On October 12th, 2011, AMD released their newest CPUs, the "FX" Bulldozer line. Although not met with the warmest of welcomes, these new CPUs are just part of AMD's latest desktop platform, which also includes AMD Radeon GPUs and, of course, 9-series chipset products. Over the next several weeks we'll be taking a closer look at those 9-series chipset products, the first of which was provided to us by Biostar. The Biostar TA990FXE comes from their "Extreme Edition" product line which features several products designed to meet the needs of "extreme" users, while still keeping the Biostar company focus of providing affordable solutions that don't break the bank. Outfitted with an AMD 990FX chipset and a SB950 I/O hub, the TA990FXE is ready for to provide everything the AMD Scorpius platform requires.
|Specifications: Biostar TA990FXE AM3+
||AMD AM3+ FX/Phenom II/Athlon™ II/Sempron 100 Series Processors
||CPU Power: 4+1 phase
NB Power: 1 Phase
Memory Power: 1 Phase
||AMD 990FX/ SB950
||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 1066 to DDR3 2000 |
||Biostar UEFI BIOS with 32 Mb Flash ROM
||3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x16/x4)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
2 x PCI slots
||1 x External SATA 6.0 Gb/s port at rear (AMD SB950)
5 x SATA 6.0Gb/s (AMD SB950)
||Atheros AR8151 PCIe Gigabit Lan
||12 x USB 2.0 ports (8 at back panel, 4 at front panel)
4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 at back panel, 2 at front panel)
1 x PS/2 mouse combo connector
1 x eSATA port
1 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port with 6 audio jacks
2 x SPDIF Output(1x Optical/1x Coaxial)
2 x IEEE 1394a ports (1 at back panel, 1 at front panel)
||Realtek ALC892 HD CODEC
||ATX Form Factor (305 mm x 244 mm)
- BIO REMOTE 2
- 100% Solid Capacitor
- Rapid Switch
- Rapid Debug3
- G.P.U.(Green Power Utility)
- Charger Booster
- BIOS Online Update
- Tweak Tech
- BIOS Flasher
AMD 990FX Chipset
Launched during Computex 2011, the AMD 990FX chipset is the top option of the three new northbridge solutions from AMD. All three feature several new features specific to the 9-Series chipsets, but the majority of technology is carried over from AMD’s previous 8-Series products. Featuring Hypertransport™ 3.0, and native SATA 6 Gb/s connectivity via the SB950, the 9-Series from AMD is an incremental upgrade. The big marquee difference, of course, is the new AM3+ CPU support, CPUs which have yet to arrive within the retail space, and are expected later this year. All 9-series chipsets provide DDR3-1866 memory support natively, if a supporting CPU is installed. Also available is an IOMMU connection, allowing virtual machines to directly access hardware capabilities, rather than offering a software interface using hardware emulation. Although not natively supported in the Windows environment at this time, this feature is more intended for Linux users.
The AMD 970 chipset offers a single PCIe 2.0 x16 connection for a single graphics card, while the 990X allows that link to be split into two separate PCIe 2.0 x8 connections, for multi card configurations. The 990FX chipset found on this board features two full PCIe 2.0 x16 connections for graphics, with the option to split the link into two separate PCIe 2.0 x8 links, as decided by OEM board layout and design. An extra x4 link is also available via the AMD SB950, and the AMD SB950 Southbridge chipset also houses all of the I/O functionality, such as the six native SATA 6 Gb/s ports.
Of course, that leads to today's product, the Biostar TA990FXE. Will it offer an Extreme Edition for AMD products, as its name suggests? We put it through the paces, and find out.
The Biostar TA990FXE comes in what has become standard packaging for Biostar for 2011. Like the rest of the AMD-supporting Biostar motherboards, the TA990FXE is clad in a red box with stylized slashes across the front. There are many technology logos surrounding the product name on the bottom right, while emblazoned across the middle is Biostar's "Extreme Edition" logo. Flipping the box over, we are once again greeted by what looks like a tablet like the other Biostar products we've looked at recently, with logos describing the included Biostar technologies inside. The Biostar packaging has to be one of our most favorite, as its simple design is very understated, without fancy graphics that distract, and although Biostar offers some of the least expensive board options, the packaging really helps give the board a high quality first impression.
