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Appeared on: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Biostar T-Force P965


1. Installation - Specs

Biostar is a well known Taiwanese manufacturer that ships affordable products for both entry level and enthusiast users. The release of Intel's Core2Duo processors saw the intoduction of a number of compatible motherboards onto the market, and Biostar offered us the opportunity to evaluate their proposal based on the Intel 965Express chipset. The T-Force series is the most sophisticated Biostar product and today we will be presenting the T-Force P965 motherboard.

 

- Biostar T-Force P965

The Bio start T-Force P965 is based on Intel's 965Express chipset, which supports the Intel®Core™2Extreme, Core™2Duo, Pentium®4EE, Pentium®D, Pentium®4, CeleronD processors for Socket (LGA775). It features 1066/800/533MHz(FSB), dual-channel un-buffered DDR2 800/667/533 x 4DIMMs with a maximum of 8GB.

- Main features

The T-Force series represents the latest innovation and technology achievements from Biostar. The P965 is based on Intel's P965Express chipset offering superb performance and overclocking capabilities. For beginner overclocks, BET had developed an easy, fast, and powerful feature to increase system performance, named A.O.S. Based on many tests and experiments, A.O.S. provides 3 ideal overclocking configurations that are able to raise system performance in a single step.

Another great feature is the CMOS Reloading Program (C.R.P.). It allows users to save different CMOS settings into BIOS-ROM. Users are able to reload any saved CMOS setting for customizing system configurations. Moreover, users are able to save an ideal overclock setting during overclock operation. There are 50 sets of record addresses in total, and users are able to name the CMOS data according to personal preference.

Finally, something unique from Biostar is the Memory Integration Test (M.I.T.). This function is under “Overclocking Navigator Engine” item. MIT allows users to test memory compatibilities, and no extra devices or software are needed.

- Full specifications

CPU
  • Intel Core 2 Duo/Pentium D/Pentium 4/Celeron D Processor
  • Supports Dual-Core CPU
  • Socket LGA 775, FSB 1066
  • CHIPSET
  • Intel P965 + ICH8R
  • MEMORY
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR2 667/800 MHz
  • 4 DDR2 DIMM memory slots ( up to 4GB memory)
  • EXPANSION SLOT
  • 3 x PCI slots
  • 1 x PCI-Express x 16
  • 1 x PCI-Express x 4
  • 1 x PCI-Express x 1
  • I/O
  • 1 x FDD connector
  • 1 x IDE Connector Support to ATA 100
  • 1 x CD-In Connector
  • 4 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s Connectors
  • 1 x SPDIF-Out connector
  • 1 x Front Audio Header
  • 1 x Parallel , 1 x Serial Port Connector
  • 1 x Gb LAN Jack
  • 10 x USB 2.0 Ports (6 x Rear USB 2.0 , 4x Front USB 2.0 )
  • 6 x audio ports
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse, 1 x PS/2 keyboard
  • INTEGRATED AUDIO
  • Realtek ALC883 8+2 Channel  HD Audio Codec
  • LAN
  • Realtek RTL8110SC - Supports 10/100/1000 Mbps transfer rates
  • DIMENSIONS
  • ATX Form Factor: 30.5cm (W) x 22.0cm (L)

  • 2. Package

    - The Package

    The Biostar T-Force P965 costs around €100, making it a very affordable motherboard for entry level users:

    All included accessories are well packaged:

    Below is a list of what's included in the retail package

    There aren't many cables included nor anything fancy. Biostar has included the bare essentials, keeping the overall cost low:

    The board itself, looks very "neat" and all components can be easily identified:

    Let's zoom in on the CPU area.

