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GIGABYTE H61N-USB3 (Intel H61) Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE sends over a mITX board based on the H61 chipset. Let's check it out and see what's going on with this tiny motherboard.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Oct 5 2011 9:59 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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A few months ago when new chipsets were launching, I'd always go to the effort to try and hunt down some mITX versions of boards, because like I've said before, the mITX format actually has some serious power to offer people and can be paired with other high end components you'd normally see in standard ATX boards.

Over the last few months we've managed to look at the ASRock Z68M-ITX/HT, ASRock A75M-ITX and ASUS P8H67-I with more coming up. I'm actually at the point now where I don't have to ask for a mITX board; companies just send them over as they know it's something I like to cover. Today we look at a mITX board from GIGABYTE that carries the H61 chipset, a chipset that I actually haven't used yet.

The exact model is the H61N-USB3 and we'll no doubt today see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of the board while also looking at what kind of features are on offer. Before we get into all that kind of stuff, the first thing we've got to do is look at the package.

As always, once we've checked out the package we'll move onto the board itself, check out the BIOS, see if there's some overclocking potential on offer and then just get stuck into the benchmark side of things.

The Package

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Like every other mITX board we look at, we've of course got ourselves a very small box. Overall design is very GIGABYTE with the model and some of the main features seen on the front, while turning over gives us a run down on the new "Super4" tag that GIGABYTE have given the board. As you can see, it refers to the board offering "Super" Safe / Speed / Savings / Sound.

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As for inside the package, we've got the typical mITX basic bundle on offer which includes the normal line-up of paperwork, driver CD, pair of SATA cables and our back I/O plate. Nothing too out of the ordinary is seen here at all, so let's just get stuck into the board itself to see what's going on.

The Motherboard

Moving onto the board itself, in typical mITX fashion we can really see the whole board pretty clearly thanks to that very small form factor that's present here. You can see that the location of some stuff is a little weird when compared to our normal mATX boards and larger, but fairly standard for a typical mITX board. Let's move in a little closer, though, and see just what exactly is going on.

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Across the bottom of the board we've got our front audio header to the right with the rest of the bottom being taken up with our single PCIe x16 slot. This is a true PCIe x16 slot running at x16 and this improvement is one of the best we've seen over recent years as it has resulted in some great graphics card performance.

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Turning the corner, we've really only got our two RAM slots here which support up to 16GB of DDR3 at speeds ranging from 800MHz DDR to 1333MHz DDR. The maximum RAM speed lines up with the H67 chipset versus the Z68 one which can offer us higher memory clocks.

The Motherboard Continued

Turning the corner again, we move to the top of the board and this is where everything starts to go on. We can see on the left we have our main 24-Pin ATX power connector and next to that we've got three headers with the bottom one being the main front panel connector and the two above being USB 2.0.

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Moving over a little bit more, we've got our TPM header and above that we've got two SATA II ports here. One of the main differences between the H61 chipset and H67 is that the H61 carries with it only two SATA II ports, while the H67 carries four. If we move over just a little bit more, we can see a fan header and just above that we've got clear CMOS pins.

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Like all the other mITX boards we've looked at to date, this one carries with it the standard 4-Pin CPU connector instead of the 8-Pin one we see on larger boards. We also get a nice look at the heatsink that GIGABYTE have integrated here which uses that Grey / Blue we see on the UD5 line of boards.

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As for the CPU area itself, there's as usual not a whole lot that has to be said. As small as the board is, we've got a pretty clean area and the only bits that really stand out around it is a fan header to the left and our BIOS battery to the right.

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Finishing up with the I/O side of things, we've got Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF out connectors to start with, followed up by a VGA and DVI-D port. Next to that we've got another video output connector in the form of HDMI and two USB 2.0 connectors above it.

In the next batch we've got a further two USB 2.0 connectors along with an eSATA port. Two more USB ports are present, but these are USB 3.0 this time running off the Fresco FL1009 chip, one we haven't seen to date yet. Above them we've got a Gigabit networking port running off the Realtek RTL8111E controller. Finally, we finish off with three auxiliary connectors and they run off the Realtek ALC889 codec.

BIOS

While at IDF we saw signs of GIGABYTE jumping on the graphical BIOS bandwagon like most other companies; it's not something we'll see until later in the year, though, when the X79 chipset is released. Until then we continue to see the same ole' Award BIOS we've been seeing from GIGABYTE for years.

