Intel Core i5-661 – Nehalem for the Mainstream

..:: Intel DH55TC ::..

Now that we have taken a look at the features of Westmere, Intel HD Graphics and the H55 chipset, it’s time to take a quick look at the “Tom Cove” motherboard from Intel based of of the aforementioned chipset, the DH55TC. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be taking a look at the 10,000ft level for the DH55TC, returning for a second look at the 1ft level soon after with an independent board review. Let’s start off by taking a quick look at the DH55TC to see what features are offered on this mATX board.

The DH55TC is a mATX solution that comes in the standard shade of blue found on many Intel motherboards. On a top level, we see that Intel has provided support for a single x16 PCI-Express slot powered by the processor, and two smaller x1 PCI Express slots powered by the PCH. There is also a single legacy PCI slot for older devices. Intel provides support for two sets of dual channel DDR3, six Serial ATA ports, onboard headers for a serial port, parallel port, audio and more.

The DH55TC offers up a four phase supply for the processor and a single phase supply for the PCH. With many boards nowadays you’re seeing a ridiculous number of phases when in all reality, a four-phase solution for a processor and board like this is more than powerful enough to handle the load requirements. I doubt we’ll see anything other than standard solutions on these budget end boards, but it seems to be one of the new marketing points that you really need to investigate before plunking down your hard earned cash. You’ll also notice that the FETs have been arranged vertically on this board. This helps to save space, and provides for some measure of air cooling over the entire FET.

In the I/O portion of the board we have the Intel GbE chip, as well as the Realtek audio codec for the Intel HD Audio features. There are also three headers, one for the front panel audio connections, one for an internal speaker and finally one for S/PDIF. The system battery is located next to both of the PCI-Express x1 connectors. Otherwise, this portion of the board is very clean and free of any larger components.

Around the PCH we find three separate USB headers offering support for an additional 6 USB 2.0 ports, as well as all 6 Serial ATA ports, front panel headers, jumpers and a header for a parallel port. Again, this portion of the board is well laid out and clean. As a note, the PCH never got very warm even with only a passive cooling solution.

Finally, the area around the DIMMs houses the standard 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 blank points for what I can only assume to be the debug ports used by the Intel board 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.