    We can clearly see the passive cooling solution for the northbridge. The nearby capacitors are low profile so there shouldn't be any problem with larger cooling solutions. What is rather unpleasant is that both the ATX Power Source Connector (24pin) and ATX Power Source Connector (4pin) are located very close to the CPU are so there might be an issue with free space, something that can also affect air flow, which is illustrated in the following picture:

    The motherboard has four slots for memory modules with a total memory capacity of 8GB (4 x 2GB modules)

    The CPU fan is located very close to the memory modules, and the fan power connection is located between the memory slots. You have to be extra careful when installing or removing the RAM modules :

    Moving to the southbridge area on the board, we can see the passive heatsink in use here also, and the 4x SATA 2 connectors:

    The Biostar P965 supports 1x PCI-E x16 slot. Most other boards in this category support 2x PCI-E slots, either for SLI or Crossfire setups. Of course, their price is also more expensive than the Biostar P965 motherboard:

    There are several I/O slots available for extra USB, Front Panel connections. However, they are not included in the retail package. The back I/O panel has the usual connections:


    3. BIOS setup

    The BIOS is based on the Phoenix implementation:

    Under the overclocking Navigator Engine tab, we can control all the major functions related to voltages and clock speeds.

    There are three pre-defined overclocking settings, (V6 Tech - 10%~15%, V8 Tech - 15%~25%, V12 Tech - 25%~30%), but for our tests we will set all parameters manually.

    The FSB can be raised as high as 600. We will see later on if this really possible:

    The DRAM Frequency only has 4 settings, from Auto to DDR2-800MHz.

    Each setting represents a different FSB:RAM ratio, so be careful what you select:

    Memory, CPU, FSB, NB, SB and ICH voltages can be set according to the following table.

    BIOS Setting Feature:
    CPU Clock Multiplier
    Not possible to set
    CPU bus frequency
    266 to 600MHz in 1MHz steps
    CPU voltage
    1.10000V to 1.80000V in 0.00625V increments
    DRAM voltage
    1.90V to 2.60V in 0.10V steps
    PCI Express frequency
    Auto, Fixed 100 MHz
    i965 MCH voltage
    1.25V to 1.55V in 0.10V steps
    FSB voltage
    1.20V to 1.50V in 0.10V steps

    The North Bridge chipset controls the DRAM. By default, all settings are set to Auto. Of course, users can take control and adjust the memory timings as desired:

    The Hardware monitor is valuable in determining the running temperature, voltages and fan speeds on your system:


    4. Installation

    Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, we can get more information about the board:

    Both the North Bridge and South Bridge chipsets unveiled:

    The latest BIOS was installed for all tests:

    Let's now see how our CPU was identified under CPU-Z:

    For comparison, we also post test results for:


    5. Benchmarks - page 1

    - Everest Ultimate Edition 2006

    Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has build-in several tests for memory and CPU/FPU.

    The fastest motherboard in the Everest Ultimate Edition benchmark was the Asus P5B Deluxe. This is due to the fact that you can set the memory to run at FSB:RAM ratio of 1:2, resulting in higher running speeds than is available with the other two motherboards. The Biostar couldn't set the DDR2-800MHz to 4-4-4-8, so it had the slowest performance.

    In the CPU benchmarks, the Asus P5B Deluxe is faster in almost all tests.

    SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

    With Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1, there's very little between the three boards.


    6. Benchmarks - page 2

    Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. Below you can see all three available scores, memory, CPU and total.

    Looking at the CPU score, the Biostar P965 showed good performance.

     

    Click for homepage!3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

    3D Mar06 tests both CPU and RAM as well as the VGA card. The Asus P5B Deluxe showed the best CPU performance.


    7. Benchmarks - page 3

    Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias.  Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

    Pov-Ray s a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the build-in benchmark as suggested from developers.

    In ScienceMark, the Asus P5B Deluxe had the best performance due to its faster memory settings, while in Pov-Ray, the Biostar P965 was the fastest with 1053.25 operations/sec.

     

    - Nero Digital

    Nero Digital is one of the best known Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoder profiles.

    For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 as packaged with Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source, we used a VOB file of 5mins duration. We encoded for each processor, two modes (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (Same bitrate and Dual pass). The encoding time displayed below is what Nero Recode reported. The less time taken, the better. All results are displayed in secs.

    All three tested motherboards has similar performance with Nero Recode...


    8. Benchmarks - page 4

    CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

    Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of each subtest is displayed at the following chart, except OpenGL Software & Hardware Lighting tests, since both depend at the installed VGA card.

    In CineBench, the Biostar P965 was marginally lagging behind the other two boards.

     

    SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

    The software offers up to 32M calculations for Pi. For all motherboards, we tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.

    The Asus P5B Deluxe, due to its better memory handling, has the lowest sum of 8M+4M+2M+1M SuperPI results. The Biostar P965 had the second best time.


