Biostar TA690G AM2

Motherboards

690G-bio toxin

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

The Biostar comes packaged in the usual motherboard sized box, with orange and white making up the colour scheme. There is a large metal looking banner telling you that this motherboard is part of the Biostar T Series which is their premium range, which basically means that the colour scheme looks less OEM and slightly better parts are used.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

Inside you’ll find the usual compliment of cables, the manual, the driver CD and a bag that you can load up with the unused cables and the manual once you’ve done using them meaning that everything is in one place so you won’t have to destroy your room when you try to find them in the future.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

The board itself is pretty normal in regards to being mATX; you find the usual single full-speed 16x PCI-e slot at the top, followed by the x1 slot with another 2 older PCI slots beneath. If you use a dual-slot graphics card, then you’ll immediately lose the PCI-e x1 slot so you’re either stuck with a single slot card, or no PCI-e x1. The PCI-e x16 slot has the annoying catch that keeps your graphics card in place even if you want to remove it. Unlike the abit method, this one requires you to force it downwards which is difficult with a fat graphics card (you can clearly see the damage inflicted from using this port).

The both the north bridge and the south (SB600) are covered with small passive heatsinks which gives you a good estimate about how much the chips underneath heat up. The north bridge is surprisingly close to the CPU socket, so it should be able to get some good active cooling from the stock AMD CPU cooler at least. Compared to the abit AN-M2HD the heatsinks are much smaller which might not be a good sign as the abit board wasn’t capable of full screen 3D for lengthy periods without active cooling.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

The PWM area of the motherboard has some nice solid capacitors that won’t eventually bulge and spit liquid after a while. They have a much longer life than their liquid counterparts, and Biostar have put them in the most obvious place where the power supply of the motherboard is converted which – from experience – is where stuff breaks first. The other capacitors used aren’t the solid kind which is a shame as it would make sense to either have the whole board solid, or not as the liquid capacitors will fail first making the solid ones pointless.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

The rear I/O is probably the most interesting part of the board, as you can see the ports that matter to the media market; HDMI. This port can supply your HDTV with full HD quality video and audio thanks to the onboard 690G chip, but only in stereo. The ALC888 sound chip will however do the usual 7.1 but there is no optical out on the rear I/O and instead you have to use the pin header on the motherboard for S/PDIF out. The HDMI output is HDCP ready meaning that you’ll be paying Intel some cash to develop this feature in the future, but it will allow full quality HD video to be played. There are also two standard monitor outputs, with one being the standard VGA and the other DVI saving the need for a DVI to VGA converter. You also get an S-Video port if you so need too; adding to the compliment of video outputs.

According to the manual you can either use the DVI or HDMI, but not at the same time, and the same goes for the analogue S-video and VGA ports.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

The 690G chipset has built-in Xpress 1250 graphics, which supplies all of the above ports natively. It’s able to shunt out 2048×1536 @ 32bpp maximum resolution with each output being fully independent (different resolutions, refresh rate etc.). Most interestingly, the chip provides MPEG-4 decoding, MPEG-2 decoding and hardware acceleration for WMV9 movies. All of this with Avivo makes for a very convincing media PC resumé.

You’ll notice that there is no FireWire port on the rear or on the motherboard at all. ATI/AMD obviously decided that this wasn’t a necessity for the media user, but I beg to differ. With a few digital video cameras, the only output is by FireWire which will require you to grab a PCI add-in card to take advantage of streaming personal video.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

There is only one IDE port on the motherboard, merely for the sake of allowing you to use your old CD/DVD drive. With SATA optical drives slowly entering the arena, there will eventually be no need for this port in the future. There is of course the much loved FDD port allowing you to install RAID drivers on XP. For once Vista is right, and doesn’t need the use of a FDD anymore.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

There are four orange SATA ports on the bottom left of the board that will support RAID 0, 1 and 1+0 should you need them. At this point it should be noted that the manual goes into great depth on nearly every point and feature of the board, to the point of explaining the benefits of RAID with diagrams.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

Next to the SATA ports are three USB headers allowing you to connect the front I/O of your case, and another two devices. The next header along looks like another USB header, but is actually for those people who need serial connectivity. You’ll need to buy the correct bracket, but the functionality is built in. The same goes for the next port, which is a parallel pin out.

Biostar TA690G AM2
Click to enlarge

Interestingly there are two microswitches built into the board at the very tip of the bottom right corner. These probably aren’t going to be much use for the home user, but for a reviewer they are a god send. They control reset and power functions, meaning that I don’t have to grab a screwdriver to short the pins to turn the mobo on outside of a case. You’ll find the front panel pins right next to these switches.

Above the front panel pins, there are two LED’s which are a fairly basic POST display. They show the current status of the board while it’s booting telling you whether the memory, VGA or CPU/chipset are to blame for a non-start. The LED’s are labelled on the board so you won’t have to refer to the manual as to the problem if one occurs and you just have one lit LED.

The coloured RAM slots to the right of the CPU socket allow up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM at a maximum rated speed of 800 mhz.

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Last modified: February 15, 2011

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