Let’s take a look at the TA880GB+, an entry-level microATX socket AM3 motherboard from Biostar for AMD processors, based on the AMD 880G chipset, featuring four memory sockets and HDMI output.
We have already posted a detailed comparison between AMD chipsets with integrated video. In summary, the AMD 880G chipset is based on the Radeon HD 4250 graphics engine, which is a slower version of the graphics engine used on the AMD 890GX (Radeon HD 4290). Usually, the AMD 890GX uses the SB850 south bridge chip (which supports SATA-600 ports), while the AMD 880G uses the SB710 south bridge, which supports only SATA-300 ports. Although some motherboards combine the AMD 880G north bridge with the SB850 south bridge, the TA880GB+ uses the standard SB710 south bridge.
As you may know by now, on systems with integrated video the video memory is achieved by stealing part of the main RAM. Chipsets from AMD have a feature called SidePort, which is an optional memory chip soldered on the motherboard in order to provide dedicated video memory to the graphics chip. The portrayed motherboard doesn’t have this feature.
In Figure 1, you have an overall look at the Biostar TA880GB+ motherboard.
Figure 1: The Biostar TA880GB+ motherboard
The AMD 880G north bridge chip has 22 PCI Express x1 lanes (the same number used on AMD 870 and AMD 890GX chipsets), with seven internal engines to control them (AMD 890GX has eight engines). The Biostar TA880GB+ comes with only one PCI Express x16 slot and two standard PCI slots. The manufacturer could have installed at least one PCI Express x1 slot on this motherboard. If a dual-slot video card is installed in the PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” one of the standard PCI slots.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
Currently, the integrated memory controller from socket AM3 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture. However, according to Biostar, the TA880GB+ supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz through overclocking. This motherboard has four DDR3 sockets, and since each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB each, you can have up to 16 GB.
The first and second sockets are red, while the third and fourth are white. In order to achieve maximum performance, you should install either two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them on sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.
Figure 3: Memory sockets; install either two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The AMD 880G chipset is a dual-chip solution; the SB710 is the southbridge chip used on the TA880GB+. The motherboard provides all of the six SATA-300 ports supported by the chipset. These ports support RAID 0, 1, and 10. Those SATA-300 ports are placed at one of the corners of the motherboard, as you can see in Figure 4. At the side of the SATA ports, you can also see two LEDs that show debug information, in case of there are any start-up problems.
The portrayed motherboard doesn’t have a parallel ATA port or a floppy disk port.
The TA880GB+ has 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and six through three headers located on the motherboard. There are no USB 3.0 ports.
No FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided.
This motherboard uses an eight-channel codec, the Realtek ALC892, but it provides only six-channel analog audio. Maybe eight-channel audio is available through the SPDIF header of this motherboard, but we couldn’t confirm this. Finally, Realtek is disclosing the specifications of this chip, which include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog input.
The TA880GB+ doesn’t have on-board SPDIF outputs, but you can add an optical and/or coaxial SPDIF outputs or route digital audio to your video card in order to have digital audio in its HDMI output by using the motherboard “JSPDIFOUT1” header. It’s a shame that the analog audio 5.1 connectors are shared with the line in and mic in inputs, which means that you will “kill”" those inputs if you need to connect an analog 5.1 speaker system to your computer.
The Biostar TA880GB+ has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, four USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and shared analog 5.1 audio outputs.
Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel
As you can see, this motherboard comes with three different kinds of video connectors, but the HDMI and DVI ports cannot be used at the same time.
Other features present on the TA880GB+ include the presence of legacy serial and parallel ports (available through headers on the motherboard, but the motherboard doesn’t come with the adapters to use them), and a core unlocking feature, which allows you to unlock hidden cores from certain AMD CPUs (if you are lucky enough to have a CPU with hidden cores). There is also a power on and a reset button on the motherboard.
In Figure 6, you can see the accessories that come with the motherboard: SATA cables, case rear plate, drivers CD, and a SATA power adapter.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The Biostar TA880GB+ comes with a four-phase voltage regulator circuit. Of the four available phases, three are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD, a.k.a. Vcore)
, while the other one is used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller, the HyperTransport controller, and the L3 memory cache (VDDNB). Therefore, this motherboard has a “3+1” configuration.
In Figure 9, you can see the voltage regulator circuit.
Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit
Although this motherboard uses an entry-level voltage regulator, it uses solid capacitors and ferrite coils. If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The TA880GB+ provides several overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available with the 2.61 BIOS.
- CPU reference clock: From 200 MHz to 600 Hz in increments of 1 MHz
- CPU voltage: Offset from 0 V to +1.450 V in increments of 0.05 V
- Memory controller voltage (VDDNB): Offset from 0 V to +0.200 V in increments of 0.05 V
- Memory voltage: From 1.35 V to 1.84 V in increments of 0.03 V
- North bridge (chipset) voltage: From 1.20 V to 1.35 V in increments of 0.05 V
- Hypertransport voltage: From 1.20 V to 1.32 V in increments of 0.05 V
In addiction, memory timings can be also tweaked.
Figure 10: Memory timings options
Figure 11: Memory timings options (Cont’d)
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Biostar TA880GB+ motherboard include:
- Socket: AM3
- Chipset: AMD 880G + SB710
- Super I/O: ITE IT8721
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, and 10)
- External SATA: None
- USB: 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- On-board video: Yes, Radeon HD 4250 engine running at 560 MHz (40 processing cores)
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 KHz sampling rate for both the inputs and outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs), but this motherboard has only six-channel analog audio jacks
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, connected to the system through a PCI Express x1 lane
- Buzzer: No
- Power supply required: ATX12V
- Slots: One PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot and two standard PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 16 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Infrared Interface: No
- Extra Features: CPU core unlocking, legacy serial and parallel port, POST diagnostics LEDs
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities
- More Information: https://www.biostar.com.tw
- Average Price in the US*: USD 75.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
This is a “First Look” article, but you can check the performance of AMD 880G chipset in our Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard Review. Traditionally motherboards based on the same chipset achieve the same performance level. As with any integrated video solution, the on-board video of the Biostar TA880GB+ isn’t powerful enough for playing the most recent games in high quality. However, you may be able to play high-definition videos and even play older games at lower image settings.
The Biostar TA880GB+ is a value socket AM3 motherboard that can be an interesting option for users willing to build a very entry-level PC and who don’t mind not having the latest technologies such as USB 3.0 and SATA-600. On the other hand, the TA880GB+ supports the latest AMD CPUs and it has four memory sockets, making a future memory upgrade cheaper (since you don’t need to replace your current memory modules, but just add new ones). Thanks to the DirectX 10.1 on-board graphics, HDMI output, and the microATX form factor, it is also an option for building inexpensive HTPCs (Home Theater PCs).
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