|Biostar TA890GXB-HD mATX AMD Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman|
|Monday, 31 May 2010|
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Biostar TA890GXB-HD Detailed Features
The TA890GXB-HD is certainly intended to be an entry-level motherboard, so while I wasn't surprised that the MOSFET didn't have a heatsink, I always have to wonder why not. Even being an entry level motherboard, the TA890GXB-HD advertises right on the box its support for 6-Core Phenom-II processors. Those processors have a TDP of 125W. This means that it also supports the up to 140W TDP of some of the other Phenom-II processors. That's not messing around. A lot of power will be headed down that 4-pin CPU power connector, through the MOSFET and into the CPU. It is unlikely that many Thuban users will pick the TA890GXB-HD as their enthusiast motherboard of choice, but I think things could get a little warm when using a CPU with a high TDP, especially if you plan on overclocking or using the core unlocKING function.
Located smack dab in the middle of the board is the TA890GXB-HD motherboard is the infamous new 890GX northbridge. The northbridge heatsink is a pretty large, plain square with the Biostar logo on it. Its plenty big enough that the common user, and most likely buyer of the TA890GXB-HD will probably not have any problems with the northbridge overheating on them. The only occassion that might cause trouble is boosting the bus speed up too high and pushing a lot of extra voltage to get that awesome overclock. The recent AMD chipsets have been excellent overclockers, and we expect no less from the 890GX, so just be careful when pushing this motherboard to the limit and realize that the northbridge heatsink, while big enough, may not cool enough for the extreme overclocker.
Just to the right of the northbridge is the AM3 socket. Below that you'll find four DDR3 DIMM slots. The slots are arranged in alternating fashion as A1B1 and A2B2. This allows for use of dual-channel DDR3 RAM kits by placing the RAM sticks in the color coordinated slots. I utilized the bottom slots, the white ones, for placing the 4GB kit used for the testing. This was mainly due to the overlap from the Scythe Mugen II CPU cooler. Placing the Patriot memory kit in the red slots, closer to the CPU, would have impeded the placement of the CPU cooler fan. This isn't really a negative as far as the TA890GXB-HD motherboard is concerned, but with the size of many CPU coolers today, it always puzzles me why motherboard manufacturers don't put the DIMM slots farther away from the CPU slot. Of course, spare real-estate is tight on a mATX motherboard.
An awesome little feature that I found extremely useful was the power and reset buttons located on the motherboard near the SATA ports. These two little buttons came in handy, very handy, especially when I was overclocking. Since my preferred method of overclocking includes a whole lot of trial and error, I was constantly using these buttons when I couldn't get the BIOS to post. The computer would freeze occasionally as well, and I would need to reset. After changing out equipment on the test bench, these little buttons are extremely useful. My point is, every motherboard manufacturer should get on board with this. I know a lot of motherboards are providing this handy little feature and now I know why. If you fancy yourself an enthusiast, get a motherboard with these buttons on them. You won't be disappointed.
The all new SATA 6Gb/s ports are located in the bottom corner of the TA890GXB-HD, where you would expect them. Even though the SB850 has integrated a native SATA 6Gb/s controller, it has yet to offer native support for USB 3.0. Of course, just having the SATA 6Gb/s capability puts the AMD 890GX chipset ahead of the competition. Many motherboard manufacturers will undoubtedly provide motherboards with a USB 3.0 controller, and the SB850 southbridge provides an additional two PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes to accomodate that without stealing from any other possible uses. The TA890GXB-HD does not provide a USB 3.0 controller, but this is really not all that surprising, considering the market being targeted by Biostar with this motherboard. They need to keep costs low for the entry-level mATX boards, and the lack of USB 3.0 at this juncture is a good place to cut costs.
The I/O panel on the Biostar TA890GXB-HD is cut down to the bare essentials. While I'm sure this helps to cut costs and keep the price of the motherboard low, its pretty slim even for an entry-level motherboard. From left to right we start off with a pair of USB 2.0 ports under a single PS2 port. Considering that I actually found a PS2 motherboard hanging out in my garage the other day, I suppose someone, somewhere, might still need this. If it were up to me, though, I would opt for two more USB ports. The motherboard can support it, since it is only using a total of 10 and the SB850 supports 14.
To the right of the PS2 and USB ports is the now familiar HDMI port. It wasn't that long ago that an HDMI port integrated on to the motherboard was an extreme rarity. With the 4000 series Radeon HD IGPs now being paired with AMD chipsets, this rare spectacle has become commonplace. Even the Intel GMA 4500 IGPs and above nearly always sport an HDMI port now. In addition to the HDMI port, the TA890GXB-HD offers users the option of VGA or DVI. You will often find, especially on mATX motherboard, the HDMI port stacked on top of the VGA port, offering more room for another set of USB ports, sometimes paired with a 1394 port and an eSATA port. The Biostar TA890GXB-HD doesn't do this, and I can't really say why. While it likely helps keep costs low, many other mATX motherboards offer the enhanced functionality of extra external ports.
Moving past the video options, we have another set of two USB 2.0 ports situated under a Gigabit Ethernet port. Along with SATA 6Gb/s, the SB850 has finally integrated GbE as well. Most motherboard manufacturers using older chipsets, while perhaps opting out of an SATA 6Gb/s controller, would normally add a GbE controller. It is nice to see that AMD has finally integrated this functionality directly into the southbridge. Then again, even with the addition of a native GbE controller, Biostar opted to use the Realtek RTL8111E PHY as the 10/100/1000Mbps controller on the TA890GXB-HD.
The final piece we find on the I/O panel of the TA890GXB-HD is the audio ports. All three of them. Biostar uses the Realtek ALC892 codec that comes integrated into the 890GX chipset, but rather than offering support for 8 channels, it offers only 6 Channel HD Audio on the TA890GXB-HD. I'm not really sure what is up with all the cutting corners here. Granted, I don't use an 8 channel audio system with my computer. I don't use an 8 channel system for my home theater. But the 890GX chipset, especially on a mATX motherboard is a great, affordable option for someone looking into an HTPC. A home theater enthusiast might be looking for 8 channel audio. They will find it on many other 890GX motherboards, but not on the TA890GXB-HD.
Another thing missing from the Biostar TA890GXB-HD is the 128 MB of side-port memory that is optional with the Radeon HD 4290 IGP. While this feature is less common than, say, 8 channel audio, many motherboards still offer this feature. The Radeon HD 4290 isn't a very powerful graphics card. You will find evidence of this in the testing section. That little bit of extra, dedicated RAM to help along the struggling video card really goes a long way, especially if you are using the Radeon HD 4290 for its intended purpose, media decoding, rather than gaming.