    9. Benchmarks - page 5

     

    - F.E.A.R

    The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

    The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which was used in all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except for AA/AF and Soft Shadows which were enabled as indicted in each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

     

    - Prey

    Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

    Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

    For all tests, we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:


    10. Benchmarks - page 6

    - Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

    A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged. Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.

    As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

    The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:

     

     

    - Half Life 2 Episode 1

    The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

    Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

    Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

    We recorded a timedemo and used the console to run each card with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we enabled 1280x1024 resolution with HDR shadows.


    11. Overclocking

    The Biostar T-Force P965 isn't advertised as an overclocking champion. We were very curious to see how this board would perform with our test setup. There are some problems with overclocking, at least when compared with other, better known overclocking boards:

    1. The P965 doesn't support setting the internal CPU multiplier from the BIOS. This means limited overclocking capabilities, especially with CPUs like E6600 and higher. That shouldn't be a big problem for the E6300 CPUs however.
    2. The P965 doesn't offer many fsb:ram ratios, beside the "usual" 1:1, 4:5 & 2:3. Asus boards offer up to 1:2, unleashing the full DRAM speed, especially with the proper "fast" memory
    3. We noticed problems when setting the "standard" timings we used (4-4-4-8) at 800MHz in all tests. The board would 't POST and instead, chose 5-4-4-12 which dropped memory performance, as was indicated in all of our tests. This happened with the Crucial PC2-8000 memory kit, so it's possible that with other memory modules, this problem doesn't exist.

    After the above important notices, let's proceed to the actual tests. Without modifying the voltages, we pumped up the FSB to 340MHz and our E6600 reached 3.060GHz. While we could go higher, the system was not stable. In comparison, the P5B Deluxe with the exactly same setup can go up to 350MHz FSB:

    Due to the fact that we cannot lower the internal CPU Multiplier, we couldn't find out how much higher this board could go. We looked all over the net at other reviews, which indicated that the T-Force P965 Deluxe (a more complete version), can reach ~500MHz FSB with E6300 CPU and with the proper memory modules. That's very good performance from a board that only costs €100!


    12. Summary

    The Biostar T-Force P965 motherboard comes to fill a gap between the low priced and the medium range motherboards, aimed at entry level users. Intel's P965Express chipset offers very good performance when paired with a Intel Core2Duo processor. This board supports all currently sold Intel processors for 775 socket, Intel® Core™ 2 Duo/ Intel® Pentium® D/Intel® Pentium® 4/ Intel® Celeron® D processor.

     

    In all tests, the T-Force P965 was found to be slower than the Asus P5B Deluxe. This happened because the Asus P5B Deluxe can set the same memory with a higher divider (1:2~1067MHz), whereas the T-Force P965 could only be set at 2:3@800MHz. Besides this, we had some problem setting the timings lower than 5-4-4-12. Perhaps this "problem" will be fixed with a newer BIOS revision.

    Passing on to the board itself, the overall design is good. There is plenty of free space around the CPU area, allowing installation of larger fans. There are both IDE and floppy connections, and four SATA II connections for HDD and optical storage devices. There are some minor design flaws in our opinion. For example, the 24pin & 4pin power inputs are located a little too close to the CPU, which makes cable management a problem, especially in a small case.

    With overclocking, the board proved to be easily overclockable, despite the fact that it doesn't offer as many options as the Asus P5B Deluxe. We managed to reach a top FSB of 340FSB without any voltage tweaks and the 9x Internal CPU multiplier. Unfortunately, you cannot set (lower) the CPU internal multiplier as with most other boards. With CPUs like the E6600 and newer, this could be an issue. With the E6300, this doesn't apply. Moreover, other reviewers have reported up to ~500FSB, with different cooling system, CPU and memory modules.

    Ending our presentation, we can say that this board is a perfect match for entry level users. It costs around €100 and has good overclocking options. The Asus P5B Deluxe while faster and offering more overclocking capabilities, it almost twice the price at around €190...

    We have no major complaints with the Biostar T-Force P965. A cheap entry lever board, combined with an Intel E6300 Core2Duo processor and fast memory can work wonders in terms of overclocking and overall system speed.



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