it some enthusiast class features.
The lower half of the board is even more cramped than the area around the RAM slots. GB has stuffed in two x16 (x8 electrical) slots for Crossfire and also two PCI slots. Along the bottom they have stuffed in a multitude of connection options.
One feature that truly does put the GA-H57M-USB3 above much of the competition is the inclusion of USB 3.0. There are also two additional SATA2.0 ports on the board (the two white ones which run off a GIGABYTE controller) as well as two USB 3.0 ports on the back I/O panel.
In addition to the USB 3.0 ports, GB has also chosen to add in DVI, VGA D-SUB, HDMI and Display Port. The rest of the ports back here are pretty standard.
Overall the GA-H57M-USB3 is a cluttered board with little room for expansion. I can foresee issues with installing one of these into an SFF case or even in a mid-tower. Although the extra features that have been stuffed in are nice, I still have to wonder if they are needed on a board that is designed to accept a CPU with a GPU already built in. Maybe GIGABYTE has gotten over zealous on this one. I can only hope that the performance overcomes some of the layout issues I have seen here.
BIOS and Overclocking
GIGABYTE uses an Award BIOS for the GA-H57M-USB3. As such, it follows the same layout most are familiar with.
For the enthusiast or tweaker the most important place in the BIOS is the M.I.T (MB Intelligent Tweaker). Here you can find the settings to overclock your CPU and GPU (on the Clarkdale). It also allows you to adjust the settings for your RAM and voltage.
Taking a look elsewhere in the BIOS shows us an interesting feature called XHD or eXtreme Hard Disk. This is not what you would think, though. It does not mean SATA 3.0, it means RAID and then it means RAID 0. GIGABYTE lists this as a way to boost your HDD performance but does require adding another HDD.
Overclocking the GA-H57-USB3 was fairly easy, although I did not like having to jump around the BIOS to find all the settings. It made for keeping track of what was and was not changed a pain. Still, for our stable overclock on the GA-H57-USB3 I was able to hit a very decent 163x26 or 4238MHz. We left Turbo and Hyper-Threading on for our overclocking testing which makes this a pretty good jump when you think about it.
You can see the validation for the i5 661 with the GMA HD here.
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
Processor: Intel Core i5 661
Mainboard GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 4GB Kingston KHX12800D3T1K3/6GX (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk: Kingston SSD Now M (Intel X25-M 80GB SSD) (Supplied by Kingston)
Graphics Card: Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition 1GB (flashed to stock BIOS) (Supplied by Zotac)
Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 (with an extra fan) (Supplied by Cooler Master)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers: Intel INF 188.8.131.525, ForceWare 195.62
As I mentioned above, the GA-H57M-USB3 is cramped. While we had thought you would be able to use a high-end air cooler, you do have to be careful. Our Hyper 212 prevented us from using all four RAM slots as the fan extended out too far. We also had a few issues removing the GTX 285 we used for testing. This was due to a lack of space between the top PCIe slot and the CPU cooler.
We also had an issue getting both the PATA cable and the 24-pin ATX power plug in; we ended up having to plug in the PATA cable first and then the ATX power cable. Still, even doing this was not a simple task as the PATA cable forced us to insert the ATX plug at an odd angle.
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. 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 is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flaky 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.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
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The memory bandwidth on the GA-H57-USB3 is what you would expect from this board. As the memory controller is now on the CPU, we should start to see more similar performance between manufacturers. The drop in bandwidth on our OC testing was interesting as we tried to keep the memory at close to the same clock speed that it was at stock.
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.30.1983
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
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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.
Again we see pretty standard performance from the GIGABYTE GA-H57-USB3. We also see the dip in memory bandwidth as we push the FSB higher, but maintain the same RAM speed.
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 is 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.
With HyperPi we see the GA-H57 doing well in all the runs except for our stock testing run. Here it seems to drag a little coming in a few seconds behind the H55 from ASRock.
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.
For the H57M-USB3 we see what we have come to expect from the Intel controllers found in the H5x boards.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Overall System performance and Gaming
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
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.
The numbers here are very close which brings the fact that a H57 is really not much more than a H55 with RAID on it into sharp focus. Yes, if you ran a RAID 0 set here you might see better performance numbers, but as we see very close performance across the board in terms of general computing tasks, it is hard to account for the different chipset versions.
