We heard some scary news about the new Biostar TPower I45 some weeks before our review sample arrived from Taipei. According to 7880.html Nordic Hardware, an Australian by the name of youngpro has run the TPower I45 with a front side bus of 724MHz which raised the clock speed of a Core 2 Duo from 3.16GHz to just over 5GHz. There's no mention of the voltage settings or cooling system that he employed but those numbers certainly raised our expectations.
Once the motherboard arrived our initial impressions of the TPower I45 were mixed as it looks rather dull. The passive cooling system that links the Northbridge and power regulation looks perfectly competent but doesn't have the bling quality that you get with the MSI P45 Platinum. The PCI, PCI Express and memory slots are coloured in rather boring tones of green and orange, the power and reset micro buttons look cheap and nasty and the POST code display is rather basic, though they are still welcome extras for a relatively cheap board.
Those are fairly minor points but first impressions count and as you look more closely at the TPower I45 you'll spot other aspects of the design that will cause you to raise a quizzical eyebrow. The floppy connector is at the foot of the motherboard below the bottom-most PCI slot, which is a common sin that is admittedly becoming less of a problem as we move away from floppy drives. There's no way that the IDE connector should be located at the bottom of the board near the header connections, though -especially when there's plenty of room next to the main power connection. We also reserve a special touch of annoyance for the micro buttons as they only light up once you press the power button to start the PC. Why can't they light up when the mains power is turned on so you can spot them inside your case?
There's one final quirk of the layout that looks completely out of place on a P45 design. Between the two PCI Express graphics slots you can see eight red blocks that look as though they might be lights but in fact they are jumpers. If you want to change from a single graphics card with 16 lanes of PCIe 2.0 to CrossFire on two slots with eight lanes each then you have to move all eight jumpers. It's not the sort of job that you'll perform more than once or twice in the life of your PC but even so it's a surprisingly primitive system compared to other motherboards that use a digital switch.
Biostar supplies a bracket with coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs to expand the six mini jacks on the I/O panel but these hardly make up for the otherwise basic connectivity of the rest of the board. There are two PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard, Gigabit LAN and two eSATA ports. You only get six USB 2.0 ports where we prefer eight or more however they are arranged in three widely spaced pairs which does at least make them very accessible. Particularly strangely, there are no Firewire ports or headers for case-mounted ports.