Upon opening the box, we find the goodies right on top, separated from the board itself by a layer of protective cardboard. Under the goodies we find the board itself, and those goodies seem pretty sparse in comparison to some of the other products that have undergone torture in our bench station. However, being priced as it is, we did expect as much, and while we would have liked to have seen a bit more here, this is a trivial issue for a product in this price range.
This entry-level product comes with very little in the way of accessories as we mentioned, and shocking to us, we find only four SATA 6 Gb/s cables, along with a manual, driver disc, I/O shield, and a couple of Crossfire bridges. It seems very odd that there is cabling for only four of the five included SATA ports, but again, this is partially dictated by MSRP. What we do not find here is an SLI bridge, as the TA990FXE lacks support for one of the newest 9-series exclusive features; support for NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU technology. Take a quick look below to find a full listing of what's inside the TA990FXE's box:
UPDATE(12/06/2011): Biostar has notified us that SLi support for this product has been added with a BIOS update(99FADB24.BST) available on the product page on Biostar's website.
- 1x I/O Shield
- 1x User Manual
- 1x Driver CD
- 4x SATA 6 Gb/s cables with locking pins
- 1x Biostar Cable Tie
- 2x Crossfire Bridge Cable
Hit the next page for a look at the board itself.
The Board - Layout
The Biostar TA990FXE comes in what is now a standard color scheme for the majority of Biostar motherboards; red heatsinks and slots nicely contrast with the black PCB and the remaining few slots in white, which match up with AMD's own product coloring quite well. The layout is clean and simple, with very few distractions, both on the front and the back of the board. The back of the board is populated with several areas with MOSFET cooling strips, and there are quite a few protruding pins here and there, but overall the layout is very simple, and we did not notice anything that might interfere with mounting aftermarket cooling.
The socket area is fairly open, with very few surface-mounted components close to the socket, but we do find an older-style cooler-mounting bracket that may impede airflow across the board, unlike AMD's new cooler retention clips, which feature two smaller parts of high-density plastic. The socket itself, of course, is the new black "AM3b" socket that ensures support for the now released AMD AM3+ FX CPUs, which features slightly larger holes for the pins to drop into, but at the same time, provides a very secure grip on pre-existing CPUs. You can see that the socket itself is provided by LOTES, and its black color is part of what you want to look for to ensure that AM3+ CPU support. The back of the socket area, as we mentioned earlier, does have several MOSFET cooling strips and protruding pins nearby, however, our usual test fitting of a Corsair H50 backplate proved to show no problems in clearance with this design, and we were very happy to note that the backplate is reinforced for rigidity with two small metal strips on each side.
The bottom half of the motherboard is filled with just six expansion slots; three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (electrically two x16 slots and one x4 slot.) two PCI slots, and one PCIe 2.0 x1 slot. The Biostar TA990FXE features four DIMM slots for up to 32 GB of memory (4x 8 GB), with a single phase power delivery system for the DIMMs. This provides a great contrast to some other entry-level boards, most of which feature a single-phase power delivery system for the installed memory. We were quite eager to see how much of a role this may play when clocking RAM to the limit.
The board's bottom edge carries a full complement of pin headers for everything; from front panel audio to front panel USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 as well as FireWire. On the south bridge side of the board, we find several USB headers, a Clear CMOS header, and right below we find the onboard ON/OFF and RESET switches. We also find a serial COM port as well as a fan header, and the front panel pin block. There are a total of three fan headers on the TA990FXE, with only the CPU_FAN header supporting PWM control, while the remaining two are both the standard 3-pin type with RPM sense.
On the back plate we find a combo PS/2 mouse and keyboard port, one eSATA, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a six-port analogue audio panel, a digital optical port and a coaxial audio port, with a LAN port and a FireWire port rounding everything out. A total of five SATA 6 Gb/s ports are found on the opposite side, with all five internal ports as well as the eSATA port driven by the SB950 chipset.
