We build a fab Intel Media PC -

We decided to go and build  a PC using the Intel Sandy Bridge 2nd Generation Core processors and the new LGA 1155 socket. The processor is the i5 2nd Generation Core - 2500K Unlocked version. When paired with the H67 chipset on this motherboard it means that Graphics Overclocking is enabled. Early reviews jumped the gun because Intel was forced to a chipset recall, as we explain later on in this review.

This is one of Intel’s so called Media platforms. It is a micro ATX motherboard and its specification is designed to take advantage of the Intel 2nd Generation Core processors and their HD graphics support.  This platform uses  the Intel Series 6 chipsets - in particular the H67 Express Chipset designed to support HD audio, SATA both 6Gb/s (2) and 3Gb/s (3+1 eSATA), 2 PCI Express connectors and one PCI connector,  Intel PRO 10/100/1000 network connection,  2 USB 3.00 and up to 14 USB 2.0. The DH67BL also has the Intel Rapid Storage Technology for RAID 0,1,5 and 10, an optional extra for this chipset. 

Intel board

The H67chipset was  recalled due to the Cougar Points fault, which affects the 3Gb/s SATA ports only. The degradation is slow and take one to two years to exhibit fully, however it is enough for the whole H67 chipset motherboards including non-Intel ones using this chipset, to be recalled. TechEye therefore did a before and after test of this platform with the replacement H67 B3 Revised chipset too, which is supposed to have fixed this, in order to get the full picture and deliver a fair review to our readers.

Intel

The system we built used a standard Gigabyte ATX case, an Antec  Basiq 550W power supply, 4 GB of DDR3 1333, an Intel 80GB SSD, SATA DVD Blue-Ray drive, a Seagate 500GB SATA hard disk as backup to test the 3Gb/s SATA channels. The operating system was Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit edition. We used exactly the same processor and peripherals on both revisions of the motherboard, seating them in exactly the same way with Intel Fan Heat Sink DHA-A and Arctic Silver 5 heat sink compound.

It is worth noting that the Integrated Graphics only supports up to DirectX 10.1 though DirectX 11 was installed.

The comparison of the before and after for the 3Gb/s SATA channels using the Seagate 500GB SATA did show a very slight degradation for the original motherboard. This was not exactly calibrated however and simply compared several read specs of the Seagate 500GB SATA. It showed that in a couple of weeks on the original H67 it had degraded by a few tenths of percentage.  The benchmarking software can vary that much from test to test, so it was run several times but the trend was always downwards. On the new B3 release there was noticeable improvement from the outset for the same drive of several per cent and it has not degraded at all as yet. I therefore conclude that this issue has been resolved.

For the B3 revision the BIOS was updated to the most recent versions as were all the drivers. This may also account for some of the improvements.

Sandy Bridge and the saga of the faulty motherboards
The story of the new Intel 2nd Generation Sandy Bridge processors with the  LGA 1155 and the corresponding Intel motherboards has been an on-going saga this year. In December 2010 we were asked to review the DP67BG with i7 and the DH67BL with i5. Due to delays we did not get everything set to do this review until the time of the recall of the H67 and P67 Express Chipset Motherboards in late January. We at Techeye felt that we were not happy reviewing this product after that, unless we could also review the replacement motherboards with the revised chipsets in a before and after capacity. So we have waited for replacement motherboards and have done thorough checks on the faulty version and the new replacement for comparison. We felt this was only fair to our readers as many early reviews of these platforms were glowing and yet they still turned out to be all faulty.

The problem was not with the processors at all, as our tests show, but with the H67 chipset on the motherboards and not just Intel’s motherboards but all using this chipset. It was the Cougar Points on the SATA controller. This did not affect Channel  0 or 1, usually reserved for the boot devices but with time all the other channels would degrade in performance.  The significance of this was somewhat downplayed, many saying it was a minor  fault and would not show up with any significance for one or two years but this is still a critical fault. Product recalls are very expensive and the degradation was faintly noticeable in our investigation in as little as two weeks. It therefore looks like the early version was simply an unfinished product, not ready for release and it has to beg the question, was this more likely the result of marketing strategies overruling some of the quality assurance concerns?

