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Foxconn WinFast 6100M2MA-RS2H Motherboard

August 11, 2006



  • NVIDIA GeForce 6100 chipset (GeForce 6100 Northbridge and nForce 410 Southbridge)

Support for old interfaces can hardly be a competitive advantage for expensive motherboards, but there is no sin for entry-level models to take advantage of this argument. It's no secret that most corporate users are not eager to upgrade computers out of aesthetic reasons. So offices keep a great number of fully operational devices that require outdated COM, LPT, IDE ports. Besides, there are components, for example, hardware keys for professional software and specific devices (indispensable) manufactured by local inventors, which cannot be connected to USB/FireWire.

Engineers of WinFast 6100M2MA-RS2H evidently wanted to design a motherboard with conservative functionality for this group of users. Contrary to the modern tendency, two IDE connectors are preserved, the number of SATA connectors is also reduced to two. The board has a connector for the second COM port in addition to COM and LPT connectors on the rear panel.




That's not the first time when we have practically no gripes with the layout of a microATX motherboard. All peripheral and power connectors are located along the edges, the only jumper (clear CMOS) is also easily accessible and is equipped with a "handle". Even the FDD connector is not blocked by the bottom PCI slot - it's located near IDE connectors instead.

Both bridges get rather hot during intensive operations. But the voltage regulator, despite no cooling, gets hot only in marathon tests that heavily load a processor. A heatsink on the Southbridge gets hotter than that on the Northbridge, it's especially noticeable in active network traffic modes. Chipset cooling can be tested by copying large files from a local FTP server or loading the built-in network adapter in a different way (that's especially important for nForce4-series chipsets). In this case we ran a file-exchange client for 24 hours, but we noticed no operating instabilities.

The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates three field-effect transistors per channel, five 3300 uF capacitors from United Chemi-Con, and four 1500 uF capacitors from Rubycon. The memory voltage regulator is reinforced with L-elements and incorporates capacitors solely from elite manufacturers (from the same two series). The choice is just excellent! That's even surprising, as this model is as cheap as possible in other respects: an empty seat for a FireWire controller, which is installed in a more expensive model (6100M2MA-8EKRS2H), which is also equipped with a 8-channel HDA codec and a gigabit network adapter. Motherboard dimensions — 245x245 mm (standard microATX), nine-screw mount.

System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-S, according to BIOS Setup)

  • CPU core and battery voltages, +3.3, +5, and +12 V Standby
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Smart Fan — automatic rotational speed control for a CPU cooler. The fan rotates at half speed, until the CPU temperature exceeds 55°C. Then the rotational speed grows stepwise to 75%. If the temperature is still growing and reaches 65°C – 67°C, the fan speed reaches maximum.

Smart Fan offers a logical algorithm, especially good for an inexpensive or boxed cooler, which usually cannot boast of an even noise spectrum along the entire range of speeds. Consequently, several fixed rotational speeds are an optimal choice to preserve minimal speed for the required temperature range. However, you can also specify the desired speed or stop the fan manually using the bundled utility - Tiger One.

It's good that Foxconn together with ECS introduced Smart Fan modes into low-end models, which used to be unavailable even in expensive models from these manufacturers.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2, officially supports all AMD Athlon 64/X2/FX/Sempron processors for this socket)
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-400/533/667/800, dual-channel mode)
  • 1 PCIEx16 for a video accelerator
  • 1 x PCIEx1
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and 4-pin ATX12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for 2 ATA133 devices — chipset-based
  • 2 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for two SATA300 devices — chipset-based, these hard drives can form RAID 0 or 1
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB ports
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • AUX-In connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • S/PDIF-Out connector
  • Connector for a bracket with a COM2 out
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 2 fan headers with rpm control, CPU fan header also supports smart control from BIOS.

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x COM, 1 x VGA, 1 x LPT
  • 2 x USB
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet)
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in).

Package Contents




  • Package: a small box of the unified WinFast-series design. Interestingly, we found no mentions of Foxconn on the box. Though Leadtek, the co-owner of "WinFast" (its trademark for video cards), readily publishes its own name
  • Documentation: a poster with illustrated specifications of the motherboard and installation instructions; the detailed manual (in English only) is available at the official web site
  • Cables: 1 x SATA with a power converter for a single device, 1 x ATA66, and 1 x FDD cable
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and proprietary Foxconn utilities.

A set of proprietary utilities includes Tiger One — system monitoring (it alerts a user when monitored parameters go beyond the admissible limits), overclocking (along with BIOS settings, it allows to control PCI Express clock), manual speed control for a CPU fan. SuperLogo - changing a graphics logo that is displayed at startup. BIOS LiveUpdate — updating BIOS automatically, checking for updates on the official web site. The bundle also includes Norton Internet Security 2006.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset-based support for AC'97 and Realtek ALC653 codec, 5.1 channel audio, front line-ins/outs and S/PDIF-Out
  • Network, based on Marvell 88E3016-MNC1 controller supporting 10/100 Mbit/s (Fast Ethernet).

