"Mistakes are the portals of discovery."

This quote by the accomplished Irish author, James Augustine Joyce, describes our experiences with the Biostar TForce4 U 775 motherboard. Biostar has been in existence since 1986 and has a long history of providing generally good products at inexpensive price points. They have branched out recently with video card and SFF products with success. In fact, the majority of Biostar's market success is tied to their ability to quickly deliver product based on current chipsets or designs at bargain pricing. Biostar's products might not be as polished or feature-rich as other manufacturers, but they typically offer mid-range performance at entry level pricing.

The T-series product line currently includes five AMD based products and two Intel based products. This product series is a departure for Biostar as they are catering to the gaming and enthusiast crowd with this product line. The boards feature BIOS enhancements specifically tailored to the casual overclocker along with upgraded hardware components and window's based utilities. More information about the entire line of T-series products can be found here.

The TForce4 U 775 motherboard is based on the recently announced nForce4 Ultra SPP and nForce4 Ultra Intel Edition MCP chipsets. Our initial impression of the motherboard's performance was that of mediocrity and disappointment with a chipset that was designed to compete directly against the excellent Intel 945P. We were harsh in our opinion of the board's performance to Biostar and NVIDIA. In the end, our initial opinion was a mistake and it led to a path of discovery about the performance potential of this chipset and board.

Biostar along with NVIDIA had discovered issues with the original BIOS design and worked together in creating a highly optimized BIOS release that is at the center of the performance results generated by this board. While the performance is nothing less than astounding in certain benchmarks, it is also very average in others. The board has an almost "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" quality about it in configuration, performance, and options.

Once we discovered the right set up, the board's stability was exceptional and delivered impressive results in the latest synthetic and game benchmarks. However, the path that we traveled to find the limits of this board generally resulted in frustration and, at times, agony in the amount of work required to recover from errant settings.

The Self Recovery System (S.R.S.) within the BIOS would allow the system to recover from most errant settings, but we continually experienced random lockups upon entering the BIOS setup screen. These random lockups would require several power down and power up episodes or usage of the clear CMOS jumper. This process might be considered acceptable to an avid enthusiast who is discovering the limits of the board, but it is not for the intended buyer of this product.

The board was not very forgiving if we made a mistake with the settings. We would notice the board performing extremely well in both general applications and benchmarks at a given setting and then completely refuse to boot if we increased the FSB or Memory speeds by a couple of MHz. The majority of boards that we have tested recently would still boot, but would fail a benchmark or generate sporadic results until you finally reached the limit of the board. We attribute this to the Biostar BIOS optimizations and board level design due to cost constraints in meeting the US$95 price target.

Updated Bios Results

Biostar listened to our issues and provided an impressive bios update that has once again transformed this board. Biostar was able to replicate our Self Recovery System (S.R.S.) issues and recently provided bios update, NFUIA210.BST, which has eliminated random lockups once you enter the bios setup screen. This bios also allows for a graceful system recovery once you increase the FSB or Memory speeds past the board's limits for stable operation. We noted the board's overclocking performance and general stability at the increased FSB speeds has also improved. Overall the board feels more responsive and polished in our testing than before. We appreciate Biostar's ability to quickly resolve our reported issues while at the same time improving the board's performance.

The nForce4 Ultra SPP and nForce4 Ultra Intel Edition MCP are newly released chipsets for the mainstream market and will compete directly against the Intel 945P chipset. Unlike the Intel 945P chipset, the nForce4 Ultra SPP offers full support for all Socket 775 processors, including the Extreme Edition units. Further details on the release of this product can be found in our preview article located here.

The chart above lists the standard feature set available when utilizing the NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra SPP and nForce4 Ultra Intel Edition MCP chipsets. The nForce4 Ultra SPP enables full support for 1x16 PCI-E graphics support , up to four x1 PCI-E devices, 4GB memory addressability, and native DDR-2 667MHz memory support. The nForce4 Ultra Intel Edition MCP enables support for 8 USB 2.0 ports, HD Audio with S/PDIF connectors, Gigabit Ethernet, 5 PCI slots, 4 SATA 3.0Gb/s ports, and 4 IDE devices.

Unfortunately, Biostar chose to differentiate these options with AC-97 audio via the Realtek ALC-850 and 10/100Mb/s PCI Ethernet via the Realtek 8201CL PHY.

Let's find out what else we discovered with this board.

Basic Features
POST A COMMENT

31 Comments

View All Comments

  • Calin - Friday, February 17, 2006 - link

    What about sorting the graphs based on the min frame rate?
    :) I guess some people are never happy ;)

    Great job, and a nice article!
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    Once you've owned a passively-cooled motherboard like any of the recent Asus ones, it's hard to even look at one with a fan on it. It also makes shopping for a motherboard a LOT easier because you just cross off all the fan ones right away (unless you're a mod fiend who will actually go through the trouble of buying a chipset cooler or two and rip the fan assembly off the brand new expensive motherboard and hope that cools it well enough).
    I hope more manufacturers take up the passively-cooled trend.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Sunday, February 19, 2006 - link

    I disabled the fan and only witnessed a 2c increase on the MCP. Biostar could have saved a few cents and put towards a Gigabit Lan solution. ;-) Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    Sound and ethernet. Why do companies keep using the realtek junk. bad quality (part and drivers) and juts shows a motherboard company does not care when they use realtek.

    Any time I see realtek on a board I think the sound and even ethernet were a after thought like "Oh we forgot sound. Lets just put the cheapest POS on there. OK"


    COME ON. Good chipset but you come so close then put junk on for sound and so forth.
    Reply
  • Myrandex - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    For me that issue doesn't matter at all. My Sound Blaster Audigy 2 is still doing its job nicely, and getting a nice onboard sound solution still gets disabled all the same. Now for integrated SB Giga-bite ethernet is something that comes into play with my decisions, and I have been real happy with Giga-byte putting ieee1394b controllers on their boards (and am hoping that external HDD 1394B cases fall in price sooner or later). Integrated wireless is a neat feature some boards have as well. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    Realtek does have some really cheap audio and LAN chips, but they also have some pretty decent products. In the High Definition area the ALC882 is a really good audio codec with an excellent feature set that produces decent sound and very low noise. If you go through some recent reviews you will see both Gary and I have praised the Realtek ALC882, which is NOT included on this Biostar board :-) Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    yea but you also go on about bad drivers that are STILL in need fo a update and other issues. So sorry but realtek is still junk in my book. That and with so many other options from VIA's envy, c-media, etc... why use something that has problems and are STILL being addressed today? Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, February 16, 2006 - link

    I agree. Using Realtek for LAN is bad enough, but using a PCI solution? That's unacceptible. Even if you don't care about GbE, the CPU utilization is rediculous! Reply
  • Peter - Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - link

    The RTL8201 is not a PCI ethernet chip, it's just a PHY companion to the chipset's own engine. This is a research error in the article.

    http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/products1-2.asp...">http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/products1-2.asp...

    The abysmal performance rather more likely stems from transmission errors or poor signal quality - which would point to a damaged or poorly laid out board, or bad cabling.

    PHYsical interface chips have zero influence on throughput, as long as signal integrity is being maintained - and as far as that is concerned, Realtek's solution is definitely up to the job. Question is, is the mainboard's layout?
    Reply
  • Peter - Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - link

    ... and of course, we need to keep in mind it's a 10/100 PHY, not a gigabit PHY. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now