Click here to print this article.
Re-Printed From SLCentral
Biostar M7MIA RAID
Reintroducing The M7MIA
When I lain eyes on a DDR board, with the AMD 761 Northbridge AND a RAID controller, I seriously though I died and went to Socket 462 heaven. "I thought INSTANT 10 SCORE! Next board, please!"
Well, it turns out that it isn't all heaven. Not that the board was hell at all. It was actually quite good. It just lacked what I've come to expect from boards today in tweak ability. My overclocking habits perhaps have clouded my judgment, but this is a competitive market and everyone else's motherboards feature so many ways to tweak you CPU that it's almost come to be expected.
Somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to not love the board. Maybe I was damned! Crap, I don't know!!!! I'm so tormented!
Let me start from the beginning.
In the beginning Biostar said, "Let there be DDR". And thus brought forth thou Biostar M7MIA, but without the RAID controller… and quite a few other things it turns out.
The original M7MIA had one goal in the Socket 462 market: To make available a rock solid (thanks to the AMD 761 Northbridge) DDR motherboard for under $150 (currently, the price of the original M7MIA has dropped to under $120) that was still good quality. If your expectations were higher than this, you were in for a major disappointment.
The board featured onboard sound and one ISA slots (rare), an AGP Pro slot (becoming more common), ATA100 thanks to the VIA686B Southbridge (quite common), and accommodation for two DDR DIMMs, up to 512MB each.
In the BIOS, selecting front side bus speeds from 100 MHz on up to 150 MHz can allow you to do some overclocking on this board, but in reality, most any board today will let you do this. The Biostar M7MIA has the added feature of also telling you what your FSB selection does to your PCI bus speed. This is good in case you have an inherit inability to divide by 3 or 4.
Much to my amazement, I have run the M7MIA rock solid stable at 150 MHz FSB with several CPUs that could not do this high of bus on other boards, and this is despite the fact that Biostar's test results for overclockability do not exceed 140 MHz. Some people think stable is a relative term, but I feel it's Boolean. It's either stable or not. And this is stable. Blame the AMD 761 Northbridge, or possibly a top quality clock generator, or even three phase bus controllers, as opposed to two... but the fact remains that this is a hard foundation to shake.
On the bad side of things, I have to point out that the original M7MIA had no way to change the multiplier, no VIO selection, only two fan headers, a HUGE form factor and the ATX power connector was in a wacky ass place on the board (not just behind the socket, but behind the socket and down an inch!).
We want to overclock, we want to monitor more than two fans, we don't want to drape our ATX power connector over the top of our CPU fan and we want to be able to put a drive in the bottom 5 ¼ bay of our mid tower case without knocking a capacitor off the board.
Actually, truth be told, in anything larger than an Enlight 7237 the board fits fine and there are two good things to come out of the M7MIA's large foot print. One: there's enough room to place tall components (like the 1500mF capacitors located near the socket) far enough away from the socket to allow large heatsinks to be mounted. Second: the DIMM slots are far enough away from the AGP slot that there is no way for one's video card to prevent the ejection and reinstallation of their RAM.
Introducing The M7MIA 2.0 RAID
Let's do a quick run down of what we get:
So what's changed with the new M7MIA RAID, also known as the M7MIA 2.0 (didn't know that without the help of a dookie chrome sticker on the board), over the previous M7MIA?
Well, there is no way to change the multiplier, no VIO selection, only two fan headers, a HUGE form factor and the ATX power connector is in a wacky ass place on the board. Still.
Oh... What's CHANGED about the new M7MIA?
It's got RAID!
There are two bright red IDE controllers now found on the board that features the Highpoint 370 RAID controller (reminiscent of the Abit line of RAID boards) giving you the ability to run either 8 IDE devices, RAID 0 (striped), RAID 1 (mirrored) or RAID 0+1 (mirrored striped).
Of course a motherboard that has RAID is not a big deal in this day and age, although something has to be said about the fact that it's a DDR board with RAID, or the fact that it's an AMD 761 based DDR board with RAID (other manufactures claim the lack of AMD chipsets is the reason for hardly any 761 based boards on the market), or the fact that it's a DDR board with RAID that sells for UNDER $150!
