Biostar has been in the motherboard business since the early 80’s. While they were not always the preferred brand that enthusiasts turn to, they have definitely improved in this arena in the last few years. I saw a big improvement in their motherboard sector with the Z77 chipset launch. Now that Biostar has had this chance to improve today’s newer chipset, I am going to be looking at a budget-friendly chipset on the Biostar Hi-Fi B85N-3D Motherboard.
This Biostar B85N-3D motherboard was developed on the mini-ITX platform, and, while this isn’t Biostar’s flagship motherboard, we are here today to put this Small Form Factor (SFF) motherboard to the test.
The popularity of Small Form Factor motherboards has been on the rise, and Biostar’s B85N-3D has been developed for customers looking for an HTPC or Media platform with a focus on 3D audio support. Will this motherboard be able to keep up with some of the high-end mainstream motherboards? Let’s dive in and find out.
8 Series Chipset
With the Haswell processor came a new chipset. With the Haswell platform, Intel has developed five desktop chipsets to meet the demands of various enthusiasts, from budget builders to high-end gamers and more. I have the following: B85, H87, Q85, Q87, and finally the Z87 chipset which we will be taking a look at today.
Taking a look at the two side by side, you will first notice a couple of differences immediately. First is its new I/O Port flexibility. I see that the 8 series chipset will support 6 native USB 3.0 ports vs. the previous four. It also supports up to six native SATA 6Gbps ports.
The B85 chipset is the “budget” business option and is very limited compared to the other business chipsets. As such, it does not support iSIPP or vPro. Like the Q85 chipset, it has four SATA 6Gb/s ports compared to the six found on Z87. The B85 chipset is a good option for systems that need only basic functionality without the various features found in the other higher-end mainstream chipset like the Z87.
Here are some breakdowns of the differences between the B85 to Z77 Series chipsets. As you can see, the most noticeable items are the lack of support for multiple graphics cards, the Intel RST, Lake Tiny, and the Fewer USB lanes just to name a few. But some of these features can lead you to certain advantages to the B85 series chipset too much especially if you are not looking to take advantage of those features.
Now that I have covered the 8 series chipsets, let’s move on and take a look at the Biostar B85N-3D Motherboard.
Package & Contents
When it came to its package, Biostar didn’t disappoint with its artwork. Biostar B85N-3D motherboard, the model number is clearly printed on the front and the supported features are at the bottom. This is great glance information for those that may be picking this motherboard up and want to know some quick information.
At the back of the package, Biostar goes into more detail on the Biostar B85N-3D motherboards. This is especially appreciated for those looking for detailed specifications at a glance.
Once you are inside, you won’t find an abundance of accessories; however, Biostar did include the basics to get started. We have the instruction manual, driver’s disc (not shown), I/O rear panel, and some SATA cables.
Let’s move forward here and move on to the specifications and features.
Closer Look of Biostar Hi-Fi B85N-3D Motherboard
Taking a closer look at the Biostar B85N-3D, you can see that this motherboard isn’t very large. Being that it’s in mini-ITX format I was impressed with how much Biostar was able to fit onto the motherboard. As I break down each section, we will go over the features offered by the Biostar B85N-3D.
At the lower section here we find the PCIe x16 3.0 slot; this can be used for PCIe devices or more commonly for a graphics card. You will notice that the CPU slot is not placed in the traditional location and the socket is rather close to the PCIe slot. So if you plan on using larger air coolers with this motherboard, beware of clearance issues with the PCIe slot.
Over on the memory side, I will find 2 DIMM slots that support DDR3 with speeds of 1066/1333/1600MHz. It supports up to 16GB max, meaning that 2x 8GB sticks at 1600MHz are the fastest and largest you can run.
Flipping it over to the top side, here we have the 24pin Power, 2x SATA III & 2x SATA II ports. We also have the front I/O along with 2 USB 2.0 internal headers. Just above that, you will also find the mSATA connector and USB 3.0 Internal port along with the SB (south bridge) heatsink. While the heatsink isn’t large or fancy, it does the job to keep the SB cool.