The Board - A Closer Look
Our usual first item to look at, of course, is the BIOS chip itself, which in this instance, is supplied by cFeon. Nestled securely in a socket that makes user replacement fairly simple, the TA990FXE shows that user experience is first and foremost with Biostar, as if a user is to ever corrupt the BIOS past available recovery options, there's no need to tear down the system and RMA the entire board. There is also a dual-digit POST display located below the SATA ports that will convert to displaying CPU temperatures once the POST process has completed. Once the BIOS has booted the TA990FXE up, the real brain of the board, the STMicro L6717A VRM controller, is in full operation. Providing control for 4+1 phases, the L6717A features an I2C interface, so should be software controllable as well, provided that the Biostar tools are written to take advantage of it.
As we mentioned before, there are both ON/OFF and RESET switches at the bottom board edge, great for testing the board when you first get it, or if you plan to do some extreme cooling and benchmarking. Of course, when you press that ON/OFF switch, you'll notice the LEDs in the second image above flicker to life. Connected to the STMicro L6717A, they indicate phase loading, with one light for each phase. The intensity of the light they produce also indicates how much load the phase is under, a useful tool when clocking your chips as well as providing a bit of "bling".
The TA990FXE features a standard VRM design that was designed by STMicro to work in conjunction with the L6717A controller, which is organized in a standard Hi/Lo triplet, and dual input drivers, seen flanking the phases on the far right side of the image above. The single-phase DIMM VRM features a very similar design, which we found to be fairly effective once we began our overclock testing. The NB VRM is also a single phase, and as you can see in the image above, there is also a Molex connector nearby, to supply additional current to the PCIe lanes when they are fully populated. This is becoming more common in high-end products due to the high power draw of some of high-end VGAs on the market today, so this is something we are very happy to see on a product claiming to be "Extreme".
The Realtek RTM880N clock generator in the first image above is used to source bus clocks, and is one we have been seeing quite often as of late, both on AM3+ and FM1 products. It is a capable chip, but it does seem to have a bit of a problem scaling the HTT to the uttermost extremes with some CPUs. On a whole, it provides quite stable clocks that allow consistent long-term overclocks to remain fully stable.
For Super I/O functionality, we find an ITE IT8728F, a part used quite often on other products. As is usual, this chip is responsible for fan control and data monitoring. The VIA VTE315N drives the FireWire port found on the rear I/O, as well as the internal FireWire port header found near the board's bottom edge.
The included Realtek ALC892 HD codec supports 7.1+2 audio, and meets Microsoft's WLP3.x audio requirements. Using DACs that output a 97 dB SNR, and ADCs with a 90 dB SNR, it supports 44.1k/48k/96k/192 kHz sampling at 16-, 20- and 24-bit, including full support for HD audio formats featuring Content Protection, if supporting software is used. It is also DirectSound 3D compatible, so no area of usage or functionality is overlooked.
Biostar has sourced the LAN controller for the TA990FXE from Atheros, a widely known name, but the AR8151B is not a part we've run across lately very often, which features low-power operation and runs along the PCIe bus.
For USB 3.0 support, we find two matching Asmedia AS1042 PCIe controllers, with one under the DIMM slots, supporting the internal port we find nearby the controller itself, while the second is hidden between the VRM heatsink, and the rear I/O assembly. While these controllers are not as familiar as the NEC/Renesas controller, which is far more common, we have found Asmedia controllers to be used on many recently-released Biostar products, as well as a few from other OEMs, and this chip has proven itself as a fantastic solution on the other products we've looked at.
For cooling, Biostar has equipped the TA990FXE with several aluminum passive heatsinks with red-anodized vanity plates, which you can see in the pictures above. The Northbridge heatsink is fairly beefy, and the same profile design is carried over to the VRM heatsink as well, with a single heatpipe connecting the two together. The Southbridge heatsink, however, is quite small, providing several millimeters of clearance for installed expansion cards, yet through our testing, proved more than adequate. Upon removal of the VRM/NB heatsink assembly, we noticed near perfect contact from end to end, such that we do hope to see the same thermal interface pad used on other products. You can see clear impressions made by the VRM's components, ensuring that every critical component gets the cooling it needs, extremely vital when it comes to overclocking. The northbridge and southbridge heatsinks use a very familiar gummy pink thermal interface material that pulled away from both the cooler and the northbridge itself when we removed the cooler. This material is such that we recommend that the northbridge cooling is NOT removed under any circumstances, as it was quite difficult to clean off of the chipsets and coolers.
