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Biostar TPower X58

X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
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Features and Layout

Biostar has made lots of noise in recent months about the overclocking capabilities of its motherboards, but before we put any claims to superiority to the test in a fair comparison we’ll first consider its more obvious characteristics.

The TPower X58 (also labeled T-Power X58) has three x16-length slots, but unlike many of its “mid-range” competition, this motherboard doesn’t come with 3-way SLI pretensions. Because the third PCIe 2.0 slots has only four PCIe lanes, placing it at the bottom isn’t a major concern even though it would require a special case to mount a double-thick graphics solution there. More practical uses would be a single-slot card for additional displays or a x8 RAID card, and performance fanatics might find it the perfect place for their Fusion-io ioDrive.

Moving its third x16-length slot to the bottom position allowed Biostar to spread its two full-bandwidth x16 slots apart by one additional space, allowing for improved ventilation around the top card’s fan intake when multiple cards are installed, such as 2-way SLI or Crossfire configurations.

Most of the layout is perfect for cable management, with highlights including traditional power and ultra ATA connector placement and improved FP-Audio header positioning. Previously seen on several generations of Gigabyte motherboards, Biostar has moved the front-panel connector significantly northward, putting it immediately forward of the rear-panel jacks for easier cabling to top-mounted and upper-bay front-panel connectors.

Our only major layout complaint is that the floppy connector, located under the bottom expansion slot, will be extremely hard to get to. The best solution for Windows XP users who want a floppy for loading AHCI or RAID drivers would be to use an extra-long flat cable and wrap it under the board, so that it can exit at the “proper” location in front of the TPower X58’s main power connector. That is, after all, where most cases have a 3.5” external bay.

One small caveat concerns the forward-facing SATA connectors, which point the cables towards the hard drive cage of most cases. This design is common enough now that most cases are designed with the needed space to plug cables here, but buyers will still need to pay close attention during case selection.

A Port 80 display is found just above the internal reset and power buttons, the combination of these making bench testing easier. Unfortunately, the display will be difficult to see when long graphics cards are installed in the second x16 slot.

Biostar TPower X58 (Revision 5.1)

Northbridge

Intel X58 Express

Southbridge

Intel ICH10R

Voltage Regulator

Twelve Phases

BIOS

080015 (01/15/2009)

133.3 MHz Base Clock

133.3 (+0.0%)

Clock Generator

Realtek RTM885N-914

Connectors and Interfaces

Onboard

3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Modes: x16, x16, x4)

 

1 x PCIe x1

 

2 x PCI

 

2 x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)

 

1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

 

1 x Ultra ATA (2 drives)

 

6 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s

 

1 x Fan 4-pin (CPU)

 

2 x Fan 3-pins (Chassis, Power)

 

1 x Front Panel Audio connector

 

1 x CD-Audio In

 

1 x S/P-DIF Out

 

1 x Power Button

 

1 x Reset Button

 

1 x Port-80 Diagnostics Display

IO panel

1 x PS2 (keyboard)

 

8 x USB 2.0

 

1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

 

2 x External SATA (eSATA) 3.0Gb/s

 

2 x Digital Audio Out (Coaxial + Optical)

 

2 x RJ45 Ethernet

 

6 x Analog Audio Jacks (8-ch. out, 4-ch. in)

Mass Storage Controllers

Intel ICH10R

6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)

JMicron JMB363 PCIe

1 x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)

 

2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Network

2x Realtek RTL8111C PCIe

Dual Gigabit LAN

Audio

Realtek ALC888S HD Audio Codec

Eight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output

IEEE-1394 FireWire

Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A

2 x FireWire 400 (1x Internal, 1x I/O Panel)


Biostar’s unusual placement of a JMB363 Ultra ATA/SATA controller allowed the company to more easily put its Ultra ATA header at the top of the TPower X58’s front edge, for easier cabling to upper-bay devices such as legacy optical drives. The controller's SATA ports are both wired to rear-panel eSATA connectors. Combined bandwidth is limited to 2.5 Gb/s by the controller’s PCIe x1 connection

Unlike the added drive controller, both RTL8111C Gigabit network controllers get more than enough bandwidth from independent PCIe x1 lanes.

Supporting two 400 Mb FireWire ports, the TSB43AB22A controller needs nothing more than a legacy PCI connection.

An ALC888S codec interfaces Intel’s ICH10R HD Audio capabilities to provide up to 7.1-channel surround and independent front-panel stereo output simultaneously via multi-streaming technology.

Check prices for Biostar's TPower X58

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