If you've been waiting for an affordable mini-ITX board for Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, then MSI might have what you've been waiting for in the shape of the H61I-E35 which is its latest LGA-1155 motherboard. It might not be the most feature rich board out there, but this should also allow MSI to keep costs down to that of a very reasonable level.
As the model name gives away, the H61I-E35 is based on the Intel H61 chipset which by default makes it a budget solution as far as Sandy Bridge motherboards are concerned. That said, not everyone needs a board with everything but the kitchen sink and MSI has come up with a board that should appeal to those building a home media server for example.
The board is somewhat limited when it comes to expansion options; although as with all H61 boards it has four SATA 3Gbps ports. It also has two full-size DIMMs unlike some models that rely on SO-DIMMs. The single expansion slot in this case is a PCI Express x1 slot, so don't expect to be able to upgrade the graphics on this board. The only other useful feature on the board is a pair of USB 2.0 headers for a total of four ports.
Around the back you'll find a pair of PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a D-sub and HDMI port and finally three audio jacks. We feel like MSI could at least have added another pair of USB 2.0 ports around the back, low cost board or not. Something we noticed in passing is that MSI seems to have replaced its H67 mini-ITX board which was shown back at IDF last year with the H61I-E35 as the two carries the same MSI model number. This is a shame, as the H67 model featured angled SATA ports as well as a mini PCI Express slot at the bottom of the PCB which would've made it a more suitable home server solution.
That said, Intel's 1k pricing puts the H61 at US$13 less than the H67 chipset which is a huge difference not only for the motherboard maker, but also for the retail price. The H61I-E35 is listed for about €66 (S$120) which makes it the cheapest LGA-1155 mini-ITX board we've seen so far, but only by a small margin of about S$5.50 compared to Intel's own DH61DL board which offers USB 3.0 connectivity and a mini PCI Express slot as an added bonus, although it only has three SATA ports and a DVI port instead of HDMI.