Yep... It's under $150. Can we get a DDR board WITHOUT RAID for less than that?
Actually, there's nothing new about the M7MIA RAID if you live OUTSIDE of the US, but the earlier RAID version of the M7MIA was truly only a regular M7MIA but with RAID. A few more things have changed that make this board "the 2.0"...
Is There More To It Than Just A RAID Controller?
Did Biostar add anything else to the "2.0" board other than RAID? Actually, yes they did. They added a CPU temp probe under the socket. Biostar had actually recently pulled external thermal probes from all of their product because they were so grossly inaccurate, they were getting unnecessary knee jerk calls from customers concerning their CPU temperatures. Temperatures seem to be on the extreme low side, however. My 1 GHz was running at 1.5 GHz in the Biostar (150 MHz X 10), and after a lock up in Windows, a reboot and a jump into the BIOS, the board said that my CPU was only running at 54 degrees C! A CompuNurse super glued right up against the CPU die reported a temperature over 65 degrees!
Biostar also added a VCORE selection in the same menu where you would select your front side bus speeds. To get to select VCORE on the original M7MIA, you would have to hold the insert key down during boot up, and then enter the BIOS, and this only works with the newest BIOS revision. On the 2.0 boards, VCORE selection can be done by either selecting a voltage (1.75, 1.8, etc), or selecting how much more or less voltage you want to supply (+. 05, +. 10, etc). This makes it nice for taking that AXIA 1 GHz CPU and getting it run at 1.4 or more by upping the core voltage.
The M7MIA also features a Northbridge fan. It's about freaking time. The original M7MIA only had a heatsink. Although that heatsink was of good size, had thermal compound applied underneath (I've seen many dry Northbridge chips from the factory) and seemed to do the job for up to 133 MHz FSB, the documentation stated that "for higher speed CPUs, Biostar recommends installing a Northbridge fan", thus leaving customers feeling gypped out of a $5 motherboard accessory.
The last thing I noticed about the new M7MIA is the documentation. I know... we techs don't need no stinking docs. But the new M7MIA comes with a nice little, full color map of the board with everything clearly labeled, right down to the front panel connectors. This comes as a major improvement over the black and white photocopied fliers of Biostars of the past. Biostar had actually quit packaging manuals with their motherboards a year or two ago to not only save money in printing costs, but to also keep it simple stupid. Early slot based Athlon boards from Biostar had front side bus jumpers to accommodate overclocking, and customers would set the jumpers to 133MHz (because they had PC133 RAM) even though their slot A 600 Athlon was a 100 MHz FSB CPU. They would then RMA the motherboard because it didn't boot. Since then, Biostar had made it a habit of giving only enough information to get the board running, install an OS, be able to read the PDF format manual on the CD and THEN screw things up. Personally, I can see where they're coming from. ;)
Pros & Cons/Conclusion
Timing of the release of this board in the states couldn't be better. Despite real world benchmark improvements of only 10-15% over an equally equipped SDRAM board and memory benchmark improvements of only 20%, the price of DDR just recently hitting rock bottom (256MB sticks are averaging at $45 these days) should mean that there's no real reason NOT to consider a DDR solution when building an AMD Athlon based PC from the ground up. It's sort of like buying a new car at the dealer and having them tell you that your payments will only go up $5 a month if you get the model with the supercharger. Capite?
So in conclusion.. there's good news and there's bad news.. I'll give you the bad news first.Cons
Overall, I think you can see where I have a hard time finding a final rating for this board using the SystemLogical scale of 1 through 10. As an overclocker, it only rates a half way score of 5. For quality and stability, it deserves every bit of a 10. Given the important features are covered, and the price is oh so right, I'm tempted to bump a few points over the average of the two (and I'm a tough grader), so on a Systemlogical scale of 1 to 10, I give this board an 8.5… no 8… no… no… an 8.5. Whew. 8.5 it is. Beer me.
Rating: 8.5/10 SystemLogistics
Re-Printed From SLCentral