03/25/2011 | 12:13 PM
Biostar mainboards are continuously popular among enthusiasts on a budget due to several distinguishing peculiarities. First of all, these are very inexpensive mainboards. However, it is not so difficult to find an inexpensive mainboard these days. Take, for instance, products from ASRock or ECS, who have been long known for very democratic pricing strategies. Or you can go for a junior mainboard from Asus or Gigabyte, who always offer diverse product line-ups for each platform with different features and price. The choice of a specific mainboard model will be strictly determined by the number of functions you are ready to give up for the sake of lower price. This is when the second peculiarity of Biostar products comes in: they are indeed very affordable, but at the same time they are very functional. If you decide on a Biostar mainboard you won’t need to sacrifice almost anything. At a price of the junior models from the leading manufacturers, their functionality is identical to that of the mainstream and sometimes even high-end solutions. These mainboards meet all contemporary requirements in their technical specifications, have advanced BIOS functionality, boast their own versions of various technologies, which we are already familiar with from the mainboards by other makers. Therefore, new Biostar mainboards always inspire genuine interest. So, what’s new about this model? How did they manage to offer extensive functionality at a lot price in this case? Read our today’s review of the new Biostar TP67XE mainboard for LGA1155 platform based on Intel P67 Express chipset to find answers to all your questions.
Biostar TP67XE mainboard ships in a red box covered in logos for all supported functions and technologies.
Inside the box you find the board wrapped in an antistatic bag and the following accessories:
Times when we would be puzzled by the mainboard layout at first glance are long gone. Now almost all mainboards are designed following similar rules and implementing optimal well-known layout options. Even though some products still have their own unique peculiarities.
In case of Biostar TP67XE mainboard, the peculiarity would be the presence of two ATX12V processor power connectors. They are identical and should be used together when you overclock your processor. The components of the ten-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry are covered with heatsinks. The number of active phases in the processor voltage regulator should change dynamically depending on the CPU load. A row of LEDs should indicate the current number of active phases in the circuitry.
The mainboard supports Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFire graphics configurations. It is equipped with a POST-code indicator, Power On and Reset buttons. The chipset supports two SATA 6 Gbps ports (white connectors) and four SATA 3 Gbps ports, but we only have three of those available to us, because the fourth one is transformed into an eSATA on the mainboard back panel.
The complete list of ports and connectors on the mainboard back panel looks as follows:
The table below sums up all the technical specifications of our Biostar TP67XE mainboard:
The components layout offers a slightly different look at the mainboard:
Overall, we have not found any serious issues with the board when we studied its exterior features and design. The board fully complies with all contemporary requirements, has all necessary interfaces present including USB 3.0, IEEE1394 (FireWire) and even retained a COM-port onboard. However, they could have made more fan connectors, since three is not enough for a T-series mainboard for overclocking fans.
Like many other manufacturers, Biostar started using UEFI BIOS for their mainboards, too. However, this transition should have happened really seamlessly, because everything looks exactly the same as before:
You can check out the interface and functionality of the BIOS sections from the photos above, but we are going to dwell on the “O.N.E.” section that contains all major fine-tuning and overclocking related parameters.
The most remarkable feature is the option that allows you to set the startup page on entering the BIOS. Long time ago it was only the BIOS of Abit mainboards that allowed getting down to fine-tuning and overclocking immediately on entering the BIOS, because the corresponding BIOS section was the first on in the menu. Since then a few other manufacturers started using the same great feature in their products. But today this is no longer an issue, as the user can select a startup BIOS section at any time.
Speaking of the “O.N.E.” section, we should point out that overall it is very conveniently organized and has most of the necessary parameters present. We really liked the detailed info on memory timings written in the memory SPD and very convenient work with the voltages. The CPU receives nominal voltage by default. However, you can set the Auto mode, select a fixed voltage or add a certain increment to the nominal Vcore value. The nominal values for all other voltages are also provided in this section.
However, things are not totally impeccable here and there are indeed a few drawbacks that need to be mentioned. They couldn’t fit all the parameters into one section, so the processor technologies management tools remained in the “CPU Configuration” sub-section of the “Advanced” section. It is somewhat inconvenient to use F4 key to save the BIOS settings instead of the commonly used F10. However, these are minor inconveniences, while the most frustrating thing was the disappearance of a few functions. We were most upset to discover that the board no longer allows saving and loading BIOS settings profiles. Also, there are no more hints displayed at startup. When we needed to reboot from a flash drive, we had to keep hitting all keys from F8 to F12 and one of them worked and launched the boot-up menu. But why not let us know about it in advance? Where did the built-in BIOS reflashing tool go? Or it is still there and we just have to guess what key will launch it for us? You can select an XMP profile for the memory but in this case you will have to reboot and lose all the configuration changes otherwise, you won’t be able to get rid of a popping up “Invalid Input Range” error. You can only adjust the rotation speed of a single processor fan, but once you attempt to calibrate it, you get “Fail to control your CPU fan” error message. All in all, looks like the transition to the new UEFI BIOS brought a little joy and a lot of problems to the table and it needs quite a bit of work before it becomes fully operational.
