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Asus P7H55D-M EVO - Layout & Connectivity
Layout isn't quite as clean as we're used to from Asus – for one thing, due to the extra I/O video ports it's a tad more cramped than on P55-based boards - but everything is still very accessible. Thankfully there are no relics such as a floppy drive connectors taking up valuable space either. The only nod to older components is the eight-pin ATX power socket which will take the plugs of older power supplies and has a plastic placeholder covering four holes if you're using a newer PSU.
Next to the CPU socket are two four-pin CPU and case fan headers, with a third three-pin header beside the memory slots. The memory slots sport an innovative feature unique to Asus boards called Q-DIMM, where they only have a lock-clasp on one side making inserting or removing modules easier than ever. The P7H55D-M EVO supports DDR3 memory speeds of up to 2133MHz overclocked, and comes with yet another unique feature in its memOK! button. This will automatically tune any memory for optimum compatibility with the board and has its own small LED to notify you if incompatibilities or errors are found.
Below the memory slots are six upward-facing SATA ports separated out to ensure that your graphics card won't obscure any of them. There are no extra controllers to provide Drive Xpert or SATA 6GB/s compatibility, though after examining these features in the Sabertooth 55i TUF and P7P55D-E Premium motherboards respectively, we're happy to report that's no great loss. There's also an angled EIDE port though this is becoming increasingly redundant.
Three USB 2.0 headers and a FireWire header can be found along the motherboard's bottom edge, though no expansion brackets are provided. Getting onto card slots, the P7H55D-M EVO offers two PCIe x1 slots to either side of the PCe x16 slot, though one of these will be obscured with a double-width graphics card installed. A single PCI slot is provided for those with older cards.
Of course, as there's only a single x16 slot you can't install a second graphics card in SLI or CrossFire, but if you are into high-end setups, why consider a H55-based board with integrated graphics in the first place? Also, we prefer this handicap by a large margin to many socket LGA 1156 boards that pretend to offer multi-card support, but in reality only have a second full length slot running at x4 (which is unusable for anything approaching high-end graphics).
Finally getting to the rear I/O we have a generous selection due to the video outputs Intel's H55 chipset provides, which include VGA, DVI and HDMI. Dedicated audio is catered for by six analogue jacks and a digital optical output, each of which can give you up to 8 channels of surround sound (for 7.1 speakers), while Gigabit Ethernet is a given for networking. Four USB 2.0 ports are joined by a single FireWire connector, eSATA port and of two USB 3.0 ports in their signature blue livery, courtesy of an NEC D720200 controller.
USB 3.0 is an undoubted highlight of the board and makes a lot of sense on a model loosely aimed at a home theatre setup, as it allows super-fast access to external storage for quickly transferring large files such as DVD-rips. Of course that storage will need to be compatible with the new standard, so you'll want something like the Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3.