The Intel H67 chipset, which supports Sandy Bridge CPUs, has enabled motherboard manufacturers to bring out some impressively featured boards built to the mATX standard. Indeed most boards are nearly as featureladen as their full-sized ATX siblings.
The latest addition to this list is the H67H2-M Black Deluxe. ECS's Black Deluxe range represents its performance boards coming with improved cooling, better quality components in the power circuitry and more tinkering options in the BIOS.
The H67 chipset allows the integrated graphics of the Sandy Bridge core to come into play, although the only overclocking you can do is to the graphics engine.
The version of the H67H2-M ECS supplied for us to review came with a reassuringly large B3 stepping sticker on the box, meaning it was built with the latest version of the chipset. This means it should have done away with the SATA performance degradation problems associated with the original B2 stepping iterations of Intel's first Sandy Bridge boards.
The H67H2-M Black Deluxe certainly looks the part, as is befitting a member of the Black Deluxe family, with a black PCB set off by grey and white onboard ports and slots. And as it's part of ECS's lineup of performance boards, there's quite a bit going on in the way of extra features, just like its bigger ATX siblings.
Some of these extras are quite useful in the smaller format like the beefier power circuitry components, such as solid capacitors, which in this instance are more useful for helping to keep the board running cooler.
The large, passive heatsinks, too, do a decent job of keeping things chilled in the confined spaces that the mATX format is ideal for, rather than necessarily keeping the board stable during overclocking, something you can't do with the H67 chipset anyway. And the clear CMOS button on the rear I/O panel is always good to see.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11: Higher is better
ECS H67H2-M Black Deluxe - 6.63
Zotac H67-ITX - 6.62
Foxconn H67S - 6.57
Discrete graphics 1080P gaming performance
ECS H67H2-M Black Deluxe - 78
Zotac H67-ITX - 80
Foxconn H67S - 73
CPU graphics 1080p gaming performance
ECS H67H2-M Black Deluxe - 20
Zotac H67-ITX - 19
Foxconn H67S - 19
But other features will have you wondering why they bothered, such as the on-board on/reset buttons, or more especially the dual Gigabit teamed LAN ports.
That said, it's always good to see a mATX board get some love. The H67H2-M Black Deluxe would make an ideal base for an HTPC, something ECS obviously had in mind when you look at the display output options on the rear panel: you get VGA and DVI ports along with HDMI and a DisplayPort, so pretty much all bases are covered.
A neat idea, which we haven't come across before, is the selection of dust caps in the box bundle to keep dust out of any port on the rear panel that's not in use. Something particularly useful for the HTPC crowd, jammed in small spaces below large-screen TVs and the like.
ECS has done a good job here, with first-rate build quality being backed up by some good use of uprated components in the power circuitry and good quality, large, passive heatsinks. All of which will help to keep it as cool as possible in the confined spaces that the board will likely end up in.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview