Roundup: Six Core 2 Motherboards Under $100

Biostar TP43D2-A7

Biostar takes a middle path towards cost reduction with its TP43D2-A7, which has an almost full-sized circuit board and a relatively good layout. A Web price of around $90 also puts it directly between the first and second motherboards in this comparison.

The TP43D2-A7 doesn’t support CrossFire, simply because its P43 chipset’s northbridge doesn’t have the divisible lanes needed to properly accommodate two high-bandwidth slots. It does, however, spread a total of six expansion slots across seven slot positions, eliminating only the slot under the graphics card. This position is usually left empty in performance systems to allow better graphics cooling, so we don’t mind seeing a vacancy there.

There’s so much to praise about the TP43D2-A7's layout that it’s easier to handle the few minor complaints first. For starters, the floppy connector often used for loading AHCI drivers during a Windows XP installation is found beneath the bottom expansion slot, making cable management difficult. Second, the Ultra ATA connector is located far too low for use with upper-bay optical drives, again creating a cable-management issue. Finally, the uppermost SATA connector can be blocked by double-slot coolers of long graphics cards such as the GeForce GTX 280. These complaints can usually be ignored, since few builders install a floppy or Ultra ATA drive in a new system and few buyers in the sub-$100 motherboard market plan on using super-expensive graphics cards.

Biostar put its TP43D2-A7 power connectors exactly where they should be, with the four-pin ATX12V connector in the top rear corner and the 24-pin ATX/EPS main jack at the motherboard’s front edge. But Biostar went a little further in the area of cable management by also putting its front-panel audio cable slightly forward from the rear-panel analog jacks, easing installation in cases that have top panel audio jacks.

Conveniences don’t stop with the layout, as Biostar also added power and reset buttons, which are very useful for bench testing even though they have little value once a motherboard is installed.

But a good overall layout and reasonable feature set can’t excuse one failing of the TP43D2-A7: This is the first motherboard in today’s comparison to use electrolytic capacitors in most locations, with higher-quality solid capacitors used only for the CPU voltage regulator. The electrolytic capacitors come from OST, which is one of Taiwan’s most-respected brands, but is still far behind the reputation of Japanese competitors.

Biostar TP43D2-A7 (Revision 6.0)

Northbridge

Intel P43 Express

Southbridge

Intel ICH10

Voltage Regulator

Four Phases

BIOS

0802 (07/10/2008)

333.3MHz (FSB1333)

332.2 MHz (-0.30%)

Clock Generator

Realtek RTM875T-529

Connectors and Interfaces

Onboard

1x PCIe 2.0 x16

2x PCIe x1

3x PCI

3x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)

1x SerialPort header

1x ParallelPort Header

1x Floppy

1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)

6x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s

1x Front Panel Audio

1x CD-Audio In

1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)

2x Fan 3 pins (Chassis)

1x Internal Power Button

1x Internal Reset Button

IO panel

2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)

6x USB 2.0

1x RJ-45 Network

3x Analog Audio (5.1 Channel or Stereo + Mic/Line-In)

Mass Storage Controllers

Intel ICH10

6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

JMicron JMB368 PCI-E

1x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)

Network

Realtek RTL8111C PCI-E

Gigabit LAN Controller

Audio

Realtek ALC662 HDA

Six Channel (5.1 Surround) Output


Two features that set the TP43D2-A7 apart from more costly mainstream motherboards are the lack of FireWire or CrossFire support, yet a look at the ports reveals a few other missing details.

Biostar didn’t just rid its TP43D2-A7 of several legacy ports, it also left out half of the analog audio jacks and any digital audio ports. Users are limited to 5.1-channel analog audio at best, and that’s assuming they don’t try to convert one of the three connectors to a line-level or microphone input. Of course, most cases have front panel jacks for a microphone.

The Realtek ALC662 is slightly downscale from the parts of most competing products, and it is even cheaper than the codec Biostar lists in the specifications for this motherboard. However, it does support the TP43D2-A7’s limited number of outputs.

The JMB368 adds support for Ultra ATA drives, which is a bonus feature for anyone who can’t afford new drives. Completely new systems don’t need it, but we can’t fault Biostar for putting one of the extra PCIe lanes from the ICH10 southbridge to use.

The Realtek RTL8111C Gigabit Ethernet controller gets double the required bandwidth from its PCIe x1 interface.

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject
41 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • I run the I.T. department for a couple small businesses, and the sub $100 motherboard is almost essential in today's economy. Sure I could use a $120-$150 motherboard, DDR3, 10000 RPM hard drive, and all kinds of other things, but I would end up with a system that is only marginal faster in business applications for 3+ times the price. Take one of the G3x or G4x motherboards, 2GB DDR2, Intel E7x00 CPU and 80GB+ HDD and you have a system that will meet the needs of a good majority of businesses and home users. I am personally a gamer and can see the value in the higher end components; but there are a lot of other market segments out there where this makes financial sense.
    13
  • Other Comments
  • interesting, although pretty much anyone building a P775 system these days would spend a bit more than $100... and somethings really weird with this commenting thing cos i can't read what i'm typing... it just ... doesnt fill the box? just when i type something it instantly goes to the left instead of filling the box... but anyway, interesting if a bit useless article.
    -5
  • FWIW, the issue with text disappearing from the commenting box as you're typing is something I've reported and m waiting for a fix still. Thanks for confirming that it's still an issue.
    5
  • Yes - everyone has money shooting out of their pantless ass to buy more expensive motherboards. I use a gigabyte Ep35 DS3L and am very happy with it. What is a >$100 board going to give me? Is it just that you want to waste money? I'm guessing you are one of those people who carry a balance on your credit card and lease a Lexus - you debt-carrying phag.
    -9
  • "What is a >$100 board going to give me?

