Biostar TPower I55
Biostar has been making waves in the overclocking community for a few years now, with several somewhat-dubious world record claims backed by hundreds of completely believable testimonials. Its TPower I55 certainly looks the part of a world-class overclocking motherboard, with the most open surface area of any motherboard heatpipe cooler we’ve recently seen.
Yet, this is no stripped-down overclocking demo board. At $184, the TPower I55 includes all the upper-range features we’d expect from a product in the upper-half of today’s budget range, such as dual eSATA ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers, dual PCIe x16 slots with automatic x16/x1 to x8/x8 mode switching, a diagnostics display, and IEEE-1394 FireWire.
Unlike many of its competitors, Biostar uses an actual x4 connector for its x4 slot. But while the length of the connector doesn’t bother us, we wish the company would have at least used an open-ended version so that x8 RAID cards and other medium-bandwidth, longer-slot devices would fit. There’s certainly enough room between components for a longer card, if only the slot end were open.
A row of voltmeter pick-up points between the power connector and DIMM slots could prove handy for competitive overclockers, though they may be impossible to reach in some fully-assembled systems. Internal power and reset switches in the lower corner also serve the same community, but we noticed that the CLR_CMOS button was intentionally omitted, while its solder points are still present.
Biostar caters to the legacy software community with a floppy header needed by so many Windows XP RAID or AHCI users, and also caters to the legacy hardware community with an Ultra ATA connector and PCI slots.
We could complain about the position of the floppy connector, but so few people now require it that we’d rather concentrate on the front-panel audio header located even farther into the TPower I55’s bottom-rear corner. Cases with top-panel or upper-bay audio jacks have been common for several years, and running a cable the entire length of the board is rarely practical and occasionally impossible.
Yet, there are so many tradeoffs in any design that simply labeling a design as adequate begins to appear as a stamp of approval. However, Biostar doesn’t quite get there, and it’s not because of its front-panel audio connector. A more serious problem we encountered was that its CPU socket was so close to the DIMM slots that we couldn’t install four memory modules with our moderately-thin Thermalright MUX-120 cooler in its standard orientation. We had to reverse our CPU fan to compensate, placing it on the back of the cooler (blowing forward) in order to complete our four-DIMM stability test.
Biostar’s O.N.E. menu is a little convoluted, but readers will find additional screen shots in the photo album of today’s article. Its main menu features BCLK and QPI frequency plus CPU- and DRAM-ratio controls.
Users who would like to set only a few memory timings manually will find that enabling the manual-control option forces all timings to be set manually.
PCIe clock and skew controls are found under the Clock Gen Configuration submenu.
In addition to the basics, the TPower I55 Voltage Control submenu adds advanced settings such as power-phase frequency, DRAM-reference voltage, and clock-generator voltage.
Up to 10 BIOS configurations can be stored as user profiles.
New overclockers afraid of the BIOS graphical user interface (GUI) can instead change key values using Biostar’s O.M.G. interface. We didn’t find it any more convenient or less scary.
In a further attempt to shed the budget-brand image it established several years ago, Biostar packs its TPower I55 installation kit with a full set of six latching SATA cables and graphics card bridges for both CrossFire and SLI.
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There's two market segments. Once you get the features you need, there's overclockers, and stock users. I've never seen a mobo recommended based on its application performance and all thats looked at is how well it OCs. Hopefully, people read the article and don't just go buying biostar expecting the regular quality of gigabyte or asus though the asus is a little overpriced here for my taste. That $25 can go towards a better GPU, but I'm a gamer.Reply
Gigabyte had some additional interesting news about the new P55A-UD4P, where the addition of the letter "A" supposedly means "Advanced" and refers to the addition of SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers. Unfortunately, it wasn't ready when the comparison was written. The "A" also cost slightly more.
For $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-Reply
2 x USB 3.0
2 x SATA 6Gb/s.
$184.99 on newegg.
ibnsinaFor $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-2 x USB 3.0 2 x SATA 6Gb/s.$184.99 on newegg.Reply
$15 for all that sounds great, unless those features are useless to you. SATA 6.0 Gb/s will remain completely useless until long after the board is outdated, and USB 3.0 is nothing more than an eSATA substitute at the moment.
Why do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.Reply
The new P55A-UD4P has better power phasing, 12+2 vs 8+2 on the old gigabyte UD4P, and probably more stuff aswell, like the LOTES socket, well worth the extra $15 to me.Reply
You don't bring up MSI's board at all in the conclusion. . . i'm a little curious as to what your final thoughts are on it.Reply
apache_livesWhy do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.Reply
You mean complain? Like you're complaining right now? It's all a matter of logic: There are probably more Windows XP users carrying over their old OS into a new build than there are Ultra ATA users carrying over their ancient hard drives. Therefor, the floppy interface, as outdated as it is, is more useful than the Ultra ATA interface.
The problem as described is that you PAY for an Ultra ATA controller. Why bother? Even if you're an XP devotee you probably don't WANT to pay for an Ultra ATA connector.
But for most motherboards, the floppy interface is free. It doesn't slow down boot times or performance either, if you don't need it you can ignore it.
Well, maybe you can't ignore it, but a logic dictates over emotion in reviews.
THG has no reason to love or hate the floppy connector, no stake in the legacy OS game, but anyone reader who wants to play the hater deserves to be called out for it. As for the manufacturers, honest reporting is Tom's Hardware's goal. Personally, I like the fact that some manufacturers provide legacy features and others don't, both types of products work well.
with only a single PS/2 port left behind to support the older mice occasionally preferred by seasoned gamers
This is from the page on the EVGA P55 but you can clearly see it is a purple PS/2 port which is for keyboards... lol