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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Let’s take a look at one of the first socket LGA1155 motherboards that will reach the market, the Biostar TP67XE, based on the forthcoming P67 chipset for future Intel processors based on the “Sandy Bridge” architecture. The TP67X2 is a mainstream model, with two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, two USB 3.0 ports, two SATA-600 ports, and a very good voltage regulator circuit.

The next-generation Intel CPUs, codenamed “Sandy Bridge,” will be released in January, 2011, and will use a new socket, called LGA1155 or “socket LGA1155.” To match this new CPU generation Intel will launch two chipsets, the H67 and P67. The first one is targeted to computers with integrated video (keeping in mind that the video itself is produced by the CPU, and not by the chipset), while the second one is targeted to mid-range and high-end motherboards without integrated video.

The Biostar TP67XE uses the standard ATX form factor.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 1: Biostar TP67XE motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The Biostar TP67XE comes with two PCI Express x16 slots, which are controlled by the CPU, not the chipset. The first slot works at x16 when only one video card is installed, but both slots drop to x8 when two video cards are used. They support both CrossFireX and SLI modes.

It is important to understand that the TP67XE has two slots between the two PCI Express x16 slots, meaning that you can install a video card that occupies three slots and still install a second video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot. There are two slots between the second PCI Express x16 slot and the motherboard edge, meaning that you can also install a video card that uses three slots in the second PCI Express x16 slot while still using a standard seven-slot case.

If you install a dual-slot video card in the first PCI Express x16 slot you will “kill” one of the PCI Express x1 slots, while if you install a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot you will “kill” one of the standard PCI slots.

The motherboard has two PCI Express x1 slots, located between the two PCI Express x16 slots, and two standard PCI slots, located between the second PCI Express x16 slot and the motherboard edge.

It is important to understand that the P67 and H67 chipsets don’t support standard PCI slots anymore, and the PCI slots are provided by an ITE IT8893 bridge chip.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor – and 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.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, but Biostar says the TP67XE supports memory up to 2,133 MHz through overclocking.

The Biostar TP67XE has four memory sockets and, since currently DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard, if you use four 4 GB modules.

The first and third sockets are red, while the second and fourth are white. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install two or four memory modules in order to enable dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in the red sockets, otherwise your computer won’t turn on.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]

The Intel P67 chipset is a single-chip solution, and is also known as PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10). On the TP67XE one of the SATA-300 ports was redirected to the motherboard rear panel, in order to give you an eSATA-300 ports.

Two of the three SATA-300 ports and the two SATA-600 ports are located on the motherboard edge, rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. The third SATA-300 port is soldered facing up.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 4: SATA-300 (red) and SATA-600 (white) ports

This motherboard doesn’t come with ATA-133 or floppy disk ports.

This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and six available though three headers located on the motherboard. It also has two USB 3.0 ports controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip, soldered on the rear panel of the motherboard.

There are two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip, one soldered on the motherboard rear panel and one available though a header.

The TP67XE comes with eight-channel audio, generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately Realtek doesn’t publish technical specifications for this codec at their website. The portrayed motherboard comes with on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors, and you can route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in the HDMI connector using the available “JSPDIFOUT1” header.

The analog audio jacks are completely independent, so you won’t “kill” the mic in or the line in jack when installing a set of 7.1 analog speakers.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with a PS/2 keyboard connector, six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, one FireWire port, one eSATA-300 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports (blue ones), and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 5: Motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Additional Features”]

The Biostar TP67XE has a few additional smaller features. It has a POST diagnostics display, which tells, though a two-digit code, what is wrong with your computer if it doesn’t turn on.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 6: POST diagnostics display and on-board power and reset buttons

The TP67XE also has on-board power and reset buttons (see Figure 6).

This motherboard also features a legacy serial port (you need to acquire an adapter to use it), on a header labeled
“J_COM1.”

It also has an infrared interface (header labeled “CIR1”), but you will need to buy the optical components in order to use it.

In Figure 7, you can see all accessories that come with this motherboard.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 7: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the TP67XE has 10 phases, eight for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), and two for the CPU VTT voltage (integrated memory controller and L3 memory cache). Therefore it uses a “8+2” configuration.

Each phase uses three MOSFET transistors with low RDS(on), meaning higher efficiency, and one ferrite-core coil, which also improves efficiency (lower energy loss compared to iron coils). All electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are solid. If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 8: Voltage regulator circuit

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 9: Voltage regulator circuit

If you pay attention, you will see two EPS12V connectors. You can use either one of them. Biostar recommends to use a power supply with two EPS12V connectors only when you overclock your system.

A series of ten LEDs show which phases are currently active.

Biostar TP67XE motherboardFigure 10: Active phases LEDs

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the Biostar TP67XE include:

  • Socket: 1155
  • Chipset: Intel P67
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Three SATA-300 and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10)
  • External SATA: One eSATA-300 port controlled by the chipset
  • USB 2.0: 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Two ports controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip, soldered on the motherboard rear panel
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip, one soldered on the motherboard rear panel and one available through a header
  • On-board video: No
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (eight channels, no further technical information is provided), on-board coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: Yes
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (the first one working at x16 when one video card is installed, both working at x8 when two video cards are installed, supporting CrossFireX and SLI), two PCI Express x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots (ITE8893E chip)
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR3-2133)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and two three-pin connector for auxiliary fans
  • Extra Features: Serial port, POST diagnostics display, phase monitoring LEDs
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.biostar-usa.com
  • Average price in the US: This product wasn’t released yet on the day we published this First Look article

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The Biostar TP67XE will be a good option for users looking for a mainstream socket LGA1155 motherboard with some extra features, such as USB 3.0 ports, on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, FireWire ports, POST diagnostics display, infrared interface, and a decent voltage regulator circuit.

Biostar motherboards are typically offered at a great price, and we can anticipate that the TP67XE will come with a good cost/benefit ratio for users building a mainstream PC based on a next-generation Intel CPU.