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Surprisingly, Biostar’s second entry in today’s comparison uses a completely different circuit board, but with very few features differentiating it from the previously-described TP45 HP. Several features again put Biostar in direct competition with ASRock’s P45R2000-WiFi, but while the formerly introduced TP45 HP was $10 less expensive than the competition, the TPower i45 cost $10 more. Let’s see what buyer get from the $20 price difference between Biostar motherboards.
The TPower i45 has the eSATA ports missing from both the TP45 HP and the competing ASRock product, though the competition provides IEEE-1394 FireWire ports whereas Biostar doesn’t.
The TPower i45 starts off with a slightly larger VRM ’sink at the top and a temperature display at the bottom, with solid capacitors in all locations increasing reliability. Competitor ASRock also uses solid capacitors, but lacks the temperature display and VRM sink.
Our concerns about the SATA ports of Biostar’s TP45 HP have been fully addressed in its TPower i45, as two graphics cards of any size can now be used. Unfortunately the fix was made by pointing all the ports forward, which will prevent the TPower i45’s use in cases that have a drive cage next to the motherboard’s front edge. And though the Ultra ATA connector will be blocked by any oversized card in the lower x16 slot, crafty builders will find that the cable can be run underneath the card so long as they install it before the card.
The inconvenience of eight jumper packs still falls behind the competitor’s less-inconvenient paddle card design, but offers the opportunity for experimenters to play with various transfer modes to the lower slot. The maximum number of PCI Express 2.0 pathways available to the lower slot is eight, which are taken away from the upper slot due to P45 Express chipset limitations.
Three slots of space separate top and bottom graphics cards for optimal cooling, and the space immediately below the primary PCI-Express x16 graphics slot is left empty since the location is not useful anyway.
Ultra ATA, floppy, and Front Panel Audio connections are all located in the worst possible locations for cable installation. Although most modern system won’t use the Ultra ATA or Floppy connector, the front panel audio header, found in the bottom rear corner, is unreachable in many case designs. Most other companies do this, but that fact is of little consolation to builders.
Power and Reset buttons are conveniently located for bench-top testing, and below these are three USB 2.0 headers which support up to six front panel ports or bay devices.
An accessory chipset cooler included in the TPower i45 installation kit draws heat away from the P45 Express northbridge through an interlinking heat pipe.