Biostar TPower N750

May 28th, 2008 | By

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Biostar TPower N750


Date
: 05/28/08 – 04:30:22 AM

Author
:

Category
: Motherboard


Page 1 : Index

Manufacturer:
Biostar

Price:
$159.99 US

Lately AMD users have had little choice as of late if they wanted to run multi-GPU setups with PCI-Express 2.0, unless they were running ATi-based cards in CrossFireX. This changes as NVIDIA has released the latest in the 7xx series of chipsets for AMD that not only support SLI, but also NVIDIA's Hybrid SLI technology.

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We are once again visited by Biostar here at Overclockers Online with another motherboard aiming to strike a balance with plenty of features at a fair price. The T-Power N750 SLI is the first in the new T-Power series of motherboards from Biostar. The T-Power series aims to further expand the enthusiast appeal of the T-Series motherboards with more advanced hardware features and software.


Page 2 : Package and Accessories

I'll begin our tour with the package and accessories.

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Not quite noticeable in the pictures but the first thing that struck me about the box was its size. The package is black with a large T prominently displayed informing you that this board falls under the T-Power line of Biostar motherboards. The back of the box highlights some features and gives you a small picture of the board itself. Also included is a screenshot of the T-Power2 software. Not really seen in these photos is the plastic handle at the top to help with carrying the box.

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Removing the outer covering reveals a white box with two compartments. Hidden inside these compartments are all of the accessories.

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The T-Power N750 SLI certainly doesn't skimp on accessories. Included are six SATA data cables, six 4-pin Molex-to-SATA power adapters and an SLI bridge in one side. In the other side is an instruction manual, a driver/software CD, I/O plate, IDE cable, DVI-to-HDMI adapter, SPDIF bracket and an SLI bridge support bracket.

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Removing that section reveals the motherboard encased below in an antistatic bag with space on all sides to protect the board. There is plenty of protection for the N750a nestled inside and clearly the reason for the larger size of the box.


Page 3 : Features and Specifications

The heart of any motherboard is the chipset, and the Biostar T-Power N750 is powered by the NVIDIA NForce 750a SLI MCP. This recently released chipset is part of a family of chipsets that support the latest AMD Phenom processors and NVIDIA's Hybrid SLI technology. Hybrid SLI entails two different technologies; GeForce Boost and HybridPower. GeForce Boost is an SLI technology that essentially allows you to SLI your onboard graphics with either an 8400 GS or 8500 GT video card through the PCI-E bus. HybridPower allows power saving through the use of onboard graphics during non-3D applications and using your discreet graphics card during heavy 3D applications. Currently only the 9800GX2 and 9800GTX cards support this technology.

For specifications and features I grabbed them straight from Biostar's site here.

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CPU SUPPORT
AMD Phenom X4
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor
AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core Processor
AMD Athlon 64 FX Processor
AMD Athlon 64 Processor
AMD Sempron Processor

HT
Support HT 5.2G

MEMORY
Support Dual Channel DDR2 533/667/800/1066 MHz
4 x DDR2 DIMM Memory Slot
Max. Supports up to 16GB Memory
*It is recommended to use those Validated DDR2-1066 modules suggested by AMD

EXPANSION SLOT
3 x PCI Slots
1 x PCI-E x1 2.0 Slot
2 x PCI-E x16 2.0 Slot (SLI x8)

STORAGE
6 x SATA2 3Gb/s Connector (Chipset limitation, SATA5 and SATA6 do not support SATA mode, only support AHCI+RAID mode)
1 x IDE Connector
Support SATA RAID: 0,1,5,0+1

USB
4 x USB 2.0 Port
3 x USB 2.0 Header

GbE
Realtek RTL8111C – 10/100/1000 Controller

INTEGRATED VIDEO
NVIDIA nForce750a SLI Chipset

CODEC
Realtek ALC888S 8+2 Channel HD Audio

REAR I/O
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
4 x USB 2.0 Port
1 x DVI Connector
1 x RJ-45 Port
6 x Audio Connector

INTERNAL I/O
3 x USB 2.0 Header
6 x SATA2 3Gb/s Connector
1 x IDE Connector
1 x Floppy Connector
1 x Front Audio Header
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x CD-IN Header
1 x S/PDIF-OUT Header
1 x CPU FAN Header
2 x System FAN Header
1 x Printer Header

DIMENSION
ATX Form Factor Dimension: 30.5cm x 24.4cm ( W x L )

OS SUPPORT
Support Windows XP / XP 64 / Vista / Vista 64

ACCESSORIES
1 x IDE Cable
6 x SATA Cable
6 x SATA Power Cable
1 x S/PDIF Cable
1 x SLI Connector
1 x I/O Shield
1 x CD Driver
1 x User Manual
1 x DVI to HDMI adapter
1 x DIY Thermal Kit (Optional)

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Not included in the kit is the optional DIY Thermal Kit which attaches to the heatpipe assembly for additonal cooling.


Page 4 : Layout

We have examined the package and the feature set, so let's dig into the meat of the board. Time to begin our tour of the board itself and the layout of components.

