..:: Layout - Expansion Slot Area ::..
The general area around the expansion slots is quite clean, sporting the single x16, two x1 PCI Express slots, along with the single PCI slot. The coloring scheme for each of these slots follows Intel's typical style of blue, black, white. If you do choose to utilize the x16 slot, beware that you'll run into the typical problem of the DIMM slot tabs overlapping the graphics card. In the case of an HTPC which likely won't be opened up much, this isn't a big issue. Just beware when building to install the DRAM first, then the graphics card should you choose to use one.
The only other big items in the vicinity of the expansion slots are the four-pin rear exhaust fan header, located directly above the x16 slot, the system battery located next to the two x1 slots, and a series of colored headers along the bottom edge of the board. The Gigabit Ethernet controller IC is near both of the x1 slots, and the Realtek ALC888S IC is in the bottom corner of the board. All typical locations for these respective devices.
The various headers along the bottom of the board provide additional functionality options for the DH55TC end user. From left to right be have a yellow, two-pin header for connection to an Internal speaker, an orange header for providing connection to front panel audio, another yellow header that provides S/PDIF support and finally a green header for an external serial port. Overall, this portion of the board is clean and well designed.
..:: Layout - DIMM / PCH Area ::..
As we complete our trip around the DH55TC, we find the passively cooled PCH and yet another array of connectors and headers. Starting things off, we have a set of three USB headers along the bottom edge of the board. Together, these provide for six additional USB 2.0 capable ports. Along the right edge of the board, we have the BIOS Configuration jumper, the front panel header for all buttons and LEDs, as well as a SPI chip still in an IC carrier and other miscellaneous jumpers. To the left of these components we find two sets of Serial ATA connectors. The top four, black connectors are geared towards support of internal Serial ATA devices, whereas the red connectors are meant for eSATA devices. The last item in this portion of the board is the pink header that provides for a parallel port connection. I don't beleive I've used one of these in years, but it's a nice feature to have.
Finally, the area around the DDR3 DIMMs houses the standard 24-pin ATX power connector, the Winbond I/O chip and a four-pin front fan header. The only other components here are for power supply generation and solder pads for what I can only assume to be the debug ports used by the Intel designers. Overall, for a mATX board sporting as many features as the H55 Express can provide, this is an exceptionally well laid out and clean design.
..:: DH55TC BIOS / Performance Tuning ::..
When it comes to performance tuning of the DH55TC or the BIOS, we really don't have much to discuss.The BIOS is very plain and simple, and follows the normal layout for an Intel BIOS. On the main page, the BIOS lists all of the core system attributes like installed memory, processor id, etc. The only two settings available here are for controlling the number of active processor cores and hyper-threading. The usual in other words. The Advanced menu is where you'll be working the most. This holds sub-menus for controlling which onboard devices are enabled, boot configurations, storage settings like S.M.A.R.T, fan temperature controls, etc. All typical settings found in all BIOS'. When it comes to performance tuning, you can only adjust the BCLK and the VCore, but don't count on any real memory adjustments at all. In all reality, this is not meant for the overclocking crowd anyway so I wouldn't expect to see much, but I was hoping for a little more in terms of adjusting the memory timings. Overall, a very simple BIOS that's clean, but a bit lacking for performance tuning.
Now that we've covered all the bases, it's time to take a look at the performance of various processors on the DH55TC. Note that the data presented hereafter is the same as we had in our review of the Core i5-661. If you've already ready through this, feel free to skip to the conclusion of this review. If you haven't reviewed the data, read on to see performance characteristics of the DH55TC with a Core i5-661, Core i5-750 and Core i7-870.