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If you want to do any form of overclocking you'll want to head into the MIT section as usual. Unfortunately being a part of the H series family of chipsets, this means that overclocking is really not an option. It doesn't bother us here for the simple fact we knew it wasn't going to be an option. It's worth remembering, though.

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As for the rest of the BIOS, we've got all the normal sub menus and options; nothing that you wouldn't have really seen before.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

On the testbed side of things we've got all the normal culprits present today. When it comes to comparing the GIGABYTE H61N-USB3 today we'll be looking at it against the recently looked at ASUS P8H67-I which uses the slightly higher end chipset.

While not really for comparisons sake in terms of performance, we've also got the ASRock A75M-ITX which we know quite often lags behind its Intel counterpart when it comes to CPU performance. None the less, we've included it in our results today.

As always, before we get into the performance side we look at the overclocking abilities of the board. Well, this is going to be a quick one. As we mentioned on the last page, like the H67 chipset, overclocking options are nearly nonexistent.

This has probably been one of the most annoying things on the H series of chipsets. With these great overclocking CPUs available, it's a pity that we couldn't unleash at least some potential.

Still, the main thing to remember is the lack of overclocking abilities doesn't come from the board manufacturer like GIGABYTE. Instead it's a chipset limitation from Intel and one most of us already know about.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

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 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.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Straight away we can see under HyperPI we've got some good performance with our GIGABYTE H61 board coming in a little quicker. Looking under AIDA64, though, we can see across the board the CPU performance is a little down when it comes to the synthetic testing. Let's see how it translates into real world benchmarks - we'd say it'll have a limiting factor with strong performance already being seen under HyperPI.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Looking at PCMark 7 performance, we can see our GIGABYTE board is performing strong. It's worth remembering that the SATA III drive has made a difference. On the other hand it's worth remembering that even though we have a SATA III drive, it's only on a SATA II port. As for MediaEspresso performance, we can see again it's also very strong.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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USB 2.0 performance out of our GIGABYTE board is strong and USB 3.0 performance lines up with our other boards. Even though it's a different USB 3.0 controller than we're used to seeing, you can see it hasn't affected performance at all.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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While we've got a SATA III drive, you have to remember that the SATA ports on the H61 board are only SATA II, so it of course runs at SATA II performance.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Memory performance isn't bad considering we're locked at 1333MHz DDR on the board. You can see that both our H boards sit fairly close to each other with very little separating them.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Looking at video performance, we can see it's a little up and down depending where you're looking. For the most part, though, little separates our H series boards.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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Power draw at load and idle between all our boards are quite similar, although the H61N-USB3 does manage to sit at the bottom in both areas, something that's a good thing in this case.

Core Temperature

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CPU temperature on our 2600k is very similar on both of our H series based motherboards with just a degree or two separating them.

Final Thoughts

The one thing that stands out about the GIGABYTE H61N-USB3 is the price tag. At $79.99 US this isn't just a cheap mITX motherboard, but just a cheap motherboard period. With USB 3.0 support and PCIe x16 as well, it's quite strong in the features department and as you can see from our testing today, it offers some strong performance.

The downfall for the H61 chipset is the same as the H67 chipset. Overclocking is really limited to the point where it's almost nonexistent. Instead of pairing the board with a 2500k or 2600k, you'd be better off looking at the non K versions of each.

If you go through everything, it's just very mITX. The bundle isn't huge, but comes with everything you should need to get up and running; the price is really strong, performance is really good as we've seen from recent mITX offerings and overclocking is limited.

The H61N-USB3 is just a really nice little mITX board that hits at a really awesome price point. Combined with something like a 2500 or 2600 and a nice video card and you're able to have a bucket load of performance depending on the video card you go for.

GIGABYTE has just put together a really nice little mITX that performs as you'd hope and expect. While the H61 offers us a few less USB 2.0 ports and two less SATA II ports, there's little difference between this one and the H67. What helps the H61 stand out a lot, though, is it's got a more aggressive price tag.

If you're only interested in having a single hard drive and ROM drive, or maybe even just two hard drives with a ROM used temporarily to install Windows, this is a great option. The price point it comes in at also means that you could buy one and have a bit of a play. If you then thought maybe you wanted something with some more expansion slots, you could go down the path of grabbing a mATX board a little later.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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