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Biostar TH55XE

Budget Computing: Nine H55 And H57 Motherboards Compared
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Biostar has spent the last few years trying to make the biggest splash possible in the overclocking arena, yet the company still knows how to add value through features. A Web price starting at around $105 gets TH55XE buyers a choice of HDMI, DVI, and VGA outputs, dual-display compatibility, eSATA, IEEE-1394, and a variety of internal interfaces.

A DVI-I connector on the back panel gives the appearance of support for a second VGA monitor, but dual-analog displays are not an option for any of today’s products. Standard DVI-to-VGA adapters won’t work with this digital-only output, which probably uses the “wrong” connector in order to expand compatibility with dual-format cables.

Among the TH55XE’s internal interfaces are PCIe x16 and x4, two PCI, and four DIMM slots. While home theater and compact gaming system builders will prefer the three dual-port USB and single FireWire headers, system integrators will appreciate the legacy Ultra ATA, parallel, and serial ports that make this a drop-in upgrade for many older systems. Biostar even added internal power and reset buttons for the bench testing crowd.

Internal SATA port count is reduced to five, since Biostar relies on the chipset for eSATA, but we don’t perceive that as a major limitation since smaller cases usually have fewer than six drive bays. Perpendicular SATA ports are also ideal for small cases, as these are less likely to be blocked by nearby drive cages and Biostar places all five far below the PCIe x16 slot to allow installation of big graphics cards.

The TH55XE is, in fact, one of the few motherboards about which we have no layout complaints, as even the front-panel audio and FireWire headers are each located several inches away from the bottom rear corner to ease cable installation. Yet, we do wish that the x4 slot were of the open-ended variety, even though mounting an x16 card there (for additional displays) would have required relocation of the clock battery.

Biostar is one of the few companies to provide MOSFET sinks for the CPU voltage regulator of an inexpensive microATX motherboard, adding to the confidence of any mid-market overclocker seeking big performance from a small package.

BIOS Features

The TH55XE includes all of the overclocking features found in most of its bigger brothers, with separate submenus allowing access to the more expert-friendly settings.

There aren’t any automatic settings for individual timings, but the timings detected at boot remain when manual configuration mode is selected. Changing unfamiliar settings to higher-speed defaults requires one to choose automatic timing mode, set the higher memory speed, and reboot.

Biostar allows both over-voltage and under-voltage settings for the CPU and DRAM. Overclockers will appreciate the ability to set the CPU core to 200mV over stock and the DRAM up to 2.55V, although silent PC enthusiasts might be disappointed by the CPU core voltage limit that only goes as low as 80mV below stock and 1.30V DRAM.

Biostar’s CMOS Data Reload feature allows saving custom BIOS configurations as user profiles, and the TH55XE supports up to 10 of these.

Accessories

One great place for a value-oriented manufacturer to stand out visually is with its installation kit. Biostar doesn’t. Included, but not shown, is a single four-pin-to-SATA power adapter and a Velcro strap that held these cables together.

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