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Biostar TA790GX A2+ Motherboard

Inexpensive board with HDMI output and CrossFireX support.

November 25, 2008



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Overclocking

In order to evaluate motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary. But if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier. Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run WinRAR performance test for ten minutes (Tools -- Benchmark and hardware test). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.


CPU Clock, MHz FSB clock (multiplier), MHz Core voltage (according to BIOS), V HT bus clock (multiplier), MHz Note
Athlon X2 4850e (2.5 GHz) 3312 265 (x12.5) 1.47 1325 (x5)  
Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz) 2728 248 (x11) 1.22 2232 (x9)  
Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz) 3025 242 (x12.5) 1.47 2178 (x9) Bus-overclocked
3000 200 (x15) 1.47 2000 (x10) Multiplier-overclocked

Athlon X2 overclocks very well. We are also pleased with overclocking results of Phenom 9550. However, in this case we should also praise the processor that managed to reveal all its frequency potential practically at the nominal voltage (it was raised by 0.02 V to ensure stability under load). However, when we used this processor with other motherboards, we had to raise voltage to a higher level to reach the same or even lower frequency. So let's not underestimate the motherboard here. The function to startup with nominal parameters after a failed overclocking attempt works like a charm. There is usually even no need to reboot a computer.

However, this motherboard was not ready for overclocking Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition, which demonstrated up to 3.4 GHz with other motherboards (with Advanced Clock Calibration). When we raised the voltage above 1.5 V in BIOS (necessary for this processor to reach high frequencies), the motherboard would either freeze or power off even with the same CPU clock rate. As the field-effect transistors in the voltage regulator got very hot, we have to establish the fact that it's too weak for hardcore overclocking of top processors. OK, you may be very lucky to find a processor that does not require to increase its voltage above 1.5 V. But even in this case the voltage regulator will work at its limit. For this very reason we didn't use Advanced Clock Calibration on this motherboard, it just had no effect.

We involuntary recall Foxconn A7DA-S, which heat sink on field-effect transistors remained only warm in a maximum overclocked mode. However, this comparison is not quite well posed, this model must be cheaper, and it's not designed for hardcore overclocking. Moreover, the photo of the voltage regulator clearly shows holes for a heat sink on field-effect transistors. Such a model may still appear in future.

We managed to overclock the graphics core to 900 MHz from the nominal 650 MHz (lower than the nominal 700 MHz recommended by AMD for 790GX), voltage raised by 0.2 V. The heat sink on the chipset grew much hotter at that. There were no failures, but this operating mode will certainly be detrimental to the system without ventilation inside a small PC enclosure. We managed to raise video memory frequency from 400 MHz to 533 MHz preserving absolute stability, it's impossible to control voltage in this case. Apparently, this motherboard is not the best choice for people, who want to squeeze everything from the integrated graphics core in AMD 790GX either. However, the type and volume of memory used in this motherboard already speak of no such intentions.

Performance

Testbed configuration:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 (2 GB, DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD3870, 512 MB GDDR4
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows XP SP2.

We decided to compare our motherboard under review with ECS A790GXM-A on the same chipset.


Test Int. graphics Discrete graphics
ECS A790GXM-A Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Biostar TA790GX A2+
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:38 1:35 1:38 1:33
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:44 4:40 4:44 4:39
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600), fps 54.2 53.8 59.3 60.1
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 48.6 48.4 58.6 60.0
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 28.5 28.2 59.0 59.3
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 102.4 100.3 136.1 138.9
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 72.6 72.0 125.8 138.7
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 33.2 32.9 125.8 138.5
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 66.9 65.4 161.7 163.7
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 47.8 46.8 159.9 161.7
DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps 22.8 22.4 158.3 157.1

Lower volume and frequency of video memory (64 MB DDR2-400 versus 128 MB DDR2-800) practically don't interfere with decent performance of the integrated graphics core. We should also note a tad higher results of the motherboard from Biostar in computing tests and its streamlined interaction with a graphics card.

Power consumption (entire system unit)


Phenom X4 9550 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF) Int. graphics Discrete graphics
ECS A790GXM-A Biostar TA790GX A2+ ECS A790GXM-A Biostar TA790GX A2+
Text editing, W 45 44 72 68
Playing FarCry, W 77-98 73-95 108-137 104-121

We already compared power consumption of these motherboards. Their results are practically the same, Biostar consumes a tad less power under load.

Conclusion

Conclusions on any inexpensive motherboard (or a product with a competitive price) must be apparently based on the price factor. So let's note the strong points revealed during our tests: high performance despite the modest video memory bundle, full set of video outputs, and CrossFire support. The motherboard is also fit for moderate CPU overclocking with insignificantly raised voltage. If you like quiet computers, you'll love the thorough implementation of Smart Fan.

But there are objective drawbacks as well: bad implementation of the integrated audio system and no eSATA ports. By the way, unlike FireWire, which lack can be explained by saving on controllers and layout, eSATA ports are supported by the chipset, so it's inexpensive to install it on the rear panel. Or if they didn't want to deprive the user of the opportunity to plug six internal drives, they might have bundled a bracket with this port and add a BIOS option to switch the ports to AHCI.


The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design, monitoring

Page 2: Interfaces, controllers, BIOS

Page 3: Performance, power consumption, conclusions



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