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Asus P7H55D-M EVO
Having looked at quite a few mid-range micro-ATX AMD solutions recently, including the excellent Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H and more recent Asus M4A75TD-M EVO, we figured it was time to check out a small Intel board for those who don't need (or can't afford) the hardcore features of the ROG Maximus III Gene. The Asus P7H55D-M EVO is an ideal candidate for a small and quiet PC, as it sports Intel's new H55 chipset that supports the company's new CPUs with integrated graphics. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's too low-end though, as this board not only offers a few overclocking features but even supports USB 3.0.
First off let's go over the basics. This board fits socket LGA 1156 processors including pin-compatible Core i7, Core i5, Core i3 and new Pentium CPUs. Keep in mind that if you want one of the high-end Bloomfield Core i7s with triple channel memory support you'll still need to opt for an X58 board like the EVGA E760 X58 SLI Classified or upcoming Asus Rampage III Gene.
Meanwhile the P7H55D-M EVO's integrated graphics outputs will only work with the newer dual-core Core i3 or Core i5 600-series Clarkdale processors (i.e. not with the quad-core Lynnfield Core i5 750), as the actual graphics chip is embedded in these 'low-end' CPUs and not the board itself. It's all very confusing and poorly differentiated on Intel's part, but having a read through our Intel Core i5 661 review should help to clarify things.
Asus includes a very sparse bundle with this board; just the bare minimum of a driver CD, two black SATA cables (one angled, one straight), black EIDE cables, the I/O plate and pin header extenders are provided. The latter addition does make plugging in all those fiddly case cables so much easier, and is something we wish all motherboard makers would include as standard (though to be fair a few do).
Visually, the P7H55D-M EVO is dressed in the signature combination of grey and blues on a black-and-brown PCB that we've come to know and love from Asus' midrange. Overall we'd say the MSI P55-GD65 still wins out in the looks department, but the P7H55D-M EVO is definitely an attractive board, especially with its distinctive metal VRM cooling blocks around the CPU. Despite their height there should be plenty of clearance for almost any type of cooler.