In the world of computing, as in so many other areas, size matters. Uniquely, however, it’s a case of extremes: while some users are looking for the biggest beast they can possibly build, others want something small that won’t look out of place in a living room.
It’s to the latter market that Foxconn, a name more usually associated with making parts as an OEM for the likes of Dell and Apple, is targeting its H67S, a board that manages to cram an Intel 1155 CPU into a mini-ITX form factor at a bargain basement price. We take a look to see if it lives up to its promise.
As the name suggests, the Foxconn H67S is based on Intel’s H67 chipset, and offers support for a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. Sadly, however, the choice of chip does restrict the board in one very important area: it prevents the CPU from being run higher than its rated speed, or ‘overclocked’.
Thankfully, that’s unlikely to be too much of a concern for most. As a mini-ITX format board, the H67S is likely to spend the majority of its life crammed into a small, sweaty box – and in that kind of environment, the additional heat produced by overclocking makes it a no-go area.
Thankfully, the H67 chipset does enable one important feature: the integrated processor graphics available on certain Intel Core chips, meaning that the board can be run without a discrete graphics card. If you’re choosing this option, the board includes both HDMI and DVI outputs – with VGA available via an optional converter.
On-board audio is provided via an Intel HD Audio compatible ALC888 chip, which offers reasonable quality 7.1 surround sound, while networking is covered via a Realtek 8111E gigabit Ethernet chip. Wireless networking, sadly, isn’t included as a default option.
On the back panel there’s a single PS/2 port for old-fashioned keyboards and mice, six USB 2.0 ports – sadly, Foxconn hasn’t decided to include any USB 3.0 ports, which is a shame – a single eSATA port for an external hard drive, the wired Ethernet port, and the video and audio outputs.
Foxconn has had to make some tough choices to get the board down to its svelte 170x170mm dimensions. Chief among these is in the SATA ports on offer: while the H67 chipset supports six ports, the board only includes three – two of which are SATA 6.0Gb/s, with one SATA 3.0Gb/s port for an optical drive.
Memory also suffers from the cramped conditions, with only two DIMM slots available. While this means you can install up to a generous 16GB of 1,066MHz DDR3, you won’t be able to use three sticks of memory to take advantage of the performance boost available from a triple-channel setup.
We also had a few concerns with the layout of the board – in particular, the power connections. While the main connection from the power supply is on the edge of the board, behind the memory, the +12V connector for the CPU is located almost diagonally opposite. For the shorter cables on some PSUs this could be a problem, although Foxconn has bundled an extension cable to help alleviate this.
For those who need a little more grunt than the integrated graphics can offer, Foxconn has also included a 16-lane PCI Express 2.1 slot at the side – suitable for a high-power graphics card, should you so choose (and if you’re able to fit it in your mini-ITX case).
There’s another important thing to consider before buying yourself an H67S: despite having a full LGA 1155 socket, Foxconn has only certified a selection of chips for use with the board.
The high-end Extreme models, which feature thermal design profiles in the 150W range, are out for a start – unsurprisingly, given the board’s small form factor. While lower-TDP chips should work, it’s best to stick to the Foxconn-approved list before buying.
The low-end Intel Pentium chips based on the Sandy Bridge architecture – the G620, G620T, G840, and G850 – are all supported, while the Core i3 range is also well covered. Support for the Core i5 range is limited to the i5-2400S, i5-2500S, and i5-2500T, while the only officially supported Core i7 chip is the i7-2600S.
We tested the board out using an Intel Core i5-2500, a 3.3GHz chip with integrated graphics. As you might expect, installation was straightforward – the only slight issue we encountered was with the aforementioned +12V connector, which we ended up having to pull taught over the CPU cooling fan.
Once everything was installed, we booted the system and entered the EFI BIOS. This was the first disappointment: there are very few options for hardcore tweakers, with CPU overclocking disabled by the H67 chipset while IGP overclocking is also nowhere to be seen.
Switching the SATA controllers from IDE to AHCI mode, we installed a 64-bit edition of Windows 7. The board performed admirably, with much of the hardware automatically detected – with the exception of the integrated graphics, which Windows decided to operate in default VGA mode.
Once the correct drivers installed, the system performed as expected – with no obvious issues arising, despite the H67S’s bargain basement price .
- Cramming an Intel Socket 1155 into a mini-ITX form factor without breaking the bank.
- Certain components are poorly laid out, and the lack of USB 3.0 is disappointing.
While its small size has led to certain design restrictions, and the lack of overclocking is a disappointment, the Foxconn H67S is a great choice for those who want to cram a Sandy Bridge chip into their next mini-ITX build.