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. Due to the PhysX support and our use of an NVIDIA GPU, we run with PhysX enabled and disabled to give you the best indication of real system performance. For testing we use the Performance test run.
Ok, so we see some interesting numbers here that again show the Clarkdale is not meant as an enthusiast gaming GPU (bear in mind that Intel is not pushing it as one either). Still, we do see some great CPU power behind the 3.33GHz dual core CPU; which means that if you are looking to drop in a discrete GPU, then the Core i5 661 will not hinder you on this board.
Cinebench R10 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R10
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 R10 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
Again we see very similar scores between the H55 and H57 chipsets; and good ones at that.
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.
It 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 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.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
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As with other tests, we again see very similar scores between the H55 and H57 based boards. But again these are good times for rendering considering you are seeing Dual Core (hyper Threading enabled) performance.
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.
In our initial coverage of the Core i5 661 we saw rather poor transcoding performance. With the H57 from GIGABYTE we see an incredible improvement on the original performance numbers. We ran the tests multiple times to make sure the results were accurate and they stand as they are.
Our only thoughts here are that perhaps there was an issue with the SATA DVD-RW drive we use for testing and the ASRock H55 board. We will be returning to that board to check this out. For now we see some good performance from the GA-H57-USB3 for those of you that like to protect your DVD investments.
Real-World Tests - Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use 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 frames per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: From Ship Entry until third Spirit Journey
Developer Homepage: http://www.505games.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://cryostasis-game.com
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Cryostasis : Sleep of Reason is an interesting game it is heavy on PhysX, so to play it properly you will really want an NVIDIA GPU. However, that aside, it can be immersive. Imagine Myst with guns and monsters. One of the cool concepts is the spirit journeys. These allow you to enter the past of lost souls. You have to change their past to change your future. Each one makes for a nice diversion and requires you to think about what you are doing and how it will affect the outcome of the game. The settings we used are shown below.
The HD GMA on the Clarkdale simply is not meant to play this type of game. However, when coupled with a discrete GPU we see the CPU side get a chance to shine on both the H55 and H57 boards.
Far Cry 2
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
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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 to 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. The settings we used for testing are shown below.
As with Cryostasis, in Far Cry 2 we see the IGP falter while the addition of a discrete GPU brings out the performance.
Well, as we have said before, the HD GMA is not meant for high-performance gaming. Intel designed this GPU with entry level (mainstream) gaming and HD-HTPC and media content in mind. They never intended it to be an "end all" gaming solution. If you are looking to play the latest 3D games, this is a good CPU for you, but you will want to look at a higher end GPU.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
Wow, the power consumption of the GA-H57-USB3 is pretty impressive at stock speeds and while we do see a pretty hefty increase when we overclock and add in the power hungry GTX 285, it is still not too bad.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Remember how we talked about the layout and placement of the "Southbridge" components? - Well, here we are really seeing the results of that with a four + degree jump on an open system. The H57-USB3 also runs a tad warmer at stock due to the inclusion of the RAID function and also the Marvell SATA 3.0 Controller.
The new move towards different distinctions of chipsets for the Clarkdale is interesting. Many will be expecting greater performance by going with the H57 over the H55. However, we just are not seeing it so far. We are finding that, for the most part, the H57 boards have more features (including IGP overclocking).
For the GIGABYTE GA-H57-USB3 I have some very mixed feelings. I think that on the one hand, GB has done a good job of giving an enthusiast style board to the mainstream, but on the other we are not seeing the enthusiast class performance from it. I really do not know how to call this one with H55 board prices right around $100 and the cost of the H57-USB3 a little higher than that, I have to wonder if it is worth it. I suppose if you are looking to pick up a dual core CPU and want to have a pair of 5670s then you would have a great board for that type of setup.
Don't get me wrong, the GA-H57-USB3 is a good board (with a few minor layout issues), I just wonder about the H55/H57 chipset combination as a whole. I guess overall, if you want or need RAID support and USB 3.0 then the H57-USB3 is a board you will want to take a look into. If not, then you might be just as well with a H55 based board.