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Biostar TA 970 Motherboard – PC

Biostar TA 970 Motherboard – PC

Platform: AMD Socket AM3+

Manufacturer: Biostar USA

Release Date: Early 2011

Category: Hardware Reviews

Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Malefico

The Biostar TA970 motherboard, part of the AM3+ family of boards, offers a combination of features and value that make it a good choice for the system builder who’s looking for useful gaming features (including the ability to overclock core components) in a budget, single-GPU system. With the flexibility inherent in the platform, the TA970 ups the ante with plenty of RAM slots, a fast system bus and South Bridge chipset, great audio and LAN features, excellent build quality and modern, UEFI BIOS. Let’s take a closer look at the utility and capabilities of this board.

TA 970 Angle

Hardware

First, the board features an aesthetically pleasing design and looks its part, with a black and red color scheme that will allow builders to match the heat spreaders on their RAM if they desire. The board is well-finished, with brushed aluminum heat sinks to complement the appearance. Like many modern boards, the PCB feels a bit flimsy in comparison to older units. This makes adequate support for the board around areas that will be stressed during install a must. If the builder utilizes an older case, or a contemporary budget case, some fabrication may be required to add mounting points for certain areas of the board (DIMM slots).

The components on the board are of good quality. It features 100% solid capacitors for long life and ESD protection on all the components. However, I was somewhat disappointed that it only has 4 + 1 VRM (Voltage Regulator Module) since it supports overclocking; the VRM is adequate for stock component speeds, but special attention should be paid to cooling if the user plans to overclock. The power delivery system on this board should be considered adequate, not beefy – extended or extreme overclocking could well spell the end of the TA970.

Because it follows the ATX form factor, it’s roomy. TheTA970 is laid out in logical fashion, with system fan, USB and other headers conveniently and predictably placed. If you have a case with a removable bracket, it’s a dream to build on; no clearance problems between RAM and CPU heat sink (even using memory with elaborate spreaders in combination with an aftermarket cooler) and with adequate space to mount a dual-slot form factor GPU and cool it properly.

The TA970 supports Athlon II, Phenom II and FX-series processors. With a 140W TDP rating on the board, the builder has an enormous number of socketable CPUs to choose from. The board will support anything up to and including FX-8000 series chips and so makes a great basis for someone who’s currently using an older CPU but wants to keep their options open. The included UEFI BIOS package works well, and allows for easy system tuning during setup. Even better, the version of the board currently sold has updated BIOS, so ALL supported CPUs will work without the need to flash. Unfortunately, you’ll still need to update BIOS if you want to utilize the UEFI interface from Windows.

RAM support is excellent. The TA970 will recognize up to 64GB DDR3 at speeds up to 2000MHz with overclocking. Although it’s nice to have the option to add that much memory, it’s largely unnecessary as the other board components, notably the PCI-E capabilities, really won’t support that amount of RAM for gaming use. It would, however allow the board to be used in higher-end workstations where gobs of system memory could support taxing productivity applications.

System bus speeds are the fastest available on the AM3+ platform, matching the speed of the 990X/FX-based boards. On the TA970, Biostar chose to utilize the fastest South bridge chipset, AMD’s SB950. The board also features an adequate number (six) of SATA ports, all running standard 3 (6Gbps), two USB 3 and eight onboard USB 2 ports, plus internal headers to account for front ports on a case.

Audio capabilities are quite good. The TA970 uses RealTek’s AC892 audio chip to process audio data, and features onboard ports for up to an 8.1 channel surround setup, great for movies or a more immersive gaming experience.

Important note: The 970 boards have no support for integrated graphics, necessitating the use of a discrete display adapter via the PCI-E bus.

Truly, the main gaming limitation of the 970 boards is the use of the PCI-E 2 standard for GPU slots. The TA970 has two PCI-E 2 slots, but the second is limited to four data lanes. The limitations of second generation PCI-E and the crippled transfer capabilities of the secondary slot make this board a poor choice for dual-GPU setups, or even for a powerful single display adapter although it does support Crossfire configurations for Radeon cards. If you plan on utilizing two or more video cards and want to build with AM3+, you’re much better off with the 990FX chipset. Really, though, if you want to maximize the performance of multiple GPUs (or even one high-end card), you should skip AM3+ and go for a newer AMD platform, or look to one of several capable Intel platforms that make good use of the newer, PCI-E 3 standard.

TA 970 Top

Software

The software suite included with the board is sadly of inconsistent quality, appearance and utility. The SmartSpeed LAN application that allows you to tailor system resources to prioritize games, streaming, browsing and other tasks looks good and works well. By comparison, the included system temperature monitor is woefully inadequate, with a no-frills .net interface and some wildly inaccurate readings (at some points it will register the system temp as low as 7 degrees Celsius or barely 45 degrees fahrenheit!) so plan on utilizing one of several commonly available programs, or even a laser thermometer to accurately gauge your system temperatures.

The UEFI BIOS interface is attractive and allows for fine-tuning of the system to maximize performance. The only drawback is that as mentioned before you’ll have to flash BIOS to use the feature from Windows.

