It has become common over years that many users do not take Intel mainboards seriously enough. And in fact, there was a very good reason for that: until recently any mainboards from the leading processor maker were very inconvenient to work with and offered less functionality than other makers’ solutions. However, things are turning around. Now Intel developers can design not only good enthusiast products, but also good mainstream mainboards.
Intel DH67CF – an H67 based Mini-ITX platform - may be considered a great example of their new approach to mainboard development. Of course, old habits sometimes die hard. For example, DH67CF specifications on the official company web-site do not mention its ability to work with Core i7 processors, which are also not listed among the supported CPUs. Nevertheless, this board works perfectly fine with Core i7 processors as well as with any other 95 W processors. Though, upon very first boot-up you will get a message warning you about making sure that the cooling system is efficient enough.
Other than that, Intel DH67CF specifications are perfectly normal. Like many other mainboards participating in our today’s test session, it has a PCI Express x16 slot and two DIMM slots for dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM. There are four chipset SATA ports, two of which support 6 Gbps protocol, and the total number of supported USB 2.0 ports has been increased to 10. They used additional controllers for Gigabit network and new USB 3.0 interface. In other words, Intel designed a very durable Mini-ITX platform with sufficient characteristics and without any added complexity.
Intel DH67CF PCB has very unique layout. All expansion slots and ports are located along the sides, while the CPU socket, chipset and voltage regulator circuitry are in the center. Just like on other similar mainboards, the LGA1155 socket is very close to the DIMM and PCI Express x26 slot, which sets certain limitations to compatibility with large processor coolers.
Processor voltage regulator has two phases and one more phase for the graphics core. This would be best with energy-efficient processors, but even if you are using a 95 W Sandy Bridge CPU, you won’t have any problems. Even though you can feel the voltage regulator components heating up, their temperature remains within reasonable limits, so no additional heatsink is necessary. The chipset, however, is topped with a small passive heatsink held in place with a spring-wire.
I have to say that we were surprised with the components used on the Intel board. This is the only mainboard in our today’s roundup that uses liquid electrolytic capacitors. Other manufacturers have long switched to solid capacitors, but Intel hasn’t yet done so, for some reason. However, the critical knots, such as processor voltage regulator circuitry, for instance, use more reliable capacitors with polymeric electrolyte.
There are two four-pin fan connectors on Intel DH67CF mainboard. I have to stress that DH67CF offers very extensive options for configuring and adjusting their rotation speed. You can specify not only the parameters describing the dependence of fan rotation speed on the temperature, but also determine which temperatures should affect the fan rotation speeds. By the way, DH67CF has as many as four thermal diodes: processor, memory, CPU voltage regulator and chipset. This is more than on any other Mini-ITX mainboard. So, it is safe to say that Intel’s product is truly exceptional when it comes to hardware monitoring.
When it came to selecting additional onboard controllers, Intel engineers didn’t do anything unusual. USB 3.0 ports are implemented using a traditional Renesas controller. Analogue sound is done via eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec. And network support is provided by Intel’s own 82579V controller.
Taking into account the features of Intel H67 chipset and the additional functionality delivered by controllers, you can easily guess what ports and connectors are on the back panel. there are two USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port, RJ45 network connector, five analogue audio-jacks and an optical S/PDIF out. However, in terms of monitor outputs Intel did do something unique. There is a very unusual combination of three: DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. You can connect analogue monitors using DVI out, but there is no DVI-to-D-Sub adapter among the bundled accessories.
Intel DH67CF comes with a brief user manual, disk with drivers, I/O Shield for the back panel and two SATA cables with connector locks.
Intel DH67CF BIOS uses AMI microcode and has Intel’s standard text interface. It offers extensive options for configuring onboard controllers and supported interfaces and has a lot of other enthusiast-friendly options.
For example, Intel DH67CF mainboard has a complete set of options for changing memory work modes. If you are not happy with the memory settings taken from the modules SPD, you can adjust their frequency and timings manually. You can also change DIMM voltage, so it is possible to install energy-efficient DDR3 modules. Intel DH67CF also allows overclocking Intel HD Graphics core, also by increasing its voltage.
As for the CPU, you can’t overclock it at all. The multiplier cannot be increased because of the chipset limitations, and there are simply no options for adjusting the BCLK frequency in the mainboard BIOS. However, it is possible to slow the CPU down, since the mainboard limits the maximum multiplier setting only. Although, this option will hardly be any good in real life, because you can’t lower the processor core voltage, so after all Intel DH67CF is not a good option for effective downclocking.