Moving along, you will see that Biostar did use solid caps for the motherboard, which is great to see. The caps used with most modern motherboards today will probably outlast the technology and this looks to follow that trend. You will also find a single PWM fan header and the 4-pin CPU power.
At the back side of the Biostar B85N-3D, we find our usual suspects; however, one item that caught our attention here is the dual GB LAN port. This is controlled by the Realtek RTL8111G which can run at 10/100/1000 base.
You will also find (from left to right) a standard PS/2 keyboard port, 4x USB 2.0 ports, VGA, DVI, and HDMI video ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and our audio ports which are controlled by the Realtek ALC892 8 Channel Blu-ray Audio controller.
Now that I have taken a closer look at the Biostar B85N-3D, let’s move forward and see how our installation process went.
Once I got our chip onto the CPU socket, we installed our Swiftech Apogee HD Waterblock. With our test bench being water-cooled, it made things easier to use the water block than an air cooler. Also, this will help us keep the 4770K cool when I attempt to overclock.
Installation with our water block went without a hitch; however, as I mentioned, if you plan on using an air cooler, be sure to do some research for fitment.
Once I had our water block locked down in place, we installed our memory; I used 2x 4GB sticks of Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz.
Next up, I trail-mounted our GTX670 graphics card to the motherboard to check for clearance issues. With our water block, no issues arose. As you can see, our graphics card looked massive against the Biostar B85N-3D motherboard.
Getting the board onto our test bench was a piece of cake. I had to re-adjust some things since the SATA and Power ports were on the opposite side from our traditional mount, but it wasn’t hard to do. Most ITX cases already have this format design factor in mind.
Looking at the BIOS, we were happy to see that Biostar has revamped the interface. The new GUI interface does make things easier to understand and use. Let’s break down one section at a time and take a closer look at the BIOS as a whole.
Main – Here in the main section, we pretty much have our motherboard, CPU, Memory, and system information all at a glance. You will also find some great hardware information that is important such as CPU MHz, voltage, memory speed, temperature, and CPU fan speed all on the left side for quick a glance information.
Advance – In this section, it gives the user the ability to make changes to CPU settings, SAT configuration, USB, and Smart fan control just to name a few. It’s important that you study the information here a bit before you start to make changes. There are a lot of features and settings that are vital to the system.
Chipset – Here you can check to make sure the chipset is correct. There isn’t a whole lot you can change here; it is mostly just information about the motherboard.
Boot – In the boot sector, here you can make selections for your boot device. This lets you make changes on the fly and also will help with making sure that all your media devices are in order.
Security – This section will allow you to set up a password to lock out the BIOS, so you don’t allow guest users to make changes that can potentially cause an error. This also lets you set up a secure boot.
Performance – The performance tab is where all the magic happens. This will allow you to make adjustments to CPU frequency, voltages, and all the overclocking settings if you plan to do so. You will also find the memory configurations here to allow for frequency adjustment.
Save & Exit – The save and exit menu will allow you to save your changes and exit, this also lets users return everything to default if they accidentally change a setting that doesn’t work well with the motherboard.
Biostar included a few pieces of software.
Next up, I have Smart Ear 3D, this is something similar to creative labs live studio but it’s Biostar’s own way of putting the HiFi 3D audio controller on the B85N-3D. here you can select different sound modes and also volume adjustment on the fly. You can set the smart gain, high, mid, and lows.
Next up, I have Biostar’s own Temperature monitor. There isn’t a whole lot you can do here but it’s more just for monitoring system temperature and CPU temperature. This will show you the current, min, and max temps.