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At first glance it's not a bad layout, but there are a couple things of concern. The main points I see at first glance is the close proximity of the memory slots and first PCI-E slot to the CPU socket. While this won't be an issue with the stock heatsink, larger aftermarket heatsinks could pose some problems. You can see the two holes on top of the heatpipe assembly behind the CPU socket, this is where the optional fan assembly attaches for additional cooling.

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I'm going to start next to the CPU socket and work our way around to view the layout and components. Here we have the 24-pin ATX power connector along with the one IDE connector. Next to the power connector is a 4-pin CPU fan header. To the left of the power plug are the LED status indicators to aid in troubleshooting any system issues.

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Moving counterclockwise to the upper left hand corner is the 8-pin motherboard power connector and another fan header.

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The rear I/O panel includes PS/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard, DVI for onboard video, six total USB 2.0 ports, gigabit LAN and the 7.1 audio connections.

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Moving down a bit, you can see the additional 4-pin Molex connector for additional PCI-E power located just below the first PCI-E slot. Here also is the LAN controller, the Realtek RTL8111C. Located between the two PCI-E slots are the jumpers to enable SLI. The jumpers enable the second PCI-E slot, however both slots run at x8 rather than the x16 the first slot runs at in single slot mode. Also situated in between the two x16 slots is the lone x1 PCI-E slot.

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On down towards the bottom are the three PCI slots, with the Realtek ALC888S audio controller to the left. Lined along the bottom are the connectors for front audio, CD in, SPDIF in and two SPDIF out. Also included are a printer port and serial port should you need it for legacy devices.

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Along the bottom right is where most of the onboard connections reside. There are three USB headers, allowing for plenty of expandability for even the most USB device thirsty users. Six SATA II, floppy and a color coded front panel round out the connections. Always welcome features are the built-in power and reset buttons, and it's nice to see these included. This is also where the Super I/O chipset sits, the ITE 8718F. This controls the HW monitoring, BIOS functions and fan speed controllers.

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Removing the heatpipe assembly, it is nice to see that all of the PWM MOSFETs make good contact with the heatsink assembly. Hidden beneath the lower portion is the NF750A SLI chipset.

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Lastly here is a shot of the backside of the T-Power N750. Nothing hidden on the back to cause any issues, but you can see that it uses ten mounting holes. This brings us to a nice segue into installation.


Page 5 : Installation

As I mentioned earlier the close proximity of the first PCI-E x16 slot and the memory were a concern with larger heatsinks.

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As you can see, the Thermalright Ultima-90 comes extremely close to the backside of the video card. There is less than .5′ of space, which makes me quite wary of contact. No let up on the other side as the first memory slot also touches the heatpipes on the Ultima-90. This is kind of disappointing to see the layout get hampered in this way.

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The Zalman CNPS7500-Cu LED fares pretty much the same, with just a small space between it and the back of the video card. The memory fares a little better as it actually doesn't quite make any contact with the memory in the first slot.

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Aside from the closeness to the heatsink, the only issues were dealing with routing of cables in the CM Cosmos 1000, though this is due to the PSU being mounted in the bottom. Cable length wasn't an issue, so it shouldn't pose any issues with most setups. Everything is installed, now its time to fire things up.


Page 6 : BIOS

The BIOS is the first stop after getting the system installed. I'm going to walk through most of the main screens.

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Biostar uses a BIOS by AMI, and starting off we have the main screen with time/date settings and IDE configuration.

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Next up is the Advanced screen, containing sub menus for the onboard peripherals and system health functions.

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PCI/PnP settings come next in line.

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Boot order settings.

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Chipset menu, this is where you setup and configure the onboard video and Hybrid SLI functions.

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And finally the T-Power menu, the meat and potatoes for any overclocker. There are three settings: normal, automatic and manual overclocking. There are three presets for the automatic settings. The automatic settings are meant for users that aren't quite familiar with overclocking and offer basic bumps up in performance. I will delve into these settings a bit more later on. With manual settings enabled, many options are opened up to please most overclockers. CPU voltage options from 0.8V up to 1.35V with overvoltage options in 0.05V increments up to 0.65V. RAM voltage options proceed up to 3.3V. Bus speed options proceed up to 500 with multipliers going up to 25x should you have an unlocked processor.

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Finally ending with the exit menu where the CMOS backup function lies. There are 10 available slots to save and load BIOS settings.


Page 7 : Overclocking and Software

Below are the system specifications that will be used for testing.

CPU: Athlon64 5000+ Black Edition
RAM: Mushkin 2x1GB PC8500
GPU: Biostar 9600GT (ForceWare 174.16)
PSU: Ultra X3 600W
HD: Seagate 1TB SATA
DVD-ROM: LG 18x DVD Burner – SATA
Case: CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000

Motherboards:
Biostar T-Power N750
Foxconn N570SM2AA

All benchmarks were run a minimum of three times with scores being the average of those three runs.

6 – Overclocking and Software

As I mentioned earlier, the T-Power N750 comes with the latest version of Biostar's overclocking utility called T-Power 2.

