We take a look at how the MSI H81M-ECO Performs. Like. Seriously.

INTRODUCTION:

When budget is concerned, we often go for what’s the cheapest option, regardless of feature set. While it’s true that you could shave some, and spend some more on other components to balance things out, motherboard selection remains the same – it’s still important and selecting the right board to go out with your desired built is a must, be it an HTPC, a budget office build, a Gaming PC, or a solid 24/7 power efficient download machine you’re after.

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This brings us to MSI’s H81M-ECO motherboard, a well thought of product suited for those who wants all the necessary features of an Intel H81 chipset motherboard with power saving features in mind. For starters, the H81M-ECO support the current generation of Intel processors, 2x 1600 MHz DDR3 DIMMs in Dual Channel Mode, USB 3.0, SATA III, and so much more, in a mATX form factor. LEARN MORE

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The H81M-ECO prides itself as a power efficient board, hence the ECO on its name and the TÜV Certification backs it up, receiving the Energy Efficiency and Long Term Stability certificates of the said testing company. Claiming a 40% power efficiency over competing H81 models, the board certainly has to live for it and we are going to check out if the additional 20% price point over your average H81 motherboard is justified. Let us check it out.

FIRST LOOK AT THE H81M-ECO BOARD :

The MSI H81M-ECO motherboard wont win any luscious awards in the aesthetic department, but it’s not a slouch either. It features a green theme, perfect for that eco approach, and would certainly fit gaming oriented builds too, as green is an easy color for the eyes of the gamers. The power phase appears to be 3+1, which  is adequate, and appears to conform to Intel’s standards. The memory slots supports DDR3 DIMMs with 1600/ 1333/ 1066 MHz frequencies, and has a maximum of 16GB supporting capacity.

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The M stands for micro-ATX, as there’s no need for an ATX form factor to fit the necessary components of the H81M-ECO. It could be slimmer width wise, since there’s a lot of PCB real estate left un-touch at the 24-Pin power connector side. Overall layout seems fine, with fan headers nicely laid-out, with the 1155 socket’s placement pretty spacious, and the main headers nicely lined at the bottom of the board. The CMOS battery is placed above the x16 PCI-E slot for easy access, so whenever good ol’ Zeus decided to zap your day up, you’ll be up in no time to clear the BIOS.

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Headers are a-plenty, with the legacy ports tucked on the far-end of the board (TPM header) with the HD Audio front header, while the USB 2.0 &  3.0 headers are located on the bottom-right side of the board. The SATA ports supports SATA II & SATA III interfaces, with the angled one supporting the older SATA II interface. The PCH heatsink is also located below which is small but again. adequate solution as the PCH never appeared to run hot to touch. Do note that the PCI-E slots (x16, x1, x1) only supports PCI-E Gen.2.

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I/O panel side seems okay, with legacy PS/2 support for the mouse and keyboard as well as an abundant amount of USB 2.0 (x4), and USB 3.0 ports (x2). Display ports for the internal graphics are also a-plenty, with an HDMI, VGA, and DVI port to boot. Last but not the least, we’ve got the Intel I218-V Gigabit LAN, plus the 8 Channel ALC887 audio from Realtek. Overall, I like the looks and build quality of the board as well as the chosen components as we thought MSI would skimp on good components to alleviate the cost.

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