In the above picture you can clearly see the new AMD990FX chipset, and as you can tell, it's very similar to the AMD970 chipset featured in the M5A97 EVO review. The AMD SB950 southbridge seen in the second image above is nearly exactly the same size as the 990FX northbridge, but it's obvious which is which upon close inspection.
||200 MHz ... 600 MHz
||x4 (800 MHz), x5.33 (1066 MHz),
x6.66 (1333 MHz ), x8 (1600 MHz)
||+0.01V ... +0.49V
||+0.01V ... +0.30V
Using the Biostar UEFI bios is easy and very straight forward. Its layout is very easy to navigate, with each section split into tabs that are accessed by using your mouse to click each tab, or using your keyboard's arrow keys. The first page that we see once the board boots is a very standard and basic page that has been found in board BIOSes nearly since time began, listing system details and providing access for time and date adjustment. The second tab contains the majority of board device settings, while the next two screens show listings from within that page.
The CPU configuration page contains only a few settings, and in the Smartfan heading, as you can see in the second image above, there is only control for the CPU_FAN via SMARTFAN options. The third image above shows the monitoring page, and as you can see, there is a nice healthy list of voltages, but not too many temperature sensors. The last image shows the landing page for the "Chipset Options" tab, whose headings each contain quite a few options.
The "NorthBridge Options" heading leads to several options for PCIe management, while the "SouthBridge Options" heading contains options for I/O devices, like USB and SATA. The "Onboard Devices" heading contains options for the remaining onboard devices, seen in the third image above. The "Boot" tab contains all settings for boot options, such as which devices are booted first.
The "Security" tab only contains options for password settings, and nothing else. The next tab is a bit more exciting, however. Even its "O.N.E." title kind of hints that it is important, and it truly is the ONE tab that contains all needed options for overclocking, including clock settings and voltages. The voltage heading contains all needed voltage options, and we've gone as far as showing the maximum voltages offered by the TA990FXE in the third image above. The fourth image above shows what is contained within the "Biostar Memory Insight" heading, which is filled with a fair bit of helpful information read off of the installed memory's SPD ROM, making memory setup a much easier task and is something we have been seeing much more often in BIOSes, a trend that we are very happy to embrace.
The "AMD P-State Configuration" heading contains quite a bit of options that we don't see too commonly, allowing users to not just adjust clock multipliers and voltages, but also allows those settings to appear as defaults for the CPU. This makes CPU clocking a relatively easy task, when combined with the voltage offsets offered. The two offer nearly endless options for clocks and voltages even beyond what most extreme users will need. Settings for HTT bit-width are also available, as seen in the second image above, which might let users going to maximum bus clocks reach a bit further than on other products. Settings for memory timings are pretty in depth, but we found a few critical options were missing, such as TRFC, which might prove to limit memory clocking depending on how Biostar has setup those options users cannot access. There is also a small selection of memory controller specific options users can adjust, as seen in the last image above.
The first image above shows the last heading under the "O.N.E." tab, labeled "G.P.U. Phase Control", which simply lets users adjust what mode the CPU VRM is in, either dynamic phase loading, or with all phases under power at all times. And with all that said, we are left with the last tab, labeled "Save and Exit", where users can save BIOS profiles for easy switching between clock settings, as well as access standard exit options.
We were very happy to see Biostar use UEFI BIOSes on AMD products. We do feel that the BIOS could use a bit of work in layout and options offered, but almost every critical option we needed, barring a few memory timings, were all available. We did check with quite a few sets of memory to see if those missing options played any role in overclocking and we are very happy to report that we encountered no problems. This is a huge step for Biostar who has had some issues in the past with memory compatibility on some products. For us, it's ultimately very critical that board makers ensure the highest compatibility for RAM considering how many different modules are on the market today. Therefore, we really feel the need to mention the progress Biostar has made here and to congratulate them on a job very well done.
