It's been a good six months since we last saw a Biostar motherboard. That was the relatively cheap and cheerful TA790GX A2+ that left us uninspired. This week we've got a Biostar TPower X58A motherboard for Core i7 CPUs, which takes us out of the realms of cheap and cheerful as the price is close to £200.
There are two versions of the Biostar X58; there's the high-end TPower X58 which costs £215-£218 or you can save £15 and choose the TPower X58A that we're reviewing. The difference in specification between the two models is fairly small as most of the features are shared by both motherboards. They both have three long PCI Express slots that support both CrossFire and SLI although things aren't quite as simple as they appear. Sure, you get dual x16 PCIe 2.0 slots but the third slot only supports four lanes of PCI Express 2.0 so we're not really talking about triple graphics slots.
Most of the features are provided by the X58/ICH10R chipset so there are six memory slots that support DDR3 memory up to 1866MHz in triple channel mode and six SATA II connectors with Intel RAID. You will recall that X58 doesn't support PATA optical drives so every motherboard manufacturer under the sun adds a controller and Biostar has plumped for the JMB363 which supports an ATA133 connector as well as two eSATA ports on the I/O panel. That's a reasonable choice as you surely don't need more than six SATA ports. However, to include two eSATA ports on the I/O panel seems a little overzealous.
The back panel is also home to eight USB 2.0 ports which is a goodly number but you don't get any brackets in the box to plug into the two USB headers on the board so you'll have to use case mounted ports for card readers, mobile phones and the like. What we would have liked, of course, is a Firewire port or two but that requires an upgrade to the TPower X58 which comes with a Firewire port, a header for a second Firewire port, a second Gigabit Ethernet port and heatpipes to link the coolers on the chipset.
We mentioned that you don't get a USB bracket in the package but the fact is that you get very little besides the motherboard. There's an SLI bridge but no CrossFire bridge, one IDE cable and four SATA cables. £200 really doesn't go far these days.
Another quirk of the Biostar X58A is its name which is, in full, the Biostar TPower X58A v5.0 and we have no idea where that version 5 at the end comes from. We're waiting to hear from Biostar on the subject but one thing is for sure, we doubt that there have been four earlier versions of any Core i7 motherboard on the planet.
Plugging the Biostar together is a pleasingly rapid process as the layout is very good indeed. The power connectors are at the edge of the board, the six SATA ports are laid down and the passive heatsinks on the chipset and power regulation hardware are reasonably low in height and don't get in the way of your CPU cooler.