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0,21, -0,41
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-83,5
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
83.8
Good
THD, %:
0.045
Good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.059
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-81,4
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.210
Average

General performance: Good (Details). Unfortunately, Foxconn engineers are still insisting on AC’97 codecs in low-end models (like in the previous model for Socket 939), though the chipset supports HD Audio. So if you want to use something better than micro speakers in your monitor, you'd better consider the 6100M2MA-8EKRS2H model with a sterling 8-channel HDA codec.

Proprietary technologies and peculiarities

  • SuperBoot — PC boot acceleration: the current system parameters are stored to be used at startup in order to skip device initialization and self-diagnostics and proceed right to the OS loader; when the system configuration is changed (or at any boot up error) the system automatically performs POST and stores the new parameters
  • SuperRecovery creates a backup in the hidden area of the hard drive and restores this data, when necessary
  • SuperLogo — editing the startup logo
  • SuperBIOS-protect — BIOS protection from unauthorized flashing.

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
Award BIOS v6.00PG Allows to disable specific CPU functions + SSE/SSE2
Memory timings -  
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800 MHz (you actually specify a multiplier to the HTT frequency)
HT bus setup + Multiplier to both buses (x1—x5 t integer steps), separately for both directions of the Northbridge-Southbridge bus, and capacity: 8 or 16 bit for the CPU-Northbridge bus, and 4, 8, 16 bit for the Northbridge-Southbridge bus
Peripheral bus frequency control -  
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200—300 MHz at 0.5 MHz steps
CPU multiplier -  
CPU core voltage control + from -0.0500 to +0.3375 to the nominal at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control + 1.80—2.15 V at 0.05V steps
Voltage control of the 1.2 V line (for HT bus from a processor to Northbridge) + +0.05—0.35V at 0.05V steps

We used BIOS 5C3W1P22 dated 15.05.06, provided by the manufacturer. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

Despite some interesting overclocking settings, including CPU and memory voltage control, some BIOS features are puzzling. For example, absolutely no control of memory timings. You cannot change a CPU multiplier as well as control Cool’n’Quiet (however, this technology works well, after you install a driver in Windows).

These flaws may be fixed in future BIOS versions, as even now Tiger One controls parameters that are unavailable from BIOS, PCIE clock in particular. However, we found out the main voucher in performance tests: automatic timings selection is praiseworthy! By the way, the overclocked motherboard expectedly demonstrates a better potential compared to models with developed timings options, but without memory voltage control.

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
  • Memory: 2 x 1 GB Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, automatically selected timings (according to the info provided by NVIDIA nTune): x-5-4-6-1T, standard timings: 5-5-5-15-1T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, 512 MB GDDR3
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We compared this model to ECS RS485M-M — the only tested model for Socket AM2 on the integrated chipset (ATI Radeon Xpress 1150, competitor to NVIDIA nForce 6100).

Test integrated video discrete video
ECS RS485M-M Foxconn 6100M2MA ECS RS485M-M Foxconn 6100M2MA
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 6:57 6:48 6:52 6:45
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 6:14 6:08 6:12 6:05
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps 27.3 44.4 75.6 76.7
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 10.7 9.5 71.5 72.3
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 29.7 30.8 113.8 126.5
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 13.4 12.9 122.3 133.0

As we already noted in the review of the ECS RS485M-M motherboard, the current implementation of the integrated video core from NVIDIA outperforms ATI's solution in lower resolutions and in simple video modes, while the difference becomes insignificant in modern games and under heavier loads on the accelerator. What concerns 2D performance, both solutions demonstrate practically identical results (to be more exact, Foxconn managed to shoot forward due to automatically selected aggressive timings).

Conclusions

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 is certainly viable even on the Socket AM2 platform in the segment of inexpensive motherboard with multimedia "rudiments". In fact, NVIDIA doesn't even have to invent a replacement in the nearest future, as functionality of this chipset is more than sufficient. 3D performance of the video core corresponds to the modern level for integrated video (to be more exact, there are just no better solutions so far).

Conclusions on the Foxconn motherboard are also pleasant. The company evidently works on individuality of its products, even low-end models, though competing motherboards cannot boast of rich functionality. Compared to the model on the same chipset for Socket 939 (Foxconn WinFast 6100K8MA-RS), the list of proprietary options is supplemented with such a useful feature as automatic fan speed control. Nevertheless, we cannot approve of the obsessive usage of cheap audio codecs, ignoring chipset support for HD Audio. Cheap motherboards are exactly those models that require integrated audio support. And the resulting cost reduction is too low to justify using AC’97. That's why it's especially surprising when such a choice is accompanied with solely elite capacitors.

This model on the manufacturer's web site (Russian mirror)

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Dmitry Laptev (lpt@ixbt.com)
August 11, 2006

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