Gigabyte H97N-WIFI Motherboard

March 8, 2015

I needed to update a motherboard since it was pretty old. I wanted to make a small virtual server to test stuff on. Since it's for my home machine I needed something small and well, not break the bank. I decided to go with these parts as they were the lowest in price for the specifications I was looking for. Here is what I was after...

Motherboard - It needed to have the most sata ports as I could find for the best price. I also wanted to test out one with dual nics. This way when it gets old I may still be able to re-purpose it for a firewall, maybe. You don't actually need this, but since it was built-in I thought I try it anyway. This board comes with six sata ports which is the maximum I have found in the lower price range. So you are limited to about 10 mini itx boards. I have room for exactly 6 2.5" drives so this should do the trick even though one port will be taken by the operating system so I'm looking at 5 drives for storage. If you have more room in your box, you can add a sata card and add more drives. This is just something you don't think about until you actually built it, but I already knew this going in. And I think I only saw one other board with more ports but like three times the price. I just wished it also had vga since my old kvm is only vga, but it also has dvi which is something you will be fighting if you don't think about ahead of time. Of course I totally forgot about that so now I have to use an adapter. In the end, I didn't need all these drive spaces in this machine as I am only using one big drive for the xen server which serves me just fine. I suppose I can make another nas out of this one one day. Physically, I do think I have all the drive space I will ever need, specially with larger hard drives coming.

Memory - I don't mind trying something new. What I got is only 1333 but it's supported on this board. The motherboard is limited to this and 1600. It was fine for my needs. I have never seen this brand of memory but I read good reviews so I thought I buy my very first gigabyte mini itx. It's installed and working fine, and since it's 16GB, I figured it's no biggie for my build. So far so good. Now looking back, it wouldn't have been a bad thing to look for a board with more memory at the time. Specially for a virtual server.

CPU - The board only supports 1150 socket chips. Since I need the virtualization I made sure it supported that. This was also the highest Intel Core I3 cpu at 3.8Mhz without going up in price. The low power was also a key point for me. So this one fit the bill. This cpu also has built in video so I don't need to buy a separate video card.

Sources...
Motherboard and memory, newegg.
CPU - Micro Center
Case - I already had the case from the previous system, so that got recycled. I got it not too long ago anyway.

It comes in a nice detailed box and I like to see the board and specifications right on the box.



 Nothing special here, the board in the anti static bag.


Here's everything you get in the box. Unfortunately they only include two sata 6Gbs cables. The board has six and if you want to make say a storage server out of it, you're stuck looking for some other non matching sata cables. Gigabyte, please include the other cables. Oh yeah, one is a right angle and one is straight. You'll see that I could have use two right angle cables.

Sorry about the pic, don't know why the phone sometimes acts up like this. Anyway this is the Team memory I bought for this build. It was the lowest priced memory for this board, so I went with this as my requirements are pretty basic.


This motherboard only supports up to 16GB ram anyway so I have maxed this one out, but since I only run a couple of vms when testing it has been fine.

 Here's the boxed cpu. Nothing special except the usual sealed Intel cool boxing.


This i3 does support ecc memory, but this motherboard does not.





Unfortunately the headers are not individually labeled on this board for your switch, hard drive led, reset switch, etc. Not a huge deal but most boards have that, just check the manual and it will be all sorted out.




 Here are the six sata connectors. Yeah those two are in a very weird spot as you will see.




I got a board Revision 1.1.


 The sata cables included in the box.


 Not a bad length either.


I usually prefer the low profile memory on these small builds, but hey, it's what was available and it's working. Now looking back at this posting I wished I had gotten the slightly faster memory.


 Memory installed.




This is a nice looking back plate. This is the first one I have ever gotten with a nice black label.




It also comes with some back padding. Normally all I have seen are plain silver covers. It's a nice touch and shows companies paying attention to little details.


 Here's the included antenna. I left this in the bag since I will not be using the wireless on this build. I ended up using the wireless card in my laptop since this board is using the built-in nic.


 The cpu also includes the usual Intel fan. I have always liked these because they have worked well for my builds. No need to go shopping for something else. If you buy an unboxed cpu, then you'll have to go find something to put on it. Intel boxed chips usually include these. At least for most desktops cpus I have bought.


 Cpu and fan out of the box.





 










 The cpu and fan installed.


 It's a tight fit in there...


 The ends are the same on one side.


 The cables are nicely labeled. I went to the local store and could not find anything that was labeled so it's hard to know what speeds they support. Hence, the reason I wished they had included all the cables for all the sata ports on the board.


 Here's the problem I had. I used the right angle end under the pico power supply and that was tough enough to get on. This is where I wished they had included both right angle cables. I just reused my other straight cables.


 In short, don't forget to install the cables before installing the board. It's hard to do since you're still trying to figure out what will go where.


 This was nice to see. It's now much easier to update the bios without a darn dos disk.


 So I went ahead and updated the bios. Don't do this if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can brick the board. Not impossible but doable. So far I am very, very happy with this so now I don't have to have windows running in order to do this. There was a new bios for the board so it all went without a hitch.


 Here is one minor annoyance. These are all the languages that come with this board. There is no Spanish. I speak spanish but this would be more for the spanish speaking relatives that live outside the USA. I couldn't tell them where to go change settings even if I told them since they would not understand what's on the screen.


 Here's another one. These are the choices for the built in memory options. The manual states that you can go up to 1024...but the bios only goes up to 512M.


And here is the manual and the specs for the above.

So far the board is working fine with the linux distro I'm using. I have not installed windows on it so I can't comment, but so far it's working. Except for not including all six sata cables, this board seems to work fine, but like anything else, only time will tell.

In the end this became my small Xen server and it has been working well. I only turn it on when I need it so my systems don't stay on for too long. I like to keep them off if not needed to make them last a bit longer and to keep the noise and dust down to a minimum.


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