Like the TZ68A+ and the TA75A+, the TA990FXE comes with a handy tool to report issues directly to Biostar, giving them all critical info about system configuration and installed software. This can lead to quicker response time when issues do arise, so it's nice to see a bit of support like that provided with every board. The second tool, called G.P.U, or "Green Power Utility", is responsible for VRM and other power management features, allowing users to save a bit on power usage when the system is both in idle and load states.
For Windows overclocking, we find the Biostar standard, TOverclocker, which not only allows voltage and clock tweaking, but also listed CPU and memory information to confirm that the changes you make take effect. It's a little bit limited in what you can adjust but that's more of a platform issue than something Biostar can address directly. There's also a section for fan speed adjustments, which we found in the BIOS too, so while it's nice, it's just another bonus for those that need it.
There are a couple of other tools provided on the disc, but we found that we ran into the same issues as on the TZ68A+. We have again notified Biostar of the problem and hope to see an updated version of the software soon, as we have in the past.
||AMD Phenom II x6 1100T
3.3 GHz, 9 MB Cache
||4 GB DDR3 (2x 2 GB) G.Skill F3-17000CL9D-4GBXL
AMD990X/SB950, BIOS ver 99FAD907.BST
||Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2 GB
||Western Digital Caviar SE 16 WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA2
Seagate Barracuda LP ST2000DL003 2TB SATA 6 Gb/s
iomega eGo BlackBelt 500GB USB3.0
||Silverstone Strider GOLD 750W
||Windows 7 64-bit, ATI Catalyst 11.7
Setting up the Biostar TA990FXE proved an easy task, no different than any other motherboard, except for one thing. Windows installation, updates, driver and application install took a total of eight hours, in comparison to the four hours it takes on the Intel P67 platform, even though we employed the fastest available AM3 CPU, a Phenom II x6 1100T. The memory, without any problems, booted in at JEDEC timings and 1333 MHz, and after initial testing proved to be 100% stable. We did test with the other kits we have on hand, including a 16 GB G.Skill kit, and were met with no issues at all, very impressive, but again, for a board that claims the be "Extreme", we expect no less and we are very glad to see Biostar live up to their claims.
PWM Power Consumption
Since one of our first tasks was to truly verify system stability, while doing so we measure CPU power consumption. We isolate the power coming through the 8-pin ATX connector using an in-line meter that provides voltage and current readings, as well as total wattage passed through it. While this may not prove to isolate the CPU power draw in all instances, it does serve as a good indicator of board efficiency and effective VRM design.
With the Phenom II 1100T installed we managed to pull slightly more through the TA990FXE’s 4+1 phase VRM in comparison to the M5A97 EVO, with the VRM heatsinks getting slightly warm. At idle, the board drew just 17 watts via the EPS 8-pin connector, quite acceptable with the 1100T installed. Under load, that number increased quite considerably, to a total of 167 watts, and the VRM heatsink was quite warm to the touch, a sure sign that efficiency of the VRM design was playing a role in the final numbers.
CPU Performance Results
We spent a couple of weeks with the Biostar TA990FXE before beginning our performance testing, running various configurations and CPUs, and checking hardware compatibility. We verified our power consumption numbers using various different power supplies, and played a few hours of games with some members of the TPU community to get an overall feel for the board and to verify stability. Once completed, we tore down the system, mounted our Noctua cooler and put the board through the paces. We noticed no compatibility issues, however, we must say that the performance results that follow are not completely indicative of the Biostar TA990FXE's performance, as Phenom II technology, at this point, is fairly dated. At the same time, we have removed all Intel results in order to level out the playing field. With that said, on to the results!
SuperPI serves as our memory-focused benchmark, being highly single-threaded. Although the TA990FXE ended up on the bottom of the pile of AM3+ products we have tested, the results are still fairly good for the Phenom II platform.
wPrime is much more CPU-focused, but memory plays its role as well. In this test, the numbers were much closer, but the TA990FXE was still within what we expect from the Phenom II 1100T.
