Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 MoBo Review
The Foxconn brand is a new kid on the motherboard market although the company itself is far not a novice at designing and manufacture of motherboards – the fruits of its work are made use of by many world's leading OEM giants of computer manufacture like Dell, HP etc. Having emerged onto the market of components with its own trademark, Foxconn hopes that its produce (motherboards, housings etc.) after gaining a high estimate among the "narrow circles" of professionals may win the hearts of wide audience of buyers and local computer assembly operators. There is every good reason like a superb team of highly qualified developers, tremendous cutting-edge production capacities with powerful and excellent quality assurance facilities and, hopefully, high consumer qualities of Foxconn produced offered to the market under its own trademark.
So within the nearest months, we'll sort that out. But for now we are introducing another (currently) "top-end" product by the manufacturer – the Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 motherboard built on the Intel 925XE Express chipset aimed at the whole spectrum of desktop LGA775 processors currently produced by Intel (i.e. Pentium 4 and Celeron D), DDR2-533 memory, and PCI Express x16 video cards.
Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 Specifications
Tables 1 presents the main functionalities of this board as compared to the already reviewed Intel D925XDCV2 built on the same chipset, also a quite successful and high-performance solution (which can even be regarded as "top-end") aimed at the whole spectrum of LGA775 processors (the major distinctions shown in bold type).
|Table 1. Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 specifications versus Intel D925XDCV2.|
|Board||Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2||Intel D925XECV2 (Culver City 2)|
|Supported processors||Intel Pentium 4, Socket 775 with 800/1066 MHz FSB;Intel Celeron D, Socket 775 (533 MHz FSB);Intel Hyper-Threading Technology|
|Chipset||Intel 925XE Express + ICH6R|
|Memory||Dual-channel non-buffered DDR2-400/533 with/without ECC of 1.8V supply voltage;Four 240-pin slots for double-sided and single-sided DIMM modules, 4 GB maximum capacity; Support for Intel Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT)|
|Graphic||External, for the PCI Express x16 bus|
|Expansion slots||1 x PCI Express x16;3 x PCI Express x1;3 x PCI||1 x PCI Express x16;2 x PCI Express x1;4 x PCI|
|IDE/ATA ports and controller||Merely one ATA/100 + two ATA/133 (with RAID) + eight (!) SATA/150 (with RAID).Among them, connected via the Intel ICH6R chip are:1 port for ATA/100 + 4 ports for SATA/150 (RAID 0, 1 and Intel Matrix Storage Technology);via the ITE IT8212F chip: 2 ports for ATA/133 (up to four IDE-disks with RAID 0, 1 and 1+0);via the Silicon Image SiI3114 chip: 4 ports for SATA/150 with RAID 0, 1 and 1+0||Merely one port for ATA/100 + 4 ports for SATA/150 (RAID 0, 1 and Intel Matrix Storage Technology) via the Intel ICH6R chip|
|Audio||Integrated, 7.1 channels High Definition (Realtek ALC880 codec)|
|Network||Two standalone Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) LAN controllers: Broadcom BCM5789KFB chip on the PCI Express x1 bus and Broadcom BCM5788KFB chip on the PCI bus||One Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) LAN controller on the Marvell 88E8050 chip on PCI Express x1 bus|
|FireWire controller||3 ports (controller made by Texas Instruments) – one mini port 1394b (on the rear panel) + one port 1394a 4-pin + 1 port 1394a 6-pin – on a header or the front panel||3 ports (Agere FW323-06 controller) (one on the rear panel, two pin-connectors – on a header or the front panel)|
|USB 2.0||8 Hi-Speed USB ports altogether: 4 on the rear panel, 4 on the pin-connectors on a header or the front panel|