All performance tests were run on the following test platform:
We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 184.108.40.2065, ATI Catalyst 11.2 graphics card driver.
The assembly process was nice and smooth and the power-up didn’t reveal any issues. Although we immediately noticed that the LEDs, which should indicate the number of active phases in the processor voltage regulator circuitry do not work the way they were supposed to. They were all lit up all the time, even when the Green Power Utility reduced the number of phases to only two.
You may notice that the appearance and functionality of this program haven’t changed over the past years. And unfortunately, the same is true for the rest f the Biostar’s brand name software. There is only the latest BIOS updating utility available on Biostar TP67XE product page, but it also looks exactly the same as a few years ago.
All other programs were taken from the provided CD disk. All of them were old versions from last year. The only program that changed its appearance was T-Overclocker, but in this case it was a change for the worse. Some time ago we came across a promising little tool, which was not free from a few drawbacks, but at the same time was very functional and easy to work with.
Now it turned into a gloomy utility that sports very unappealing looks and is hardly useful. The startup screen will display the basic info about your system CPU and mainboard:
The next section will briefly describe the installed memory modules:
“OC Tweaker” section allows changing voltages and frequencies, or selecting one of the preset overclocking modes. You can’t really overclock in the full meaning of this word, because you can’t adjust the CPU clock frequency multiplier, and it is the primary overclocking approach to Sandy Bridge.
The only section that can actually come in handy at some point is the one that monitors current voltages, fan rotation speeds and temperatures, unless you have a better program for system parameters monitoring available to you.
During overclocking the additional heatsink over the processor voltage regulator components heated up really bad, so we had to use an additional fan for it. The board started up fine at 4.8 GHz CPU clock, but lowered it to 3.8-3.9 GHz during the tests. It turned out that we had to increase the “Power Limit” setting in the BIOS to ensure that the CPU would work at the set frequency under heavy load, although other mainboards usually do it automatically. The technology counteracting the processor voltage drop under heavy load did work, but it increased the voltage so much that we had to give it up in the end. Despite all effort we couldn’t get our processor to remain stable at 4.8 GHz, so we had to stop at 4.7 GHz.
I have to point out, however, that all processor power-saving technologies worked perfectly fine during overclocking reducing the processor clock multiplier and Vcore in idle mode.
As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during CPU and memory overclocking. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. That is why we run a round of tests almost without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings. For the sake of comparison, we also tested Asus P8P67 Pro mainboards in the same exact modes. The results of Biostar TP67XE are marked with darker color for your convenience.
We used Cinebench 11.5. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.
A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:
We measured the performance in Adobe Photoshop using our own benchmark made from Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test that has been creatively modified. It includes typical editing of four 10-megapixel images from a digital photo camera:
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.
Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.
There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, Futuremark benchmarking software has become extremely popular and is used for comparisons a lot. The diagram below shows the average results after three test runs in 3DMark11 Performance mode with default settings:
Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU tests from the 3DMark11 – Physics Score.
We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1280x1024 resolution with medium and high image quality settings in DirectX 10.
Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1280x1024 resolution with medium image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:
And now let’s run the same exact tests during CPU and memory overclocking. The processor frequency was increased to 4.7 GHz and the memory worked at 1600 MHz with 6-6-6-18-1T timings.
You can notice Biostar TP67XE falling a little behind only in those benchmarks where a graphics card plays an important role, but it outperforms the competitor in Adobe Photoshop. However, the performance difference is not very serious overall and both mainboards work at about the same speed in nominal mode as well as in overclocked mode.
We performed our power consumption measurements using an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption in nominal and overclocked modes increases depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX.
One more time we see that the results are very close. The mainboards show very similar power readings in each of the test modes.
In the introductory part of our today’s review we said that we really liked Biostar mainboards for the rare combination of low price and excellent functionality. Unfortunately, Biostar TP67XE is just an inexpensive mainboard with the functionality matching its price point. It is obviously behind the mainstream, not to mention high-end solutions. We were mostly upset about the reduced BIOS functionality and some obvious issues in it, failure to overclock the CPU to its maximum, as well as somewhat outdated proprietary software bundled with the board. An overclocker mainboard could definitely use more than three fan connectors, two of which aren’t monitored at all, by the way. For some reason the LEDs for the voltage regulator phases activity monitoring didn’t work and one of the heatsinks heated up substantially. At the same time, the board is pretty good from the overall standpoint. It has a good accessories bundle, it is very well designed, supports all contemporary functions and interfaces, but is not overloaded with additional controllers. It works well in nominal mode and even allows overclocking processors. We reviewed Biostar TP67XE mainboard revision 5.0, but there is revision 5.1 already available, which is based on a new chipset with the fixed Serial ATA controller issue. Yes, it is a good and affordable mainboard with overclocking functionality, but we personally expected a little more from a Biostar product.