Biostar also has an onboard BIOS update feature. This will allow you to update your bios using either the online feature, file update, or the bios backup in case you need to revert back. We had to use this feature a few times during the testing of this motherboard. We attempted to update the BIOS, however, the newer bios caused some issues with our software and CPU, so I reverted back to the last BIOS that worked great for us.
With the overview of the software complete, let’s move on and see how well the system did when I attempted to overclock.
When it comes to overclocking, it’s always best to research your chip and board to see what is safe and/or possible. Overclocking can be risky if you don’t know what you are doing. Be sure to read about the processor and motherboard limits before you start overclocking aggressively. I always like to start out slow and then advance in stages.
If you do plan on overclocking, please be sure to do it at your own risk. Results can vary from board to board and chip to chip.
First, let’s go over a few items before we show you what I did with overclocking. Here are some shots of CPUz with the 4770K at its default setting. You can see that the clocks are at 800MHz at idle, with pretty much everything at default settings. This is not uncommon for the 4770K which normally idles at 3.5GHz at stock once a load is put on the CPU core.
Before I move forward, let’s take a quick look at our setup on CPUz.
Benchmarks – SuperPi, AIDA64 & MaxxMem
Over the next few pages, you will be looking at some of the popular benchmarks that are used today when comparing CPU Speeds and Performance. While not every application of the software is heavily CPU related, I also threw some into the mix that is GPU-dependent as well.
You are going to see some mixed data here with the X79 Chipset and 4820K to the Z87 chipset with the 4770K and the B85 Series and the 4770K.
First up, let’s look at our SuperPI, AIDA64, and MaxxMem benchmarks.
Going over the SuperPI… while the gain is normally not too significant, we find that it trends in the right direction. Conversely, when you compare this to the Intel 4820K, we found that the 4770K is slightly better despite the lower clock speeds.
When it came to AIDA64, we found that the 4820K and 4770K were pretty close in performance. However, when looking at the overclock settings on both systems, the 4770K did quite well.
AIDA 64 – Memory Testing – Speed Testing
If you take a look at the memory testing, while the 4770K is running 2666MHz memory and the 1600MHz didn’t perform too far apart in benchmarks; the reason here is that 2666MHz is at CL11 lat. and the 1600MHz is at CL9.
Benchmarks – Power Consumption & Temperatures
When it comes to the B85 chipset and flagship processors, it’s no surprise that you will need a little more juice to run the system. The TDP on the 4770K is set at 87 watts, so I know that I will need some decent power to push this system especially running a high-end GTx670 graphics configuration. Luckily, our Corsair HX1050-watt PSU has no issues handling this setup.
To test the power consumption, we used three methods. We used a wall socket meter to get our readings and let the system sit idle. Then I used CPU load ONLY and then both CPU and GPU Load.
Benchmarks – Power Consumption & Temperatures
When it comes to the B85 chipset and flagship processors, it’s no surprise that you will need a little more juice to run the system. The TDP on the 4770K is set at 87 watts, so I know that we will need some decent power to push this system especially running a high-end GTx670 graphics configuration. Luckily, our Corsair HX1050-watt PSU has no issues handling this setup.
To test the power consumption, I used three methods. I used a wall socket meter to get our readings and let the system sit at idle. Then we used CPU load ONLY and then both CPU and GPU Load.
To finish things up here… we find that the Biostar B85N-3D is the perfect candidate for an HTPC/Media build or a budget-friendly gaming PC placed in a nice little package. I found the Biostar motherboard for $129.99 on Amazon.com which is a fair price for the features and performance you will get from the Biostar B85N-3D. With all that said, we honor the Biostar B85N-3D with our PureOverclock Good Hardware Award.
The Biostar Hi-Fi B85N-3D motherboard is an excellent choice for those looking for a high-performance motherboard. It has Hi-Fi audio technology that delivers high-quality sound, making it a great choice for multimedia enthusiasts. It is a micro ATX motherboard and supports 4th-generation Intel Core processors. Its features are impressive. If you want to know about some similar products, you may view Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5.