|I/O ports on the rear panel||1 x PS/2 keyboard;1 x PS/2 mouse;1 x RJ45 (Gb LAN);Second RJ45 (Gb LAN);4 x USB 2.0;2 or 4 USB 2.0 ports via a header from the internal pin-connector;1 x IEEE-1394 (mini format);2 x IEEE-1394 via a header from the internal pin-connectors;1 x LPT (SPP/ECP/EPP);1 x COM (16550-compatible UART);1 x S/PDIF (coax out);1 x S/PDIF (coax out) via a header from the internal pin-connector;1 x line-in/line-out/mic (audio).Additional 6 lines to output the 7.1-channel audio||1 x PS/2 keyboard;1 x PS/2 mouse;1 x RJ45 (Gb LAN);4 x USB 2.0;2 or 4 USB 2.0 ports via a header from the internal pin-connector;1 x IEEE-1394;2 x IEEE-1394 via a header from the internal pin-connectors;1 x LPT (SPP/ECP/EPP);1 x COM (16550-compatible UART);1 x S/PDIF (coax out); 1 optical S/PDIF 1 x line-in/line-out/mic (audio).Additional 4 lines to output 7.1-channel audio|
|Internal pin-connectors||1 x floppy disk drive;Front audio header;1 x S/PDIF (coax out) header;2 x USB 2-port headers, ver. 2.0;2 x IEEE-1394 headers; 1 х Infra-Red Port; TPM-connector||1 x floppy disk drive;Front audio header;1 x S/PDIF (coax out) header;2 x USB 2-port headers, ver. 2.0;2 x IEEE-1394 headers;TPM-connector|
|Fan connectors||3 – CPUFAN (4-pin), ChipsetFAN, SystemFAN||4 – CPUFAN (4-pin), FrontFAN, SystemFAN, AuxRearFAN (4-pin)|
|BIOS||8Mb flash EEPROM w/ LAN boot, PnP, ACPI, WfM, DMI 2.0|
|Special features||Wake-on-LAN (WOL), suspend-to-RAM (STR, S3), suspend-to-disk (STD, S4), as well as a kit of proprietary SuperUtilities - SuperBoot, SuperBIOS-Protect, SuperRecovery, SuperSpeed, SuperStep, SuperLogo, and SuperUpdate||Wake-on-LAN (WOL), suspend-to-RAM (STR, S3), suspend-to-disk (STD, S4)|
As is seen from the specifications, Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 is in many ways similar to Intel D925XECV2, but is advantageous over it with a better combination of PCI and PCI Express slots (three by three to date seem to be more promising than four by two)
and with a number of additional controllers (by the way, positioned on the same area of the board): a four-disk IDE RAID IT8212F, a 4-port SerialATA RAID SiI3114 hot-swappable,
additional (i.e. the second) Gigabit Ethernet (albeit on the PCI bus slower for that),
as well as with an IR port
and a complete wiring to the rear connectors for 7.1 audio output (not to the prejudice of the microphone and a linear input).
But, unlike Intel's boards, there is no digital optical audio output, and besides there fewer fan connectors.
So, on the whole, by the abundance of various controllers this Foxconn board approaches more to expensive elite motherboards, e.g. those by ASUSTeK and Gigabyte made on the same chipset. Anyway, the latter frequently offers even a wireless LAN controller which in this case is not provided.
The board's specific features:
By its layout, the full-length Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 resembles Intel's reference design (and the board Intel D925XECV2), although no precise replicas were found. For example, the four memory slots offer a different wiring of the memory bus for the i925XE Express chipset rather than on Intel D925XECV2, although the «chipset» IDE, FDD ports and the main ATX power connector are positioned practically in the same place.
The LGA775 processor socket and the components of the line conditioners for the processor's supply voltage around it are also arranged in a way similar to that on the Intel board, but the wiring and the precise layout of these components do not coincide. The processor's line conditioner itself on board Foxconn 925XE7AA is powerful enough but there is nothing it stands out with: it is standard 3-phase, with doubled keys on each of the arms (there are 12 keys altogether, like on the Intel's board; on cheaper boards, they sometimes save on the keys often), it offers nine low-profile low-voltage 560 mkF capacitors and three 1800 mkF capacitors.
