Motherboards based on the Intel B75 chipset are undoubtedly the best if you want to build an entry-level PC. Most of them are priced under Rs 5,000 and for that price you get support for both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s ports and performance similar to that of a Z77 motherboard. As a bonus feature, Intel Smart Business Advantage will favour small businesses that don’t have a formally managed network. The Intel SBA suite allows defining rules for accessing USB ports, monitoring the antivirus program, backing up data at scheduled times, scheduling sleep mode, among many other features.
The B75H2-M3 is one of the most affordable B75 motherboards. Let’s find out what it has to offer and how it fares in our battery of tests.
ECS has compromised on many features to bring down the cost of this motherboard. This is quite evident if you look at the rear panel. You get four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI and D-sub video outputs, a PS/2 port and jacks for multi-channel audio. We have seen a few more USB 2.0 ports, a DVI port and even Parallel port in addition to what’s present on this board’s rear panel. There are on-board headers for Parallel and serial port, but you’ll need to buy the rear panel brackets separately to use them.
The overall layout of the B75H2-M3 is very good
The combination of expansion slots provided is very good – one PCIe x16 slot, two PCI slots and a PCIe x1 slot. Since all the ports are placed quite close to each other, you lose out on the first PCI slot if you install a dual-slot graphics card. Moving on to the right, there’s a small heatsink to cool the B75 chip. A USB 3.0 header and SATA ports are placed along the edges, which makes routing the cables easy. Note that the grey SATA port is 6 Gb/s whereas, the other two (white color) are 3 Gb/s.
The B75H2-M3 can support up to 16 GB of DDR3 memory. The maximum speed supported depends on the processor you use. Intel third generation core processors support memory speeds up to 1600 MHz, while with Sandy Bridge processors you can’t go beyond 1333 MHz with stock settings.
The rear panel excludes the DVI port
Except for the expansion slots placed close to each other, the layout of the B75H2-M3 is very good. Also, the SATA ports should have been oriented outwards (like the USB 3.0 header). This would have made routing SATA cables easy. In order to prevent cable clutter obstructing the air flow, ECS has placed the power connectors and the headers along the edges. The CPU socket has ample breathing space around it, which should allow installing large coolers.
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600k
Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 8 GB (4 GB x 2 @1866 MHz)
Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
The memory speed officially supported with a Sandy Bridge CPU installed is 1333 MHz, but we used the memory’s XMP profile and ran it at full speed (1866 MHz) in dual channel mode. The overall performance of this motherboard is very good and in none of the benchmarks we found it lagging too far behind Z77 motherboards using the same set of hardware. In fact, the scores were almost the same. We used both synthetic and real world tests to assess the performance of the motherboard. Our test rig logged 4987 points in PCMark 11 and 4425 points in 3DMark 11. The video transcoding test (1 minute MPEG to H.264) was a cakewalk for the B75H2-M3; it breezed through the test in slightly less than half a minute. At 1920x1080 – Ultra preset and AA disabled, Crysis 2 and Dirt 3 logged 27 fps and 52.5 fps respectively.
A cost-effective solution for those who are on a shoestring budget
Verdict and Price in India
The ECS B75H2-M3 is priced at Rs 4,650 which we found slightly expensive considering the slightly lean feature set. For the same price you can buy the Gigabyte B75M-D3H which is a much better motherboard – it has four RAM slots, a DVI output and six SATA ports. This board would have been a better deal had it been priced at around Rs 4,000.