Between the graphics slots you’ll find two PCI Express x1 slots and the BIOS battery and at the foot of the board there are two PCI slots, USB headers, micro buttons for Power and Reset and colour coded pins for the front panel headers.
Biostar hasn’t included a Firewire port but far worse than that there are only four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel and there are no brackets in the box. This is inadequate as we regard six USB ports as an essential and prefer to see eight ports. Foxconn committed the same sin and we simply cannot understand the reasoning.
We started our testing by plugging in a hard drive that had been running on an Intel motherboard. The drive Plugged and Played happily and we loaded the ATi chipset drivers without any trouble. We couldn’t get our Phenom X4 9850 to overclock and the Biostar also seemed flaky when we raised the memory speed from 800MHz to 1,066MHz which was something of a surprise after the overclocking joy we had experienced with the Foxconn. It was time to get serious so we nuked the hard drive and installed 32-bit Vista Ultimate Edition from scratch but still ran into the same problems time and time again.
The spirit of optimism started to flag as we fiddled around in OverDrive which we had to download from AMD’s website – it is a complete mystery that Biostar and Foxconn don’t include this software on their driver CD.
We switched Cool ‘n Quiet on and off and also toggled through the ACC settings and found that nothing would make the Phenom respond to our overclocking efforts. With ACC disabled the Biostar simply would not overclock but things got more interesting with ACC on Auto. It seemed that we could raise the clock multiplier from 12.5x to 14.5x to give a clock speed of 2.9GHz but things were not as they appeared. You can see in our tests results that the 2.5GHz and 2.9GHz speeds give exactly the same performance. Increasing the memory speed from 800MHz to 1,066MHz resulted in lower performance instead of a healthy increase as we would have expected.
Diving into the BIOS allowed us to increase the not-a-front-side-bus clock from 200MHz but we couldn’t adjust the clock multiplier. Increasing the 200MHz clock to 210MHz led to an immediate system restart so we threw our hands up and gave up with the overclocking.
You’ll see that our CPU-Z identifies the chipset as 780G + SB700 and we noted that BIOS has options for ‘AMD 780 Configuration’. All of which would suggest this board’s BIOS simply needs a bit more tweaking.
On the other hand you have to wonder about the huge price difference between the Biostar and the Foxconn. The cheaper Biostar behaves exactly like a 780G motherboard and refuses to overclock while the expensive Foxconn is a completely different proposition and flies like the wind.
While 790GX was supposed to offer similar performance to 780G but with better overclocking potential, Biostar has proved that the overclocking side of the equation is far from a given. That said, considering its price and the fact there are few other areas for complaint, it’s still worth considering.
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