On the reverse side of the board, the earth power bus line and processor supply bus are reinforced additionally with tinned strips (see the photo).
The indubitable advantage of Foxconn 925XE7AA are high-performance pulse stabilizers for feeding the memory and the north bridge of the chipset (other manufacturers often save on that simply using regular linear stabilizers instead of pulse stabilizers).
On the north bridge of the 925XE Express chipset, there is a mid-sized radiator (smaller than that on Intel boards), but unlike Intel boards there is a fan with the RPM sensor controlled by the board (the advantages and shortcomings of the solution are evident – the cooling is better and is aimed at overclocking, but not to the prejudice of the noiseless operation).
The power supply ATX connector is made following 2.03 specifications and uses 24 pins (instead of the former 20), although it allows plugging in older-version PSUs of 2.01 standards (in my tests, Foxconn was running with such a unit trouble-free, even if the lack of a «long» latch on that connector – the one used on Intel boards – arouses some apprehension regarding the reliability of such type of connection).
I have already mentioned the RAID controllers for UltraATA/133 and Serial ATA (which allow arranging disk arrays of levels up to 0+1 for both interfaces, that is as many as 14 (!) ATA storage devices can be plugged in). Also there, I mentioned two(!) Gigabit LAN controllers on board the Foxconn, one of which connected to the faster PCI Express x1 bus (and completely implements the speed capabilities of the full-duplex gigabit data transmission), the other one - to the slower PCI 2.3 bus whose bandwidth restriction is at about 100 MB/s (for transmission of useful data) and which do not allow making a complete use of the full-duplex speed mode of this controller. Frankly, instead of the latter I should have integrated a 802.11g wireless controller onto the board.
The only what depreciates the value of two additional RAID controllers is that they are connected to the chipset over the PCI 32 bit/33 MHz bus too slow for that (whose real bandwidth is merely 100 MB/s). That is, RAID 0 and RAID 0+1 on such controllers won't get the full amount of speed on today's and future disks (even if LAN or other controllers don't interfere with it). Perhaps, more promising now are similar controllers for the PCI Express x1 bus but they are not yet ready at the manufacturers'.
The board uses a 3-pin FireWire controller built on the Texas Instruments' chip, with one of the ports supporting a new twice as fast IEEE 1394b interface (800 Mbit/s versus 400 Mbit/s, the other ports – IEEE 1394a).
The 8-channel Intel High Definition Audio is implemented with a modern Realtek's ALC880 codec with support for auto detection/reassignment of connectors. All the 12 analogous lines (6 stereo connectors, see the photo above) and 2 digital coaxial S/PDIF lines (the second one - to a separate plane) are fed to the rear panel.
Nor the old COM-port has been forgotten (the second COM-port and a game port are missing on board at all).
What is left to mention is that there is both a piezo tweeter and a standard connector for plugging in the external speaker and audio ports of the front panel of the housing.
The few jumpers available on board are equipped with convenient petals.
Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 package bundle
The package bundle of Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 is on par with that offered by elite solutions by competitors – for the many years of my experience, I have come across few motherboards so generously equipped with various cables, brackets and planes. You can see that yourselves from the below photo.
All the ATA ports without exception are equipped with cables: there are three 80-core rounded IDE cables and also a rounded FDD cable, as well as eight(!) SerialATA cables accompanied by power supply adapters for eight SATA devices. Unlike traditional SATA cables with which the vast majority of boards and controllers are equipped, in our case the signaling cables and SATA power supply connectors are made using L-shaped connectors from the side of the storage devices (see the photo), which essentially reduces the probability of accidental break-off of SATA connectors during the assemblage of hardware within the PC housing and makes the assemblage more compact and convenient.