Part of our motherboard benchmarking suite is the built-in benchmark that is part of the WinRAR software suite. In this test, the Biostar TA990FXE put up good numbers, however, memory performance of the Phenom II does hold the TA990FXE back a fair bit, but here, the TA990FXE surpassed the M5A97 EVO.
We employed AIDA64's memory bench to highlight memory bandwidth. We isolate the write performance metric as it serves as a good indicator of overall memory performance. Again the TA990FXE ended up on the bottom of the pile, but still managed to show fairly decent numbers.
Handbrake is used for encoding testing, and provided results much similar to the previous benchmarks, with the Biostar TA990FXE sitting a fair distance behind our best result.
In Cinebench, the Biostar TA990FXE was again a bit low, and there seems to be a trend emerging where the focus seems more centered on 3D performance than CPU performance. As the TA990FXE is targeted at gamers on a budget, this isn't very troubling at all, assuming that the Biostar TA990FXE manages to pull its pants up in the next test section.
3D Performance Results
Once we completed our CPU test suite, we took some time to play some games with the TPU community to get an overall feel for gaming on the TA990FXE. After a couple of days we settled in to complete our 3D benchmarking, feeling confident that the Biostar TA990FXE was going to put on a good show. Let's take a look at what numbers the board provided.
Once we ran 3DMark11, it became clear that a trend was emerging. The numbers readily confirm our suspicions about the TA990FXE's focus.
Our first real-world 3D performance test comes in the form of Civilization 5, using the included benchmark. We let the game recommend us settings, and then disabled V-SYNC and AA to eliminate bottlenecks introduced by the GPU itself. We were a bit disappointed in the Biostar TA990FXE, as it did not manage to duplicate numbers given by the ASUS boards we looked at earlier. However, the Civilization 5 benchmark does serve to show that although the Phenom II platform lags in some performance areas, this is only reflected in certain types of workloads.
Our second real-world 3D performance test comes from CodeMasters, in the form of the "F1 2010" included benchmark. We let the game recommend us settings, which included 8xAA with our newly added HD 6950 2 GB from Sapphire. Again we were impressed, as F1 2010 proves to be one of our personal favorites, and the Biostar TA990FXE again noticed higher performance than the other products we've tested in the past few months. However, this only makes us eager to see what AMD's new AM3+ CPUs can do, as it's still on top for the AM3+ board results.
With the CPU and 3D performance compares out of the way, we took a closer look at the other features offered by the Biostar TA990FXE, as it manages to pack a lot of 3D punch.
Drive and Audio Performance Results
Our drive and audio testing differs a bit from the rest of our testing, for several reasons. First of all, when it comes to drive performance comparison, nearly every platform on the market is very close to one another, as most do provide external drive controllers which means the numbers offered are very much platform agnostic. And finally, with audio, we do not list any numbers except for those reported by the product we are testing in order to provide the most information possible, as each audio CODEC will behave quite differently, and each board does not employ the same CODEC. As such, there is no standard we can use other than the numbers themselves. You can always check our other motherboard reviews in order to make direct comparisons to audio performance.
We've tested each drive interface separately in order to provide the most complete numbers possible. Employing HDTune Pro for all of the testing, we tested each drive outside of the OS environment, using a separate OS on a separate drive. However, we do use drives with a fair amount of data on them (60% full) to simulate performance in real-world situations.
HDTune Pro (SATA2)
We noticed a divergence from the rest of the numbers when testing drive performance, with our Biostar TA990FXE board coming out near the top here using our SATA2 test drive. A very good result, which quite obviously shows the strength of the AMD950 southbridge chipset.
HDTune Pro (SATA 6Gb/s)
SATA 6 Gb/s showed nearly the same as SATA 3Gb/s, with the TA990FXE just four tenths of a megabyte behind our top result.
HDTune Pro (USB3.0)
USB 3.0 drive performance failed to put the TA990FXE on top, most likely due to it employing the Asmedia USB 3.0 controllers, much different from the NEC/Renesas and Etron products on the other boards. The complete result almost seems to show a bandwidth limitation when we tested using the ports on the rear I/O, so we repeated our tests using the front panel header and we received the exact same numbers. We are not too sure why the Biostar TA990FXE seems to come up short here, but given the pricing and intended market for the Biostar TA990FXE, we were confused, but not concerned, as the results are truly nothing to scoff at and are still within margins of error for this particular test.