    I have a DS3P becuae i need the exrta SATA ports.
    5
  • I run the I.T. department for a couple small businesses, and the sub $100 motherboard is almost essential in today's economy. Sure I could use a $120-$150 motherboard, DDR3, 10000 RPM hard drive, and all kinds of other things, but I would end up with a system that is only marginal faster in business applications for 3+ times the price. Take one of the G3x or G4x motherboards, 2GB DDR2, Intel E7x00 CPU and 80GB+ HDD and you have a system that will meet the needs of a good majority of businesses and home users. I am personally a gamer and can see the value in the higher end components; but there are a lot of other market segments out there where this makes financial sense.
    13
  • "I have a DS3P becuae i need the exrta SATA ports."
    The DS3L has 4 Sata ports which could easily handle 3 terabytes and a DVD drive. You could have saved money by editing down your porn collection and deleting your stolen .iso's of the entire "Friday the 13th" collection. Then you would have had enough space to install "Mavis Beacon Teaches Touch Typing". That would give you something else to do with your hands during your "adult film" marathons.
    Did you happen to notice that the comment box detects your errors and underlines them in red?
    -16
  • "I have a DS3P becuae i need the exrta SATA ports."
    The DS3L has 4 Sata ports which could easily handle 3 terabytes and a DVD drive. You could have saved money by editing down your porn collection and deleting your stolen .iso's of the entire "Friday the 13th" collection. Then you would have had enough space to install "Mavis Beacon Teaches Touch Typing". That would give you something else to do with your hands during your "adult film" marathons.
    Did you happen to notice that the comment box detects your errors and underlines them in red?
    -13
  • I got a Gigabyte UD3P for $99 during black friday... would that top this list? :)
    4
  • I got a Gigabyte UD3P for $84.50 during Black Friday, pwned you ninja gaiden fag.
    -8
  • Wait, no AMD stuff?

    :(
    -8
  • lol @ rjcorrin's 1st comment.

    In reply: Maybe he already had HDDs laying around of smaller size and thought it best to save money by spending a few more dollars on more SATA ports than hundreds on new 3 x 1TB HDDs. You're reasoning is asinine and self contradicting.
    6
  • rjcorrinDid you happen to notice that the comment box detects your errors and underlines them in red?

    Did you happen to notice you're using Firefox? It, not this comment box, does that.

    rjcorrin"I have a DS3P becuae i need the exrta SATA ports."The DS3L has 4 Sata ports which could easily handle 3 terabytes and a DVD drive. You could have saved money by editing down your porn collection and deleting your stolen .iso's of the entire "Friday the 13th" collection.

    And what about Raid? And all the PC's I've had in this Millennium have had 2 Removable Disk drives.

    Not to mention I have multiple OSes installed, and an extra drive I use for storage (I reformat often). So I have plenty of drives.
    2
  • Ummm, maybe I missed it but I didn't see anywhere that said what video/graphics card was used in these test. Anyone!?! I'm curious because of the power consumption numbers. Thanks.
    1
  • Attention to detail alert... The MSI Neo3-f has eight SATA ports not, as the article claims, six.
    3
  • gwolfmanlol @ rjcorrin's 1st comment.In reply: Maybe he already had HDDs laying around of smaller size and thought it best to save money by spending a few more dollars on more SATA ports than hundreds on new 3 x 1TB HDDs. You're reasoning is asinine and self contradicting.


    I am suggesting he can reduce the bytes of crap he is retaining by legalizing his content. For all I know, he already has 8 terabyte SATA drives.
    Seriously, running all 8 SATA ports is going to take a massive case and an equally massive power supply. This dude doesn't need more SATA ports, he needs a data center.
    -11
  • cambionAttention to detail alert... The MSI Neo3-f has eight SATA ports not, as the article claims, six.


    This is the exact number of ports on the DS3P. So, again, what does a >$100 board going to give me?
    -1
  • Though this does give you an what our Taiwan & Chinese friends have in the goodie bin at the local computer store.. you will still want to wait to bu
    -3
  • tmcThough this does give you an what our Taiwan & Chinese friends have in the goodie bin at the local computer store.. you will still want to wait to bu

    Ugh, got cut off..
    Wait to build your system until Q1, Q2 processor price cuts of 2009.. especially if you have your heart set on $ inTEL $ 775 vs amd.
    1
  • TindytimDid you happen to notice you're using Firefox? It, not this comment box, does that.And what about Raid? And all the PC's I've had in this Millennium have had 2 Removable Disk drives.Not to mention I have multiple OSes installed, and an extra drive I use for storage (I reformat often). So I have plenty of drives.


    /Sarcasm
    Maybe I should load up a few more OSes, Opera, IE (6 & 7) and Chrome to fully analyze the capabilities of this text box. I should probably hook up a raid array (mode 0+1 anyone?) to maximize my system performance and maintain the integrity of my porn collection prior to starting my full analysis of this text box.
    /sarcasm
    Do you get any real work done on that computer of yours? Seems like you're spending all your time loading operating systems, plugging in drives, reformatting, and flipping between your extensive collection of linux derivatives. Get a life dude!! You are a hacker-poser!

    And...
    Merry Christmas to EVERYONE!! (even the Jews)
    -9
  • Merry Christmas
    6