Besides, there are two planes for the rear panel of the PC housing: one with four USB 2.0 ports, the other one with two IEEE 1394 ports (regular and mini). Announced for the package bundle is also a plane with the coaxial S/PDIF connector which was missing in my case. Needless to say that all these cables and planes were made by Foxconn itself which is to date a world's leader at the release of various connectors and sockets.
As regards the «technical support» items, there are two user manuals (for the board itself, and its three RAID controllers – ICH6R, SiI3114, and ITE8212F), as well as a CD with the required software and three driver floppies for these three RAID controllers which (the floppies) may be of great help while installing operating systems on the respective RAID arrays. (Taking an opportunity, let me note one very important point related to the installation of Windows XP and the other versions on RAID arrays: if a «non-genuine» distribution package is used for that, which many piracy versions these operating systems are notorious for, you may come up against fatal installation errors even if all the RAID driver floppies to be fed into the computer while installing Windows are OK. Therefore, to do that I strongly recommend to use genuine or «native» Windows distribution builds).
All this splendor of cables and other fine items together with the board is housed in a rather original box of black grooved plastic surface "engirdled" with semitransparent plastic film.
Against traditional cardboard boxes for most motherboard, this package look rather unusual, rich and attractive.
In the Award BIOS Setup menu of Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2, there is a great number of settings typical for boards on this chipset – e.g., enabling/disabling additional controllers and management of their operation modes.
Certainly, a board built on the top-end chipset can no longer do without monitoring and overclocking (they are already there even on Intel motherboards). Through the menu of Foxconn 925XE7AA, you can monitor six voltage values (including memory and battery), two temperatures and the rotational speeds of the three fans (including the cooler on the chipset), there are settings for the warning and system power-off upon the processor overheating (on the photo below, you can see the maximum possible temperature values for these settings), as well as those for the fan rotational speed control (Smart Fan Controller).
You can set the parameters of the processor's temperature throttling
and adjust the four main memory latency timings (see the photo).
A separate menu contains a number of items gathered by the manufacturer into the Super Utilities (BIOS Features) group.
Among them, of most interest are SuperRecovery Hotkey (assigns the key for the system emergency start-up)
and an advanced SuperSpeed menu which is typical for boards that support multi-parameter system overclocking through which you can raise the processor supply voltage above the nominal (up to +0.1875V in 0.0125V increments), memory voltage (up to +0.1V in 0.03V increments), voltage on the chipset (by 0.03 and 0.06V), as well as adjust the multiplier and the processor clock speed (FSB adjustable within 200 to 265 MHz in 1 MHz increments), memory frequency (1:1 or 3:4 relative to the FSB), PCI Express (within 100 to 200 MHz in 1MHz increments) и PCI buses (33, 36, 40 MHz or synchronously to the PCI Express). These features are supported from within Windows using the proprietary SuperUtilities program.
For tests, we used the BIOS of version 925A02AR.bin dated 23/12/2004. There were no issues found during operation of the board at the nominal frequencies (with the timings pushed up) (including on the 1066 MHz bus). Also of note is that at the default settings the Foxconn 925XE7AA is precise enough at maintaining the values of all the basic frequencies – e.g., 800.2 MHz for the FSB (and 3200.7 MHz for the clock speed of the respective processor). That is almost as precise as matching with the nominal - 800.0 and 3200.0 MHz for Intel boards.
For speed tests of Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 versus the «reference» Intel D925XEСV2 board built on the same chipset and the previous Intel D925XCV board built on the Intel 925X Express chipset, we used Intel Pentium 4 540 (Prescott, 3.2 GHz) with a boxed Intel cooler for Pentium 4 LGA775 by Sanyo Denki, as well as the ATI X800XT video accelerator (by Sapphire; at the GPU and memory frequency 500 MHz), and DDR2-533 memory modules (Kingston KHX5400D2K2/1G modules – two 512 MB each were running at the latency timings 3-3-3-7). The systems were assembled inside an Arbyte YY-W201BK-A housing with the HIPRO HP-W460GC31 (460 W) PSU.
