First look: Intel DH61AG Thin Mini-ITX Media Series Motherboard

Jun 13 2011

ImageOver the last several weeks we had the pleasure of testing the new Intel Mini-ITX Media Series Motherboard, dubbed the DH61AG. This is what I consider to be the first truly HTPC-centric motherboard.  Since the first integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU) with HDMI output was introduced we have heard boards coined as the “the perfect HTPC board” or “HTPC nirvana.”  Is the DH61AG the real thing?  Before we get into that let us give you a first look through a few unique features of the DH61AG and why I am excited about it.  In typical Missing Remote fashion, we will publish a full review as soon as possible. (See Intel DH61AG Media Series Mini-ITX Motherboard and Core i5-2390T)

 

Specifications

Form Factor: Thin Mini-ITX \ Mini-ITX
CPU Support: Intel Core i7, Intel Core i5, Intel Core i3, Intel Pentium, Intel Celeron, and Intel Xeon processors in an LGA1155 socket with up to 65 W TDP
Chipset: Intel H61
Memory Support: Two 204-pin DDR3 SDRAM SO-DIMM sockets - 16 GB Max
External Connectors: 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA, 1 x DVI, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x TOSLINK (shared w/ 3.5 mm audio), 2 x 3.5mm audio, 19 V power connector
Internal Connectors: 1 x CIR input, 1 x HTPC Header, 2 x SATA, 2 x 4-pin PWM fan,  3 x USB 2.0, 1x LVDS, 1x eDP, 1x Stereo speaker header, 1x HD audio header, 1x SPDIF header (doubles as DMIC header), 1x Analog surround sound header. 1x Internal 1 x 2 Power Connector
Power Supply Connectors

- An external power supply connected via the back panel

- An internal power supply connected via an on-board 1 x 2 Power Connector

Expansion: 1 x PCI-e x4, 1x Full Mini-PCIe, 1x Half Mini-PCIe, 
LAN: Gigabit (10/100/1000 Mbits/s) LAN subsystem using the Intel 82579V Gigabit

 

DH61AG

Unique feature set vs other Mini-ITX Motherboards

  1. Thin Mini-ITX Form Factor

    The DH61AG is designed to have a total height of less than 20mm with a half height I/O shield, compared to a standard full height (44.45mm) I/O shield.  This includes all back panel I/O ports, internal connectors, memory, and factory-installed thermal solutions.  The good news is that the form factor is based on an addendum to the Mini-ITX standard rather than creating a whole new one where you would need to purchase more new hardware which would make adoption more difficult (see: BTX :-P), see http://www.formfactors.org/developer%5Cspecs%5CMini_ITX_Spec_V2_0.pdf for those interested.  

    Note: The DH61AG comes with an I/O shield that first the Thin Mini-ITX standard for upcoming chassis along with the traditional 44.45mm height I/O shield.

    What I am excited about is a new set of HTPC chassis built around this new thin Mini-ITX standard.  While it does present a challenge in terms of heat sinks, new designs and additional components, hopefully we will see a new sleuth of slick 1U A\V chassis similar to the HD-PLEX H.5S shown below.

    The below is a comparison of the DH57JG Mini-ITX and the DH61AG Half Mini-ITX to give you a good idea of the size, or lack there of.

  2. HTPC Header

    One of the most interesting items on the DH61AG is the HTPC Header.  In addition to the Intel CIR the DH61AG is the first Intel Media Series board with an extra on-board header that provides functionality for a Recording LED and HDMI CEC.

    DH61AG HTCP Heaer

    The Recording LED, as the name implies, allows you and OEMs to attach and control a LED, which you can then control via HTPC software.  Our own Andrew van Til has already updated his LcdWriter (x86, x64) to add support for this very feature.

    What I am very excited for is the HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control).  Similar to the Intel CIR, a 3rd party PCB board will be available in the near future to allow you to send and receive HDMI-CEC commands.  What does this mean?  If you have a universal remote control you are happy with maybe nothing.  But for the rest of you, you will be able to control your AVR or HDTV from the HTPC.

    To be fair there are two solutions for this already--the Rainshadow Technology HDMI-CEC to USB bride ($99) and the Kwikwai HDMI CEC bridge (~$400).  Both work very well and I can highly recommend them from personal usage but they are an extra device, require an additional HDMI cable (or very specific cards and soldering skills) and higher power consumption.

  3. On-board 19 V DC power input connector

    The DH61AG has two on-board 19 V DC power input connectors:  1- an external power supply connected via the back panel; 2- an internal power supply connected via an internal 1 x 2 power connector.

    This opens the door for HTPC friendly, efficient power supplies we typically see with laptops and more traditional CE devices.  Again, we have a few good choices here as well in the form of a picoPSU (a small DC-DC ATX power supply) offered by companies such as Mini-Box but I’m excited about the simplicity this offers,

    The below table courtesy of Intel’s Technical Product Specification gives you a good idea of what type of power supply is needed for various configurations.

    DH61AG Power Consumption Figures

  4. Full sized mini-PCIe slot

    While not fully unique, the on-board mini-PCIe is more commonly found on laptop or network appliance boards.  Having it on this thin Mini-ITX board, used in conjunction with a micro-SATA (mSATA) SSD drive--such as the Intel 310 Solid State Drive (SSD)--leads to a small footprint, low power HTPC.  

    For instance, I have several small form factor (SFF) chassis that only fit a single 2.5” drive and have previously had to choose between the performance of a solid state drive and not be able to watch\record Live TV, or a traditional larger hard drive.  Neither excited me and I generally went with a hybrid hard drive as a compromise.  With the mini-PCIe \ mSATA slot on the DH61AG you can have a SSD and data drive in the same chassis which was not previously possible.

