Motherboards are an important consideration when building a new computer, especially when you’re looking for the perfect balance between performance and value. Asus is no stranger to motherboards and have a variety of models with different chipsets. One motherboard Asus offer is the H81M-PLUS. This motherboard is based on the Intel H81 chipset and is compatible with socket 1150 Intel Haswell processors. The Asus H81M-PLUS is a budget motherboard offering a range of features such as HDMI and USB 3.0. We decided to have a closer look at the H81M-PLUS to see what it brings to the table.
This motherboard uses the mATX standard, making it relatively compact which is ideal for general home and office computers. Asus has decided to use a yellow theme throughout the motherboard, colouring the expansion slots, heatsinks and two SATA ports. The motherboard PCB is dark brown which surprisingly goes well with the yellow theme.
Towards the top of the board we can see a 4 pin CPU power connection, the 1150 CPU socket, three VRMs and two DRAM slots. There is generous space around the CPU socket which makes it look rather uncluttered. To the top right of the motherboard there is a 4 pin CPU fan port which is within easy reach. If you are using the stock heatsink it’s important to mount it with the fan cable close to the 4 pin connection. This motherboard can support up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM at the speed of 1600MHz.
The bottom of the board is where all of the exciting ports are. The H81M-PLUS model has one 16x PCI-E port for your graphics card and three PCI-E 1x ports for other hardware such as wireless or sound cards. Unfortunately, there is no Crossfire or SLI support though considering this motherboards price, it’s not a crucial feature. To the left is circuitry relating to the Realtek ALC887 onboard audio and a small green light which will glow when power is connected, which is a feature included on many modern Asus motherboards.
Across the bottom there is a range of internal headers including two USB 2.0, a speaker out, front panel connectors and four SATA ports. The two black SATA ports are 3Gbps while the two yellow are 6Gbps. When connecting hard drives or solid state drives it’s recommended to attach the fastest ones into the yellow SATA ports to get the best performance.
Finally a golden heatsink is covering the H81 chipset. This colour is a slightly different shade to the expansion ports which makes the motherboard design feel less consistent.
When choosing a motherboard its features are often the thing which separates them from others. Despite being a budget H81 chipset motherboard for socket 1150 processors, the Asus H81M-PLUS does not compromise significantly on features.
The rear I/O panel offers a wide range of ports which is welcomed on a budget motherboard. From the left we see a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, HDMI, D-SUB, DVI, total of four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet and three audio jacks. HDMI connectivity is a major bonus for a budget motherboard as it allows value home theatre computers to connect to a TV using integrated graphics. What’s interesting is that this HDMI port is 4k ready, allowing you to easily hook up a 4k display when using the integrated graphics. With a total of six USB ports located on the rear I/O this motherboard offers plenty of connectivity which should be ample for most users.
Additional features are scattered across the motherboard such as a USB 3.0 header which supports two USB 3.0 front panel ports. Two separate USB 3.0 controllers are present on this board. The header is controlled by the Intel H81 chipset whereas the rear I/O USB 3.0 ports are controlled by the 3rd party ASMedia ASM1042 controller.
There is only two 4 pin fan headers (one CPU fan and one case fan) present on this motherboard which is a tad disappointing though given the target audience of this motherboard it’s reasonable as many will not partner it with high end components.
The UEFI BIOs allows you to easily fine tune your system. It’s similar to many other Asus motherboards, allowing you to either use the easy mode BIOs or advanced mode. The BIOs on the Asus H81M-PLUS is clear and easy to use, offering a wide range of options.
It’s interesting how quickly UEFI BIOs have advanced and are certainly more user friendly than they were just a few years ago. Since a mouse can be used in the UEFI BIOs it can make almost anyone feel comfortable changing a few settings.
There’s not much to fault with the H81M-PLUS BIOs as it’s clear and easy to use. The only thing that’s not to our taste is the colour scheme, though others may feel differently.
Asus has created a fantastic budget friendly motherboard. The H81M-PLUS is a motherboard which does not significantly compromise on features, offering HDMI with 4k support, several USB 3.0 ports and acceptable onboard audio. Despite it being a budget motherboard the H81M-PLUS looks great though the yellow colour scheme might not be to everyone’s taste. This motherboard also offers four SATA ports which is likely to be enough for most users of a product in this price range. The BIOs is clear and easy to use even for those less comfortable with changing system settings.
At around £40 at the time of this review the Asus H81M-PLUS is hard to beat. Offering essential features with a little extra on top, this motherboard is certainly one to consider when building a budget Haswell system.