RightMark Audio Analyzer
Biostar uses the same ALC892 CODEC as we saw in our last few reviews, employed by Biostar on the P8P67 PRO, the Biostar M5A97 EVO, and by ECS on the P67H2-A2. While the audio performance was fairly decent to our ears, Rightmark Audio Analyzer did show audio quality similar to the other Biostar ALC892 result, a product of the circuit design and other components used in the board's audio loop. These results are very good, and we expect no less from Biostar.
Overclocking with the Biostar TA990FXE was very easy indeed, with the board matching the best maximum clocks we've ever been able to reach with our particular CPU sample. Our maximum memory clocks were quite good as well, with our G.Skill sticks making a near perfect match with our Phenom II X6 1100T, reaching 2040 MHz without a problem.
As you can see in the picture above, the G.Skill sticks match very well with the board's color scheme. So if you pick up this board, be sure to consider these sticks for your shopping list too.
Overclocked Performance Summary
Cinebench provided a substantial performance increase when over clocked, something that resounds true through the entire series of Phenom II-based products.
Likewise, SuperPi 32m results proved the same as Cinebench, with substantial performance increases that are noticed on previous AMD platforms.
WPrime 1024M numbers further the results, showing that there is true power available when overclocking the Biostar TA990FXE.
For a bit of 3D action we fired up CodeMaster's F1 2010 to be impressed with the performance boost offered compared to the other products. This does highlight the weakness of the Phenom II platform, but at the same time, noticing a near 25% performance boost was much more than we expected.
Value & Conclusion
- The Biostar TA990FXE should hit store shelves soon, with a MRSP $129.99.
- Packed with added features not seen on some other products in the same price range.
- Clean, color-themed and traditional layout.
- EFI bios with support for 3 TB+ drives.
- Fully functional UEFI BIOS, including mouse support.
- VRM capable of 300W, near double AMD CPU TDPs.
- Exceptionally low price puts the TA990FXE's offered features as unbeatable for the price.
- Overclocks just as well as many higher-priced products.
- Lack of an included accessory to make use of the USB 3.0 front panel header, and only four SATA cables in the box.
- Crossfire limited by slot configuration, leaving no space between dual VGAs for airflow.
- Not all software fully operational.
- Old-School analogue VRM is not the most efficient, and does put out a fair bit of heat.
||We spent a couple of weeks with the Biostar TA990FXE before beginning our review. During that time we were very impressed with the board's abilities, as we were fully aware of the board's retail pricing @ $129.99. With the pricing in mind, we didn't really expect a lot and were left surprised that there was not one specific area where we could find the board's design limiting our overclocks compared to other products. The slot configuration is definitely not the most ideal and the VRM is not the most efficient, but those are things we are more than willing to accept given the cost.|
For users who want full x16/x16 PCIe support, and are not overclocking, there is no reason to even consider any other product, as the Biostar TA990FXE is quite capable of meeting the needs of such a user 100%. For those wanting a modest overclock and the same PCIe support, the TA990FXE should not be overlooked, as the saving in the board price can be invested in additional cooling that makes the present issues seem inconsequential. It is a bit unfortunate that the full software package is not working, yet we have run into this same issue before with boards we received from Biostar prior to the retail launch, and having recently revisited a few of those products, we are 100% confident that while this is currently an issue, updated software will arrive shortly that makes it a trivial issue at most.
We also did not notice any issues with memory compatibility in the initial BIOS, which is a fantastic thing, as this has been an issue that has plagued Biostar in the past, but as the TA990FXE proves, Biostar is making great strides in that department. Over the past year we've spent a significant amount of time with Biostar products, and for sure, the TA990FXE has won us over. Good job, Biostar!
UPDATE(12/06/2011): Biostar has notified us that SLi support for this product has been added with a BIOS update(99FADB24.BST) available on the product page on Biostar's website.