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Biostar TA870+ - BIOS & Overclocking
Biostar offers a clean and logical BIOS on the TA870+, which while lacking a few of the more obscure additions of some competitors offers everything you're likely to need. Aside from the usual options, including a dedicated PCIPnP menu, the two places of interest for enthusiasts are Advanced and T-Series. Under Advanced you'll find non-overclocking CPU settings; the Smart Fan Configurator, which deserves praise for its flexibility; and Hardware Health, which allows you to monitor temperatures and voltages.
Unsurprisingly, the T-Series menu contains features reserved for Biostar's relatively high-end T-series boards. Perhaps the most desirable of these is BIO-unlocKING (yes, cheesiest use of capitals ever), the equivalent to Asus' Core Unlocking. If you're lucky in your processor choice, this will re-enable one of the 'binned' cores on some AMD CPUs, potentially turning a dual core chip into a tri-core, or a tri-core into a quad, etc..
Unlike the Asus M4A89GTD Pro/USB3, the TA870+'s BIO-unlocKING didn't activate the fourth core on our Phenom II X3 720 – but then this core wasn't functional after being activated on the Asus anyway, so perhaps Biostar's system is just less optimistic than its competitor's. However, what was very odd was that BIO-unlocKING asked us to unlock the third core (before attempting to unlock the fourth), which was obviously already unlocked on the tri-core Phenom II X3. Just keep in mind that core unlocking is always going to be a bit of a lottery.
The other T-Series menu functionality consists of overclocking using the Overclock Navigator. This allows for three automatic OC settings, called V6-, V8- and V12-Tech Engine. Impressively, V12 performed nearly on par with Asus' CPU Level on the M4A89GTD Pro/USB3, bringing our Phenom X4 810 up from its stock 2,600MHz to 3,120MHz (V6 overclocked to a more modest 2,860MHz). Unfortunately, the TA870+ wasn't completely stable at these settings, though it remained rock solid at V8's 2,990MHz.
One unusual feature is that the freeware Memtest86+ (which scans your memory for faults or corruptions) comes integrated into the Biostar's BIOS, and you can configure it to run when your PC starts. Obviously you can just download it from the net for free but it's handy to have it accessible at this level (i.e. without requiring a hard drive or internet connection), especially when using the board in a fresh build.
The BIOS' only real disadvantage, and then only for some, is that it doesn't support multiple profiles. There is a configuration backup option, though, so you can save a single set of tweaked stable settings in addition to the default and active profiles to give you a bit of leeway.