Biostar TA890FXE is one of the simplest mainboards in this roundup. It is not primitive or limited in some way, and its functionality is similar to that of other testing participants. However, the developer just refrained from installing lots of extra controllers on it in order to make it cheaper.
This mainboard has four PCI Express x16 slots but only two of them are supposed to be used for graphics cards as they work in full-speed x16 mode. The second slot from above will probably be blocked by the graphics card cooler and works in x1 mode only. The bottommost slot is PCIe 2.0 x4. There are no onboard controllers that would add additional Serial ATA ports to the mainboard. The AMB SB850 South Bridge provides six SATA 6 Gbps ports, and five of them are available on the board. The sixth one can be found as eSATA on the mainboard back panel. To support PATA, the mainboard has a combined VIA VT6330 controller which is also responsible for one internal IEEE1394 pin-connector and one IEEE1394 port on the back panel. The mainboard has a Realtek RT8111DL LAN controller and an eight-channel Realtek ALC892 audio codec but lacks USB 3.0. Moreover, it only has 12 out of the 14 USB 2.0 ports provided by the South Bridge: six on the back panel and six in the form of three onboard pin-connectors.
As a result, Biostar TA890FXE is almost as functional as the other mainboards while having a minimum of additional controllers. The lack of USB 3.0 is somewhat disappointing, but the 12 instead of 14 USB 2.0 ports and five SATA ports instead of six can hardly be viewed as drawbacks. Besides, the mainboard features POST-code indicators, glowing Power and Reset buttons, and color coding of the pins for the buttons and indicators of the system case front panel. It can also dynamically change the number of active phases in the CPU voltage regulator depending on the current load (this is called “G.P.U. Phase Control”). The current load level is indicated by a line of LEDs.
We were somewhat disappointed with the BIOS options of this mainboard, though. Like the MSI mainboard, it allows you to enable or disable the technology which dynamically adjusts the number of active CPU voltage regulator phases in the BIOS. However, after we updated the BIOS code with the latest version (from June 29, 2010), that technology turned out to be inactive, so we had to use the previous version instead (from May 6, 2010). Like on the ASRock mainboard, we couldn’t find an option to change the CPU multiplier for the Turbo technology. Although this only works with CPUs that have an unlocked multiplier, such an option helps correct the inherent drawbacks of that technology. Since the CPU voltage grows up anyway, you can increase the multiplier by 1 or 2 so as not to waste the extra power. Besides, the BIOS Setup structure itself is far from perfect. Some parameters pertaining to CPU technologies can be found in the “CPU Configuration” subsection of the “Advanced” section, so, we had to go there occasionally from the “T-Series” section where most of overclocking-related options are.
The Biostar mainboard can report detailed information about memory timings written into a module’s SPD. There is even an integrated memory test and a BIOS update utility available. You can also use the Auto OverClock System to slightly overclock your system automatically.
We couldn’t reach the previously hit CPU frequency of 4.1 GHz on the Biostar mainboard. When we increased the voltage, the power consumption would grow up to 500 W whereas the rest of the testing participants didn’t even reach 400 W during overclocking. Therefore we didn’t dare to undertake any further experiments and returned to the lower voltage level to keep the power consumption within reasonable limits. So, we set the CPU voltage at 1.4 V, which is but 0.1 V over the default value, and overclocked our processor to 3.9 GHz.
It seemed to be all right as even the power-saving technologies were working, lowering the CPU frequency multiplier and voltage in idle mode.
But we must also note that there are two BIOS parameters responsible for the CPU voltage. One is called “Core VID” and you can find it deep in the “CPU FID/VID Control” section. It allows changing the voltage with 0.0125 V increment. The second parameter is called “CPU Vcore” and resides in the “Over-Voltage Configuration” section. Although its increment is rather big (0.05 V), it was enough for our case and we used it to overclock the CPU. But when we later tried to apply the same voltage of 1.4 V using the “Core VID” parameter, the CPU voltage would go down more in idle mode, almost to the same level as in nominal processor mode. Of course, the mainboard consumed considerably less power then, so we used that option during our test session.
Overall, Biostar TA890FXE is a bit of a disappointment. We do understand the manufacturer’s desire to lower the production cost and make their solution more affordable, but unfortunately, they failed to stay within the range of acceptable cuts. Not everyone needs additional SATA ports, it is not necessary to lay out all 14 USB 2.0 ports, although we wish the board supported USB 3.0, - we can live with all that. But the mainboard’s scarily high power consumption in overclocked mode is quite alarming. There must be some flaws in the CPU voltage regulator, so we had to overclock our processor only to 3.9 GHz frequency. However, the total power consumption in this case was as high as that of other mainboards with the CPU overclocked to 4.1 GHz. The BIOS settings are not clear and are not structured logically. Although each such drawback is not crucial by itself, all of them together do not produce a good overall impression.