The motherboard is definitely one of the most important components in a PC. It connects all of the other components together, allowing them to communicate with one another. For me, choosing a motherboard will depend on two primary reasons: purpose and budget. If you’re not planning on using two or more graphics cards, why buy a SLi- or Crossfire-enabled motherboard? If you can find something cheaper for that purpose, why buy the more expensive one?
I recently had a chance to build a computer for my wife. It will only be for casual use, not gaming, so I tried to get parts that will be inexpensive but efficient. I chose to buy her a Haswell Core i3 dual-core processor, which more than enough horsepower for her PC’s operating system. Then, the next task is to find a motherboard that’s inexpensive, but efficient. The entry-level chipset for the Haswell socket 1150 processors is Intel’s H81 chipset. I bought her the ASUS H81M-A micro-ATX motherboard. Here are some key takeaways.
The H81M-A is a small form factor Micro-ATX motherboard measuring 8.9 inches by 6.9 inches. Almost every PC case/chassis that’s out there in the market will be able to fit this motherboard. Since it’s an Intel H81 chipset, it can accommodate the 22-nanometer 4th generation core processors, branded as Haswell. The board also supports Turbo Boost functionality, which could slightly improve the performance of the processor by increasing its clock rate.
The H81M-A has 2 memory sockets that can accommodate two DDR3 1600 memory modules, which can be used in tandem by utilizing the dual channel memory architecture. As for the expansion slots, the H81M-A has 1 PCI express x16 slot for a discrete graphics card and 2 additional PCI express 2.0 slots for other peripherals such as sound cards and network adapters. It can accommodate 4 SATA drives, two of them 6 gbps, gigabits per second, and the other two are 3 gbps.
As with almost every motherboard out there, the H81M-A comes with USB ports, network port, HDMI, graphics port, DVI port, audio ports and PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard. The board comes with its own sound and network adapters, so you don’t have to buy them separately unless you want a higher-end device.
Now that we’ve covered the functionality and main capabilities of the board, let’s move on to some of the other features. First off, let’s look at the BIOS. As with most of the newer ASUS boards, the GUI, graphical user interface, is much easier to use compared to the old text-only BIOS. You can use the mouse and it’s not that difficult to navigate around the menus. All the information and settings that you would probably need are seamlessly incorporated in the BIOS.
The board is also capable of utilizing USB 3.0 to its full extent, plus, providing added performance through USB 3.0 Boost. As is the case with most of the other motherboards, the USB 3.0 port is colored blue. Another thing to consider is the capacitors. The H81M-A employs solid capacitors, which leads to longer life for your motherboard. The board also offers 5x Protection, which should enhance your PC’s durability.
Those are the basic features of the board. With regards to performance, it’s working fine on my wife’s computer. It never crashed, but it’s probably due to the fact that it’s just a basic system and there are no high-end parts. We are also utilizing the integrated graphics of the processor instead of a discrete video card and there are no problems on that end too. As for USB 3.0, yes it’s quite fast. However, it’s inconvenient to use the back USB ports if you have a lot of components crammed at the back panel.
Before wrapping up, just remember that this is a budget-oriented motherboard. Advanced overclocking, NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire cannot be utilized on this motherboard. There’s basic overclocking functionality available for use, but it is not recommended. Don’t worry though, as I’ve mentioned, the H81M-A supports Turbo Boost. If you plan to use these features, it’s recommended that you buy a higher-end motherboard.
Since it’s an entry-level motherboard, it’s inexpensive. It costs around 2,800 Philippine pesos, or roughly $65. It’s most likely a really good buy since it’s from one of the most reputable motherboard manufacturers, ASUS. So if you’re looking for a basic entry-level motherboard for your Haswell processor, the ASUS H81M-A will be enough to give you stable, efficient and reliable performance at a budget-friendly price point. If you add the extra features, it’s really one of the best options out there in the market.
ASUS – Motherboards – H81M-A