We were unimpressed by the bizarre shades of off-white and orange that Biostar has used on the memory slots and SATA connectors. The orange and lime green combo on the expansion slots also leaves us cold. These are cosmetic issues and the layout of the board is perfectly acceptable despite the crowded nature of the TPower I55 and the general sense of busyness.
Curious colour scheme
This feeling extends to the Bios which is packed with an array of features that can get rather confusing. For instance, the SpeedStep and Turbo Mode settings are hidden away under Intel PPM Configuration, and the SPD information for each module of memory is to be found within the grandly titled Biostar Memory Insight section.
Biostar supplies overclocking features in the O.N.E. (Over-Clocking Navigator Setting) section, which has Normal, Auto and Manual options.
Auto gives you three choices called V6-, V8- and V12-Tech Engine. However, the Bios doesn’t tell you the proposed clock speeds until you save and restart. We found that V6 raises the base clock to 135MHz for a CPU speed of 2.97GHz; V8 is 140MHz and 3.08GHz; and the fastest, V12 setting gives a base speed of 145MHz and a clock speed of 3.19GHz.
Those settings are very modest, as our Core i7 870 will overclock to 3.98GHz. Unfortunately, the Biostar system blue screened on each of the three settings.
We resorted to manual overclocking and got the speed up to 3.63GHz but were unable to find an option for setting QPI/IMC voltage and feel that this held us back in our efforts.
Something to bear in mind if you're planning on serious overclocking is that all of these mobos use Foxconn sockets - dodgy pin contact and risk of burning up your shiny new i7.
On the plus side, all of the new Gigabyte P55A boards use Lotes sockets. DFI are also going Lotes exclusively, and EVGA have said they'll replace anything that burns up. On the other hand, Asus have said socket burn is excluded under their warranty (and deny condoning overclocking). MSI boards are actually built by Foxconn, so no luck their either.
Bone to pick
What is it with every tech review site and their failure to include warranty data? Before I purchase anything, I want to see what faith the manufacturer places in its product. On that note, perhaps you would include a review of an EVGA board next time? (10 year warranty: putting their money where their mouths are)
ASUS seems to limp on chipset cooling
That Asus chipset cooler seems pretty marginal, which fits in with my experience. The last couple MBs had huge northbridge heatsinks and tiny southbridge ones, so the southbridge was like grabbing a lit lightbulb, where the northbridge & CPU were fine. I had to buy my own southbridge cooler.
I'll take the huge ugly heatpipe setups for 100, Bob!
As if watercooling ever had anything to do with merit over expense/complication :-) Generally speaking it's put on there for bragging rights, a strive for absolute silence, overclocking beyond sane levels and a case of more money than sense!
When you're doing it properly, there can be no fans involved at all - external radiators (Zalman Reserator series), full heatsinks for CPU & GPU, so no residual airflow from graphics cards either.
Just waiting for this nutter's idea to become standardised - watercooled PSUs:
Insurance claim just waiting to happen!
Intel DP55KG Bluetooth
I didn't mention Bluetooth on the Intel board for a nmber of reasons.
1) The word count on each review is very tight so I stuck to what I considered to be the highlights and I am baffled by the appeal of a wireless technology on a desktop PC. For the record the DP55KG also has infra-red.
2) The antenna for the Bluetooth radio is a horrid fiddly thing that clips into place and then attaches inside your PC case using double sided tape.
3) There are no dedicated Intel drivers for the Bluetooth and you rely on Microsoft for the installation. In my opinion this is never ideal.
4) The Bluetooth doesn't appear to work. Or at least my phone cannot see it which boils down to the same thing. as there is no software on the PC and no way to configure the device. The drivers simply say 'Bluetooth' so I have no idea whether it is working but not broadcasting publicly or broken or what. As the drivers are Microsoft I shall wait for Rev. 3 and see if it bursts into life.