Biostar TH67XE is based on the Intel H67 chipset (H67 PCH). It has 4 sockets for up to 16GB of DDR3-1066/1333 memory. Available additional controllers are listed below.
- Integrated audio based on the 7.1+2-channel Realtek ALC892 HDA codec. There are frontal inputs/outputs, an optical S/PDIF-Out on the back panel and an onboard S/PDIF-Out.
- Gigabit Ethernet based on Realtek RTL8111E (PCIe x1).
- PCI based on the ITE IT8893E (PCIe x1).
- FireWire based on VIA VT6315N (PCIe x1). Supports 2 ports, one 6-pin port is on the back panel.
- USB 3.0 based on Renesas D720200 (former NEC µPD720200F1, PCIe x1). Offers 2 ports (blue) on the back panel.
The dedicated FireWire controller is unusual, because most manufacturers have been using PCI solutions so far, although it's obvious that it's harder to make circuitry for the "wider" parallel bus on a compact motherboard than it is for the serial PCIe. However, this variant is not without drawbacks, too: it only leaves 3 unused PCIe lanes (of chipset's 8 lanes 4 are used by controllers and 1 by the PCIe x1 slot) and forces the second long expansion slot to work in the x1 mode instead of x4. I can't say much about the VIA VT6315N chip, because more information needs to be collected. But as many people move from miniDV camcorders (the key reason for FireWire popularity) to newer solutions for which USB 2.0 is enough, this issue gets less and less interesting.
Biostar TH67XE features the ALC892 audio codec that, unlike Realtek's previous solutions, fully supports high-definition surround sound. This feature can be used thanks to the HDMI 1.4 port to which you would connect an external receiver to get LPCM or even TrueHD audio. Formally, this codec also supports THX truStudio PRO, but we examined THX certification on the example of computer speakers as far back as 2003 and found out it provided nothing useful to end users whatsoever. But, again, the opportunity to connect a quality receiver is quite useful.
All the more so that TH67XE is a very obvious choice for a media center PC. As I have already mentioned, this board has some very interesting functionality. It's one of the few boards (for now) supporting all four video interfaces: the old D-Sub, DVI (the most popular way to connect a monitor to PC), HDMI (available on most modern TVs), and even the promising (or, if your monitor's resolution is higher than 1920x1200, useful) DisplayPort. Of course, all these interfaces are simply supported by Intel's chipset (and processors). But we have to thank Biostar for having provided them all for us to use. So TH67XE will be quite interesting for people willing to use capabilities of processor's graphics core to the max.
However, there are drawbacks as well. Or at least one serious letdown: just 4 USB 2.0 ports on the back panel. It's not enough these days. Yes, there's also a couple of USB 3.0 ports, but those don't work with their controller disabled or drivers not installed. It's good that there's a PS/2 port, too, but there's enough space on the back panel for at least 2 more USB 2.0 ports. All the more so the chipset supports 14 and there are only 4 on the back panel and 6 more via onboard headers. In 2011, users tend to have a lot of USB gadgets, so this is really inconvenient. Moreover, the motherboard doesn't come with any USB brackets, so you'll have to get them yourself.
The outwardly extreme features of TH67XE may be a reason for irony, but there's really no harm in them. In all other aspects TH67XE is very close to what you may call a reference compact motherboard. It has fewer expansions slots than full-size boards, but it has more interfaces than a mainstream solution would have. Besides, it has a reasonable set of additional controllers that includes USB 3.0, FireWire, and even the legacy COM.
On the downside, there are too few USB 2.0 ports — 10 in total — of which only 4 are available on the back panel. Also, some users would prefer x16+x4 PCIe slots instead of the board's x16+x1.
The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.
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