The TA970 allows the user to overclock CPU, GPU and RAM independently via BIOS. As all the supported processors can be overclocked, this is a welcome option to get a bit longer service life out of components before upgrading. Concerning RAM, the user can either use AMD’s AMP memory profiles, or set voltage and timings as desired.

The board also ships with Bio Remote 2, an application that allows the user to control various functions on their PC via a smart phone – iPhone or Android OS is supported. Of course, the owner/builder has to add wi-fi connectivity via a PCI card or USB dongle before the app will function.

SmartEAR is a nifty little utility that allows the user to configure spatial virtualization effects for the headphones. It seems to improve sound quality and separation in some games.

Biostar’s Smartview for IE provides some useful features if you use Microsoft’s browser. It adds a list of frequently visited web pages as well as one’s Facebook friends list and news feeds to the home page. If you’re not a fan of IE, all you get is an unwelcome web games application that features bland puzzle games and an annoying number of advertisements. Installed and quickly uninstalled.

TA 970 Rear

The Verdict

The Biostar TA970 is a full-featured, quality board for a budget gaming or multimedia build. Fast bus speeds, including the South Bridge make it competent for most games; only the inherent graphics limitations prevent me from recommending it for more robust gaming systems.

Provided the user is realistic about graphics performance, and understand what range of cards will work well in a board like this, it’s worth a look. Since 760G/880G boards offer a lower standard of performance overall and are selling for $50-$70, the $80 premium for the TA970 is within reason. It’s not an exceptional value, however, since very capable boards for the newer AMD and Intel architectures have dropped in price and can be had for under $100.

If you’re currently working with an AM3 or AM3+ processor and want to upgrade the board, the TA970 is a fine choice. You get fast bus speeds, SATA 3, limited USB 3 and a full-featured audio sub-system to allow you to step up your game. Paired with a realistic GPU, you’ll have the makings of a system that will handle most games at respectable resolution and smooth frame rates, all with the versatility inherent in the platform. And as mentioned before you’ll end up with a lot of headroom when it comes time to drop in a new CPU.

On the other hand, if you are thinking about going with two video cards, or need to push true HD (or 4K to a big screen), you’re better off relegating your AM3+ system to mainstream duty and investigating a more modern platform.

Your best bet for getting a deal on one of these is to check Newegg and other sites often. It’s often featured as part of AM3+ combos, and that’s how I got mine.

I deducted some points for the need to fabricate mounting points in older/less expensive cases, the lack of PCI-E 3 standard, less-than-bulletproof power delivery and the somewhat uneven quality/utility of included software. Still, the TA970 rates a solid 7.5 out of 10.

TA970 Specifications

The factory web page, including specs, pics, features, complete CPU and memory support info, plus driver and utility downloads, is here.

Chipset AMD 970 / SB950
CPU SUPPORT AMD FX™ Processor
AMD Phenom™ II X6 Processor
AMD Phenom™ II X4 Processor
AMD Phenom™ II X3 Processor
AMD Phenom™ II X2 Processor
AMD Athlon™ II X4 Processor
AMD Athlon™ II X3 Processor
AMD Athlon™ II X2 Processor
AMD Sempron™ Processor
Maximum CPU TDP (Thermal Design Power) : 140Watt
HT Support HT 4.8G
MEMORY Support Dual Channel DDR3 2000(OC)/1866/1600/1333/1066/800 MHz
4 x DDR3 DIMM Memory Slot
Max. Supports up to 64GB Memory
EXPANSION SLOT 2 x PCI-E x16 2.0 Slot (x16, x4)
2 x PCI-E x1 2.0 Slot
2 x PCI Slot
STORAGE 6 x SATA3 Connector
Support SATA RAID: 0,1,5,10
USB ASMedia ASM1042 A4 USB 3.0 controller
2 x USB 3.0 Port
6 x USB 2.0 Port
2 x USB 2.0 Header
LAN Realtek RTL8111F – 10/100/1000 Controller
MULTI GRAPHICS AMD CrossFireX
CODEC Realtek ALC892 8-Channel Blu-ray Audio
REAR I/O 1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
2 x USB 3.0 Port
6 x USB 2.0 Port
1 x RJ-45 Port
6 x Audio Connector
INTERNAL I/O 1 x Printer Header
2 x USB 2.0 Header
6 x SATA3 6Gb/s Connector
1 x Front Audio Header
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x S/PDIF-OUT Header
1 x CPU FAN Header
2 x System FAN Header
1 x Serial Header
1 x CIR Header
H/W Monitoring CPU / System Temperature Monitoring
CPU / System Fan Monitoring
Smart / Manual CPU Fan Control
System Voltage Monitoring
DIMENSION ATX Form Factor Dimension: 30.5cm x 22.5cm ( W x L )
OS SUPPORT Support Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8
Bundle Software BIO-Remote2
BIO-Remote
Smart Speed LAN
ACCESSORIES 2 x SATA Cable
1 x I/O Shield
1 x DVD Driver
1 x User Manual
FEATURES Windows 8 Ready
Supports uEFI GUI Interface BIOS
Supports AOD ACC
Supports 100% Solid capacitor
Supports BIOS-Flasher
Supports Charger Booster
Supports BIOS Online Update

Written by Nerd Bacon

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