The test results are summed up in Table 2 and do not need any special comments.
|Table 2. Motherboards' speed test results for various applications|
|Chipset||Intel 925XE Express||Intel 925X Express|
|Motherboard (and memory latency timings)||Foxconn 925XE7AA(3-3-3-7)||Intel D925XECV2(3-3-3-7)||Intel D925XECV2(4-4-4-12)||Intel D925XCV(3-3-3-7)|
|Onboard processor clock speed, MHz||3200,7||3200,0||3200,0||3200,0|
|Memory operating frequency, MHz (by CPU-Z)||533,5||533,3||533,3||533,3|
|Everest 1.51, Memory Read Speed, MB/s||5765||5860||5650||5807|
|Everest 1.51, Memory Read Speed, MB/s||2100||2150||1950||2075|
|Everest 1.51, Memory Latency, ns||84,7||81,9||87,3||84,7|
|ScienceMark 2.0, Primordia (Ar), s||32,36||31,8||32,29||32,26|
|MetaBench 0.98, overall score||3393||3385||3370||3364|
|PCMakr04, overall score||5118||5068||5043||5067|
|MPEG2 to MPEG4 encoding (DivX 5.21), s||176||176||177||176|
|Archiving with WinRAR 3.41, s||166||163||172||165|
|3Dmark05, Graphic score||5485||5485||5470||5470|
|3Dmark05, CPU score||4489||4596||4577||4580|
|Unreal Tournament 2003, dm-anubis, fps||92,98||94,01||92,08||93,3|
|Unreal Tournament 2004, dm-rankin, fps||85,82||86,8||84,7||85,9|
|Vulpine GLMark 1.1p, 1024x768x32 bit, fps||134,6||137,1||132,3||134,9|
|Wolfenstein ET (demo radar), 1024x768x32 bit, fps||88,5||89,3||88,1||88,5|
|Quake III Arena, demo Crusher, 1024x768x32 bit, fps||195,5||196,9||192,9||195,3|
|Gun Metal, Benchmark 2, 1024x768x32 bit, fps||57,97||58,53||57,25||57,9|
|RealStorm Benchmark 2004, 640x480, index||2346||2357||2342||2353|
|CineBench 2003, Shading (CINEMA 4D), CB-GFX||366||366||364||364|
|SPEC viewperf v8.0.1, 3dsm-03, index||16,09||16,09||15,99||16,05|
|SPEC viewperf v8.0.1, proe-03, index||15,45||15,6||15,19||15,57|
|Averaged performance, %||100,86||101,62||100||100,94|
Note though that the memory operation speed in Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 turned out to be a bit lower than in Intel D925XEСV2 (under the same latency timings set in the BIOS Setup and even at slightly higher bus speed). At the same time, the loss at latency in D925XEСV2 amounts to 3.4%, but the Foxconn board runs approximately on par with Intel D925XСV.
The overall diagram shows the averaged performance for the boards. The averaging was done geometrically over all the tests of performance in applications run here, except the memory tests, and brought to the 100% level for Intel D925XECV2 with 4-4-4-12 timings (typical for modern DDR2-533 memory modules) and Pentium 4 540 processor.
In general, Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 left a very good impression. Having proved practically on par with Intel's top-end boards built on the 925X/XE Express chipsets, this product is advantageous over the latter for its additional controllers (IDE and SATA RAID, and the second Gigabit LAN), offers a superb package and package bundle, rich selection of settings in the BIOS Setup (including the multi-parameter overclocking), and demonstrates a stable operation. We can congratulate Foxconn on having started promotion of its products onto the market under own trade name through offering such a useful motherboard in its assortment. We only wish the prices for Foxconn motherboards proved as attractive to the buyer - even for such elite products like 925XE7AA-8EKRS2.