In conclusion the replacement B3 H67 and P67 chipsets do appear to fix the problems. It is unfortunate that it had to come to this and perhaps some may not be so quick to get there first with such new hardware releases in future. Hopefully many lessons have been learned and we can look forward to more rigorous quality assurance in future. The B3 H67 and P67 chipset is the finished product that should have been the first to market release. The original releases have been shown to be more of a prototype. Our results show the B3 version to be a stable and fast platform for both we reviewed.

Conclusions
Though the on board graphics (Intel HD Graphics Family) is only DirectX 10.1 compatible this platform is excellent for all but high end gaming and 3D design. With the DVI-I and HDMI display options, Graphics Overclocking with the B3 H67 Chipset, Realtek High Definition  audio output including Toslink optical connector, the extra USB ports and MicroATX size board this makes it a very versatile platform for all media manipulation and development. It would also make a very good basis for a Home Theatre PC.



Specifications
Intel Core i5-2500K Processor Key Features
·    4-Way Multi-Task Processing
·    Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
·    Intel Smart Cache
·    Graphics Overclocking Enabled with Intel H67 Express Chipset (and H67 B3 Revised)
·    Integrated Memory Controller
·    Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility
·    AES-NI
·    Built-in Visuals
Intel Desktop Board DH67BL (Media)
·    2nd generation Intel Core Processor support (LGA 1155)
·    Intel H67 Express Chipset (revised to H67 B3)
·    Support for processor graphics included in all 2nd generation Intel Core processors
·    Intel Rapid Storage Technology for RAID 0, 1,5 and 10
·    Dual-channel DDR3 with four connectors for 1333/1066 MHz memory support (32 GB max)
Supports  1.2 V to 1.8 V memory voltage control for maximum DIMM compatibility
·    Gen 2.0 PCI Express* x16 graphics connector
·    Two PCI Express* x1 connectors and one PCI connector
·    Two SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports and three SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports, with one port compatible with an eSATA extension
·    One eSATA 3.0 Gb/s port
·    Two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports: 5.0 Gb/s signalling rate
·    Fourteen Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports: Six back panel ports and eight additional ports via four front internal headers.
·    Integrated Intel PRO 10/100/1000 Network Connection
·    Ten-channel Intel High Definition Audio with multi-streaming capability: Features internal S/DIF header and front panel audio header with 7.1 Analogue output and one Toslink optical output from back panel
·    DVI-I + HDMI*: Supports dual independent display and allows for the most flexible display output for Intel processors with Intel® HD Graphics.
·    MicroATX Form Factor

Benchmarks
NovaBench Score 673
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate
Intel Core i52500K 3.30GHz @ 3301 MHz
Graphics Card: Intel(R) HD Graphics Family

4004 MB System RAM (Score: 157)
- RAM Speed: 12947 MB/s

CPU Tests (Score: 474)
- Floating Point Operations/Second: 102768688
- Integer Operations/Second: 422686308
- MD5 Hashes Generated/Second: 1183689

Graphics Tests (Score: 28)
- 3D Frames Per Second: 99

Hardware Tests (Score: 14)
- Primary Partition Capacity: 74 GB
- Drive Write Speed: 94 MB/s

SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2011 SP1
Display
Connection    Local Connection

Processor Arithmetic
Combined Score    70.75GOPS
Result ID    Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-2500K CPU @ 3.30GHz (4C 3.6GHz, 3.6 GHz IMC, 2 x 256kB L2, 6MB L3)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Processor Multi-Media
Combined Score    181.90MPix/s
Result ID    Intel(R) Core(TMA) i5-2500K CPU @ 3.30GHz (4C 3.6GHz, 3.6 GHz IMC, 2 x 256kB L2, 6MB L3)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Memory Bandwidth
Combined Score    17.40GB/s
Result ID    Intel Core (Sandy Bridge) DRAM Controller; 2 x 2GB Kingston 99U5471-002A00LF DIMM DDR3 (1.33GHz) PC3-17000 (9-9-9-24 4-33-10-5)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Physical Disks
Combined Score    251.74MB/s
Result ID        INTEL SSDSA2M080G2GC (80GB, SATA300, 2.5” SSD)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Video Rendering
Error (335)    Direct3D 11 Devices: Intel(R) DH Graphics Family. Display call failed. Try another interface or update video drivers.
Combined Score    21.64MPix/s
Result ID    Intel(R) HD Graphics Family (12 SM4.1 850MHz, 64MB, DDR3 1.33GHz 128-bit, Integrated Graphics)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Overall Score
Combined Score     1087 (total)
Finished Successfully    Yes