The H61M does just fine running the GTX 560 Ti in the single PCIE x16 slot. And, you don't have to worry about dual GPU cards since they don't need an NVIDIA SLI chip to operate. Just plug and play whatever you want and go.
Batman Arkham City
Again, super close frame rates since it's all GPU performance being measured here. The CPU doesn't hold it back at all and most importantly, neither does its sub $90 price point going up against boards that are nearly twice the price. The sweet spot is limiting the multi-sample settings to keep things smooth. But if you have a high end card, turn up the settings. The board will handle any card even without additional power connectors.
You no doubt noticed the board doesn't have SATA3 and USB 3.0 support. Consumers who choose this board most likely don't have the latest and greatest SATA3 SSDs. SATA3 platter drives are barely faster than SATA2 anyway so making the jump up to this board from anything older has more to do with the CPU power provided by Sandy Bridge than anything elese. USB 3.0 can come in handy though if you want to use this board in a home theatre build and it's unfortunately that it wasn't included.
Audio Performance and Power Consumption
The board uses a VIA VT1708 audio processor. It's a standard 2/4/5.1/7.1 channel codec that does pretty well for media and music. But don't expect it to break any ear drums or bring the shock and awe in video games. If you value your gaming audio experience, drop in a discrete audio card.
The H61M uses a little less power when loaded up. Otherwise, it's pretty lean when it comes down to it. If you use some of the low power settings, you can shave off a few more watts when it's not loaded down. I also want to mention the board is very quiet. There's no special EMF noise coming off this board even though it's quite affordable. So overall, good quality, and if you're in an office building with 100 machines, this board can save quite a bit on the power bill.
I'd like to say the GIGABYTE H61M-S2P-B3 Cougar Point Motherboard takes the Sandy Bridge processor to new heights. But, that isn't the board's objective. The board's mission is to offer the same level of performance you would get from any standard ATX platform board without spending nearly as much. In order for it sell below the $100 US level, engineers had to scale back some of the most expensive features. Overall, performance is still competitive especially in regards to full speed PCI Express graphics and the Sandy Bridge optimizations for CPU and memory. But don't expect to overclock the heck out of it for free MHz. It wasn't designed for that.
Even at this price, I would like to have seen USB 3.0 as it's a useful feature especially if you plan to use this motherboard for a home theater PC or just want faster external transfer speeds. USB 3.0 can easily handle moving around a lot of those big media files. If you want those media and game programs to impress your ears, you'll probably want to get some kind of after market audio card like the Asus Xonar DX which is very affordable or something from Creative Labs.
If you're looking for one of the most affordable motherboard upgrades for a media or casual gaming PC, the GIGABYTE GA-H61M-S2P-B3 is about as good as it gets at a meager $76 US from places like Amazon and other retailers. And if you're coming from an older system, then it's nice to know that much of what you're bringing with you will easily plug in, further decreasing your total upgrade cost plus you still get that GIGABYTE 3 Year Warranty. That's why we think this product is a great value and have happily slapped it with our "Value Added Award".
- Extremely Affordable
- Low power consumption
- Full speed performance micro-ATX
- Full speed PCI Express x16 slot
- Very stable platform throughout testing
- No USB 3.0 support
- 16GB DDR3 MAX Supported (via 2x8GB DIMMS)
- Overclockers will be disappointed
Overall Rating: 8.0 / 10.0
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