Product Qualification: Asus P8H61-I

Written on December 27, 2011 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

Asus P8H61-I Angle PictureEven the best products eventually become phased out of product lines, and unfortunately the Asus P8H67-I Deluxe is soon going end of life. This motherboard is currently used in our ultra-small Echo I and Echo II systems so Puget Systems must find a suitable replacement that fits the spirit of the Echo line. Budget is usually one of the top concerns for these types of systems, so we decided to take a close look at the H61 chipset.

The Intel H61 chipset has a lower cost compared to the H67, but has one primary disadvantage: it does not support SATA 6Gb/s. While this may be a concern for fast SSD hard drives, the overwhelming majority of drives used in our Echo I and II will not suffer any performance hit by using SATA 3Gb/s ports.

With our decision made to move to the H61 chipset, we looked at the available boards from Asus and decided on the P8H61-I. This motherboard uses full size DDR3 RAM sticks, as opposed to the SODIMM's used in the P8H67-I Deluxe. As the P8H61-I is not a deluxe version, it does not have wireless built in, but the extra cost savings means that a separate USB wireless adapter can easily be added. One large advantage of the P8H61-I is that it features two internal USB 2.0 headers which is ideal since the Antec ISK-100 (used in our Echo I systems) has 4 front USB 2.0 ports which need 2 internal USB 2.0 headers.

Full specs for the Asus P8H61-I are below:

[+] View Manufacturer Specifications

Connectivity

Connectivity covers the external ports on the I/O panel, the internal headers, the PCI-E slots on the motherboard, as well as the networking options. Starting with the external and internal ports/headers, let's take a look at what is available on this motherboard:

  External Internal
USB 2.0 4 Ports 2 Headers (providing 4 ports)
USB 3.0 2 Ports -
Audio 6-channel Audio Headphone/Mic Header
E-SATA - -
SATA 3Gb/s - 4 ports (Intel H61 Controller)
SATA 6Gb/s - -
Networking Gigabit LAN -


On the rear I/O panel, this motherboard has 4 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports. It's worth noting that the USB 3.0 ports require a driver to function and will not work in the BIOS, so devices such as keyboards and mice that may be needed to make changes to the system's BIOS should always be plugged into the USB 2.0 ports. Internally, there are no USB 3.0 headers, but 2 USB 2.0 headers (providing 4 ports). There are not many mini-ITX chassis that have front USB 3.0 (and none that Puget Systems is currently offering) so the lack of an internal USB 3.0 header is not much of a concern. 

Asus P8H61-I Rear Ports

For the internal SATA connections, there are 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports using the Intel H61 chipset. There is no ESATA or SATA 6Gb/s ports available on this motherboard. Networking on this board is limited to a single gigabit RJ45 LAN port.

Normally we would discuss the PCI-E options available on a motherboard, but on a mini-ITX motherboard, there is no need to go into great detail. This motherboard has a single PCI-E slot running at PCI-E 2.0 x16 speeds.

Motherboard Layout

Asus P8H61-I Top Picture Asus P8H61-I Schematic

On a motherboard this small, not everything can be laid out perfectly since there is so much hardware that needs to be crammed into a small space. Considering this, we only have a few minor concerns with the layout of this motherboard.

First, the 4-pin ATX power plug (#2 in the diagram) is quite a ways away from the edge of the motherboard. This means that the power wires will need to be routed over the chipset heatsink which will very slightly reduce the airflow around the heatsink. Second, the SATA1 plug (#4 in the diagram) is oriented opposite of the other three plugs. This will not cause many issues with cabling, but it does mean that you cannot route the SATA data cables for two devices completely together. At some point, one wire or the other will need to twist in order to be oriented properly to plug into the SATA device.

Again, both of these issues are very minor and will not at all affect the performance of this motherboard.

Conclusion

Asus P8H61-I Installed PictureWhile this motherboard does not have SATA 6Gb/s support and no internal USB 3.0 header, it has more than enough power and features for our echo line of systems. The Asus P8H61-I also has a significant pricing advantage over the Asus P8H67-I Deluxe. For the majority of users who do not need a high performance SSD hard drive, this motherboard will give the same performance at a much lower price. For those who need very fast hard drive speeds utilizing the SATA 6Gb/s, we recommend contacting one of our sales representatives at sales@pugetsystems.com to discuss possible alternatives to the Asus P8H61-I.