Z68 has been stealing all the limelight lately. But for those who want a piece of the Sandy Bridge action for cheap, there exists a lesser known chipset by the name of H61. We pair up the ECS H61H2-M with a Core-i3 2100 to find out if this is a viable budget alternative to H67/P67.

Today, we'll be looking at the ECS H61H2-M, a micro-ATX motherboard from ECS using the Intel H61 PCH.

In case you were wondering, H61 is the cheapest Sandy Bridge compatible PCH currently available.This chipset doesn't really have a direct predecessor from the LGA 1156 era – though it brings to mind G41 from LGA 775 days.

Chipset Feature Comparison

  P67 H67 H61
CPU PCIe Lanes 1 x16 PCIe 2.0 or
2 x8 PCIe 2.0
1 x16 PCIe 2.0 1 x16 PCIe 2.0
USB 2.0 14 14 10
SATA 3Gbps 4 4 4
SATA 6Gbps 2 2 0
RAID Yes Yes No

Compared to H67, H61 loses two SATA 6Gbps ports, four USB 2.0 ports as well as RAID support. When you look at it, things aren't actually that bad. 10 USB ports should be sufficient (there's always USB hubs), and users on a budget probably don't need SATA 6Gbps. Needless to say, CPU overclocking isn't possible with H61.

Most H61 motherboards are in the micro-ATX form factor for reasons of cost, and the simple fact that budget motherboards don't usually squeeze in a whole lot of features. Let's take a closer look at the H61H2-M from ECS.