 

Gallery

Conclusion

Check back with us soon for our full review to see if DH61AG lives up to its H67 brethren.  I for one am excited to see where it leads us.

 

 

Comments

Btw, I forgot to mention that the DH61AG will be available to purchase this month.

It has already started appearing in a few online shops as a pre-order but I would hold out for a larger distribution outlet unless you've dealt with the company in the past.

Michael, I know you mention the header for the 'recording LED'. While not nearly as sexy as a sweet pico LCD, you guys are probably aware of this little gem which I've used on 2 HTPC builds. I use the ITX format and I haven't found a small enough (i.e. 2.5" bay solution) for a pico LCD (or other display type) to give me quick information on HTPC status (I really really miss having a simple time-display). Anyways, I soldered on a 3-color LED to that often unused COM port that sits on the MOBO that does allow a decent array of colors so I know if I have extenders actively connected, how many shows are being recorded, etc.

This looks nice a nice piece of hardware! 

I want to know more about HDMI-CEC, very cool.

 

I love seeing these new and innovative features. I hope they make it to other Intel boards in the future.

The HTPC header will make its way to some of the next generation high-end Media Series boards.  This may expand to hardware partners as well.

I've looked for some of the 19v power supplies but most of them come with the 24-pin block required for previous boards. Could someone point me to a  site that sells 100W+ units? thx

Hi John,

For our testing we used a LiteOn PA-1151-03 150W Power Supply.  There will be additional vendors in the near future.  Most likely the same companies offering picoPSUs right now.  We will try and keep you posted.

-Michael

Michael,

 

My board arrived today and the power adapter you recommended didn't work. The plugs are not compatible. It looks like they may have changed the plug since you got your board. An addendum came with new specifications (ID 5.1mm, OD 7.4mm). It looks more like a Dell plug with the pin in the center. Once again I'd like your assistance on recommending a compatible supply. The universal laptop replacement packages only go to 120W. Any suggestions?

The Dell Zino plug works.  As does an older HP and Dell laptop supplies I had laying around.  I'll update w /the model numbers when I'm home.

John,

Below are the PSUs I've tried.

  • HP PA-1900-18HA (90W) (from EliteBook 6930p)
  • HP PA-1121-12HN (120W) (from EliteBook 6930p docking station)
  • Lite-On PA-1151-03 (150W)
  • Dell 150W-DLJ007 (150W)

The Lite-On is the same style as the Dell w/ the pin in the circle.  Maybe there sell different tips?

-Michael

I never really wanted to know the details of laptop power supplies, but...

The PA-1151-03 was sourced by multiple laptop manufacterers, so there are Acer PA-1151-03s, Toshiba PA-1151-03s, etc. Not knowing this I purchased the Acer version, which has a different plug. Dell supplies are 19.5V, HP supplies are 19V, so it looks like HP is the choice.

John, thank you for clarifying and I apologize that my incomplete information lead to you purchasing the wrong one.

No worries. I'll be building this afternoon, I'll let you know how it works.

All the pieces are together and functional. 90W laptop supply seems adequate for what I'm doing. Still have a processor thermal issue I need to solve. HD video from Blu-ray is good, running uncompressed DTS HD audio through a Auzentech Home theater card, works as well as with previous system (i7-860).

I'll be interested in seeing your full review.

Looks like Intel rotated the orientation of the CPU.  Will be interesting to see how the HD-Plex passive heatsink works in this configuration.  Looking forward to the mobo review in the H5.S case.

So... what devices are available to use with the internal CIR header?

makryger wrote:

So... what devices are available to use with the internal CIR header?

You can purchase the CIR from the manufacturer's eBay store.  Currently it is only available as a kit with a remote (see http://cgi.ebay.com/HTPC-MCE-Back-Lit-Win-7-IR-Remote-and-Internal-Receiver-/330462315945)

It will be available again in the near future as a standalone purchase but in limited quantities.

VERY EXCITED about this! Can't wait for them to finally show up. Smile

Crim wrote:

VERY EXCITED about this! Can't wait for them to finally show up. Smile

As am I.  Love the form factor, feature set and performance has been great. I'm even more eager to get my hands on the HDMI-CEC PCB.

mikinho wrote:

I'm even more eager to get my hands on the HDMI-CEC PCB.

Ditto. 

Crim wrote:

VERY EXCITED about this! Can't wait for them to finally show up. Smile

You can grab a board from Buy.com for $120 shipped.

In the final review can you do a height comparison between the rear IO of this board and a 3.5" HDD?

You mean a side-by-side?

Lothar wrote:

In the final review can you do a height comparison between the rear IO of this board and a 3.5" HDD?

Thanks Andy!  That's exactly what I was looking for (the side-by-side).

This board just became available on TigerDirect. I'm sure other sites will follow shortly. Use "search" to find it by name, it's not in the left side-bar index yet.

 

Enjoy!

Nice, thanks for updating us with that.

One thing to keep in mind, the board is limited to CPUs up to 65 W TDP.  The TigerDirect description neglects to mention that.

Here's the link for the Intel processor compatibility table:

http://processormatch.intel.com/CompDB/SearchResult.aspx?BoardName=dh61ag

Here's a link to TigerDirect for those that can't wait for our full review!

Damn, I wish Intel was a tad cheaper....

 

It's not unusual for the first sites to get HW (especially cool HW) to take advantage of it.  I've asked for MSRP, will let everyone know when I hear back.

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