- Review Price: £42.00
Finding the right motherboard is always hard, whether you’re looking for a full-on high-end board with all the bells and whistles, or a solid budget buy. The Biostar K8NHA Grand falls into the latter category, being a fairly stripped down nForce3 250 board.
But basic doesn’t always mean bad, as it all depends what you want to use your motherboard for. Being a Socket-754 board the K8NHA Grand is now targeting the Sempron range of processors rather than the Athlon 64. This in turn means that the K8NHA is addressing a user that’s building a low cost PC for basic home/office duties.
Traditionally budget motherboards tended to be pretty poor quality and lacked features that you’d expect as standard. This is where big changes have been made and even pretty basic motherboards come with a decent range of features considering the money you’re paying. Much of this is down to new chipsets with better feature sets and a wide range of decent integrated features.
Looking at the base specifications, it’s clear that Biostar has included all the common features you’d expect to see on a decent motherboard. Turning to the connectors around the back, there are two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, single parallel and serial ports as well as a FireWire port and Ethernet socket. There are also three audio connectors which can be configured in the drivers to support 5.1-channel sound.
The onboard Ethernet adapter is a Gigabit controller, which is something you would have never seen on a budget motherboard a year or so ago. The FireWire controller supports a second port, but you would have to provide your own header as Biostar hasn’t supplied one in the box. There are a further two headers for USB 2.0 ports and Biostar has supplied a bracket with a further two ports. Another bracket with optical and coaxial S/PDIF output is also supplied in the box.
The K8NHA Grand also supports two SATA drives in a RAID 0 or 1 configuration. A further two IDE connectors add support for optical drives and older hard drives. There are only two memory slots, but this isn’t really an issue as the Sempron processors only accept single channel memory. General board layout is fair, with a space between the AGP slot and the first of the five PCI slots to give your graphics card more fresh air. The chipset is covered by a passive heatsink, so there won’t be any extra fan noise coming from there.
Speaking of fans, there are only two fan headers, one for the CPU cooler and one for a front mounted fan, which is on the stingy side. The only other real complaint is the placement of the power connectors, which are behind and slightly below the CPU. This means that the cables will trail across the CPU cooler unless you can tie them to a cross-bar in your case. I have to give Biostar credit where it’s due though – the front panel connectors are clearly labelled and colour coded to make installation as painless as possible.
Apart from the aforementioned brackets Biostar also supplies two SATA cables, an SATA power splitter for two devices, an IDE cable and a floppy cable. Add to this a copy of Norton Internet Security 2004 – which consists of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Personal Firewall, Norton Privacy Control, Norton Intrusion Detection and Norton Parental Control – as well as a copy of Norton Ghost 2003 and you’ve got a decent amount of kit for a low cost board.
However, the manual could do with some improvement, as it lacks some of the detail seen in other documentation. I can accept that certain corners have to be cut when it comes to a low cost motherboard, but the manual is a fairly important part, especially for anyone that’s new to building computers.
The test results might not be awe inspiring, but considering the modest hardware we used to test the board, there is no reason for complaint. Still a SYSmark 2004 score of 146 means that all your standard Windows applications should move along at a pretty decent speed. Now, if you have an old Socket-754 Athlon 64 processor handy, the K8NHA Grand would produce much better numbers than the ones here, but of course getting hold of these older chips will be difficult.
The PCMark 2004 scores are as expected although the hard drive numbers are quite impressive. Obviously the 3DMark scores depend more on your graphics card than any other factor of the setup and the FX5900 XT card used to test the board was never the fastest card around.
This leads us on to the final aspect, the price. I would expect to pay in the region of £50 to £60 for a basic motherboard but the K8HNA Grand will set you back a mere £42.24 which is a real steal. Considering that you get a decent set of features for a very low price this board looks like a very attractive option for anyone looking to build a basic Sempron or Athlon 64 PC. Sure, you can get better motherboards if you’re willing to spend another £20 or £30, but unless you specifically need the extra features that one of those boards offers, then the K8NHA Grand will serve you, well, grand.
The Biostar K8NHA Grand is a great budget buy for anyone looking for a basic motherboard with a solid feature set. It’s not cutting edge, but it will do the job and save you some cash along the way.
The Biostar K8NHA Grand was tested using an AMD Sempron 3100+ CPU, an AOpen Aeolus FX5900XT graphics card, 1GB of Adtec PC3200 DDR SDRAM, a 200GB Seagate hard drive and a 460W Akasa PSU.
Score in detail
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