Biostar is one of those brands that youâ€™re either familiar with or have never heard of.
It is one of the smaller motherboard manufacturers, but manages to surprise with innovative features now and again. The P4TSE Pro is such a product as it is the first motherboard to our knowledge that incorporates onboard 802.11b wireless LAN.
As wireless networking is becoming more and more popular Biostar has taken the first step towards integrating it at motherboard level. Biostar has used a chipset from Realtek and fitted a proprietary slot that sits in front of the CNR slot on the board. A small riser card is supplied in the box with the motherboard that houses the radio transmitter as well as the physical connection to the antenna.
The antenna is a small flexible rubber unit that can be folded 90 degrees and rotated around its own axel to allow it to be pointed in any direction.
The only disadvantage we can see with this sort of solution is that with increasing speeds of newer wireless technology such as 802.11g, Biostar has been a bit on the conservative side supplying only 802.11b. Nonetheless, 802.11b should be sufficient for most and itâ€™s an affordable solution with a large install base.
The motherboard itself is based on the Intel 865PE chipset like most of the motherboards on test here. Biostar has gone for the ICH5R that gives the board native S-ATA RAID capability. You wonâ€™t however find any Gigabit LAN on the P4TSE Pro, only a standard 10/100Mbit Ethernet controller from Realtek.
The only other real feature of the P4TSE Pro is Firewire, although Biostar has fitted one of the two ports around the back of the motherboard together with the other ports. The second Firewire port comes on a separate bracket.
Sound is provided by a C-Media audio codec and Biostar has supplied an S/PDIF bracket with both optical and electrical outputs. Another bracket with four USB 2.0 ports is also supplied which takes the total count up to eight. We were quite impressed to find round IDE and floppy cables in the box as well as a full set of S-ATA cables and S-ATA power adapters for the two connectors on the board. As an added bonus Biostar supplies a six in one flash memory card reader that can handle Compact Flash Type I/II, Smart Media, Memory Stick, Secure Digital and MultiMedia Card. The card reader connects trough USB but can be used both internally and externally.
The software bundle is also quite good with a copy of Norton Antivirus 2003, Ghost 2003 and Personal Firewall 2003 supplied on a disc. Sadly the manual is not up to standard and offers barley the most basic instructions to get the board up and running. This is something we feel Biostar needs to address, especially if it is to target the consumer market with this kind of product.
The P4TSE Pro came in somewhere around middle of the road in our benchmarks and didnâ€™t stand out. Itâ€™s by no means a slow motherboard, but there are far better boards on test. It is a bit hard to recommend the P4TSE Pro at over Â£136, especially if you compare it to the EPoX board that costs far less. With the price of an 802.11b card from around Â£30 it seems like Biostar has overpriced its board a bit.
Biostar has managed to include some interesting features; sadly the price is way too high for this board. It is however the first motherboard we have ever seen with integrated wireless networking.