Biostar caters to the value-overclocking market, using overclocking records, rather than an extensive list of features, to promote its products. At its $140 Web site price, the TA890FXE is even 10% cheaper than ASRock’s entry in today’s comparison.
Beating the competition in both overclocking and price doesn’t come without compromise, as TA890FXE buyers must be willing to give up USB 3.0 and any add-in eSATA controllers that rival products typically include. A single eSATA port on the TA890FXE’s I/O panel comes from the chipset’s integrated SATA 6Gb/s controller, leaving only five internal ports.
The TA890FXE’s red x16-length slots are limited to x1 and x4 transfers, and Biostar doesn’t even space the four-lane slot far enough below the second 16-lane slot to accommodate a third double-slot card. Users who want to install more than two graphics cards are thus limited to single-slot cards, while those considering two double-slot cards for CrossFire should also contemplate the cooling disadvantages of having both cards shoved closely together.
A port 80 diagnostics display and power and reset buttons are all placed in the bottom-front corner for easy reach and viewing during bench tests. The final build will also be eased by the placement of three two-port USB 2.0 headers in that same corner. However, this courteous design doesn’t extend to front-panel audio and FireWire connectors, as both are found in the bottom-rear corner.
Given the TA890FXE’s low-cost performance theme, its only true disappointment is a scarcity of three-pin fan connectors. Most performance cases have more than two fans, and we often prefer to address these with a motherboard’s automatic fan controls.
Biostar’s T-Series menu provides a core-unlocking function to enable factory-disabled cores on certain X2 and X3 processors, plus automatic and manual overclock settings.
Submenus begin with the “Over Voltage Configuration” menu above, followed by the “CPU FID/VID Control” below. Of these, the VID controls are finer (at 25 mV) and broader (from 0 to 1.55 V). Combining these could potentially push VCore up to three volts.
An entire submenu is devoted to two HyperTransport link settings.
Individual timings can be set manually or left to automatically adjust to changes in DRAM ratio. The TA890FXE can also read Intel XMP values.
Up to 10 BIOS configurations can be stored as user profiles on a protected area of the BIOS ROM.
The TA890FXE has the least number of drive cables, but there are two CrossFire bridges. Since the board properly supports only two double-slot graphics cards, we’d have preferred to have a fourth SATA cable rather than a second CrossFire bridge.