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As we have seen in the past, the T-Power program is a bit busier looking than it needs to be. There are four different functions: OC Tweaker, BIO-watch, eHOT-Line and Biostar Flash. The eHOT-Line button creates an easy to use utility to contact tech support. Biostar Flash allows for easy flashing of the BIOS from within Windows. I will go into a little more detail with the BIO-watch and OC Tweaker sections next.

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Clicking on the BIO-watch button expands the utility into a large robotic looking figure. The BIO-watch feature gives you readings on various system voltage readings, temperatures and clock speeds. Clicking on the Settings button, brings you to a panel to set up fan speeds based on CPU temperatures.

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The OC Tweaker panel, allows you to overclock your system and your video card, but the video card adjustments only works with NVIDIA 8xxx series cards. As you can see the CPU speed sometimes does not show the correct CPU speed. You can also use the automatic overclocking feature here, with options from V3 all the way up to V12.

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I used the BIOS to try out the automatic overclocking features, and as you can see all these settings do is raise the bus speed. System voltages are left alone and as such my system would not even boot into Windows on the V12 setting and would BSOD.

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After many restarts and countless blue screens, I reached an overclock of 3.08GHz. Nothing too spectacular though I think given some more time I could coax it higher. In the interest of time I am using this overclock, and I will say that I don't feel the Biostar N750A kept this back at all with plenty of headroom in settings and adjustments.


Page 8 : Memory Benchmarks

Time to begin testing, and we will start with some memory benchmarks.

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I'll begin with Lavalys Everest Ultimate Edition memory benchmark. Memory latency is equal, though I really expected the newer 750A SLI chipset to perform better in the bandwidth portion. It took an overclock to pass up the stock settings on the older 570 SLI chipset on the Foxconn board, though it still lagged behind in the Read portion even with the overclock.

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Next up is ScienceMark 2.0's memory benchmark, which is consistent with the results from the Lavalys benchmark.

With the memory benchmarks wrapped up, let's move on to some more system wide related benchmarks.


Page 9 : System Benchmarks

Next I am going to move into some system benchmarks.

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First up is a synthetic benchmark, PCMark05. We can see that results show the 570 SLI again with a slight edge at stock settings. Also you can notice that the onboard video severely hampers the system in this benchmark, showing that this benchmark obviously relies heavily on the video processing power.

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The disparity between the memory benchmarks seems to disapper with the Primordia and Molecular Dynamics calculations. Looking at the numbers here, it's a pretty tight race between the two boards.

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Now its time to hit up SiSoft Sandra's CPU benchmarks. First up is the multimedia test, which continues the even marks between the two boards.

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Next up with SiSoft Sandra's arithmetic tests, we once again see that both systems are on equal footing.

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To finish up the system benchmarks, I used HDTach's hard drive benchmark to measure the performance of the integrated SATA controller. Results are as even as you can get with Average Read and Random Access, but the T-Power N750 takes a clear lead in Burst Speed tests.

This wraps up the system benchmarks and next I will delve into some gaming oriented benchmarks.


Page 10 : 3D Benchmarks

Now it's time to delve into the gaming benchmarks to see what the N750A gives us.

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First up are the Futuremark 3DMark benchmarks (man that's a lot of 'marks':D ). Looking at the memory and system benchmarks, I really expected the Biostar T-Power N750 SLI to lag behind, but I was pleasantly surprised as it beat the Foxconn 570 SLI across the board with a discreet graphics card. The onboard vide might be DX10 capable, but it obviously is lacking in any horsepower needed for games as it scored extremely low.

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Moving on to some actual in-game benchmarks, we can see that aside from the Half Life 2: Lost Coast results, the T-Power N750 board comes out on top. There is a pretty large increase in Company of Heroes and a 3 FPS jump in Crysis, and with Crysis every FPS counts. Results here pretty much mirror the results of the 3DMark results and show that the Biostar board is ahead in 3D performance.


Page 11 : Conclusions

After all of the dust has settled, I really have mixed feelings about the T-Power N750. The memory bandwidth performance numbers are perplexing, as I'm surprised an older chipset outperforms it at stock settings. Also for a board aimed at enthusiasts, the close proximity of the first PCI-E and memory slots to the CPU are kind of a letdown. While neither of the heatsinks I tested touched the video card, they are not the largest heatsinks on the market by far.

However, there are quite a few positives as the game benchmarks showed a lot of positive results. The T-Power N750 comes loaded with features and accessories. BIOS options leave nothing to be desired by even the most adventurous overclocker, giving a solid platform for AMD fans. I love the package of accessories and software included and NVIDIA finally brings PCI Express 2.0 support to SLI configs for AMD CPUs. While onboard video is less than stellar, adding a high end video card will allow for some energy savings.

All of the features and accessories make for a solid offering at an affordable price for an SLI capable motherboard.

Positives

  • Solid game performance

  • Hybrid SLI support
  • Full of accessories

Negatives

  • PCI-E and memory layout

  • Poor memory bandwidth performance

Overclockers Online would like to thank Biostar for supplying the T-Power N750 for review.

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