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Foxconn 865PE7AF-8EKS – a Motherboard Based on Intel 865PE Chipset for Socket 775

March 11, 2005



There is a detached group of models among Socket 775 motherboards, which is based on Intel chipsets of the previous generation (i865/875). As a rule they are no less fast than boards on i915/925. Besides, such systems turn out even cheaper. However, marketing advantages of such models are not quite clear: if you purchase a motherboard on i865/875, why not choose the one for Socket 478? (Besides, you will be able to buy a processor on Northwood core, which generally offers no less performance than Prescott core at the minimum.) Well, at least Foxconn made a good show of the price advantage: at the time this article was written, the 865PE7AF-8EKS with 8-channel audio (on the cheapest codec), gigabit network (on the cheapest controller) and even with FireWire(!) was about 55 USD (!!!). If it had used ICH5R instead of ICH5 to provide RAID features, it would have been a dream of any user.

Now about the bad thing: we could have forgiven almost anything to a motherboard of this price range, except for one thing. That's what we have problems with in our tests: the system failed to pass some tests, it just froze. One can assume that it's an AGP glitch, because all problem applications work with 3D graphics (FarCry and UT2004 games, professional 3D modeling package SPECviewperf). However, Doom3 looks impeccable in any resolutions during lengthy tests, while the other games would freeze at the first seconds. We experimented with reducing the memory frequency, increasing timings, replacing a video card – all in vain. Perhaps it's a problem of this very sample (we'd like to think that). Probably the situation may be resolved by updating BIOS. If we get an opportunity to test another sample of this motherboard or see in action the new BIOS version, we are sure to inform you about the results. So far we can only make a helpless gesture and add that the motherboard passed the majority of tests.




What concerns design flaws, which interfere with system assemblage, we can note the FDD connector located at the bottom edge of the PCB near the rear panel (an FDD cable may fail to reach a floppy drive in high towers) and the power connectors located at the rear panel (power cables will hang over the CPU cooler, but at least you can bunch them together). The integrated audio has an original layout: the codec is driven into a motherboard corner and the external analog ins/outs and the analog CD/DVD-In connector are half way to the opposite edge of the motherboard (both vertically and horizontally). As a result, it's quite convenient to plug the cable to CD-In, but the effect of this layout on the sound quality remains in question (we'll go into this issue below). Access to the only jumper is hampered even when the motherboard is not in a case (it's very close to the IDE slot). There is a brief description of jumper functions on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates six 3300 uF capacitor, three 1800 uF capacitors, and several ones of a lesser capacitance. Note that part of the field-effect transistors and electrolytic capacitors, initially provided by the design, are not soldered on the motherboard. The board also has a memory voltage regulator (it includes three 1000 uF capacitors and several ones of a less capacitance).

Foxconn manufactures a lot of models for Socket 775, based on Intel 915/925 as well as i865x chipsets (also SiS chipsets). Two of them are notable for the typical defeatured design, they are based on the same PCB: the 865PE7AF-8EKS under review and the 865PE7AF-S (6-channel audio instead of 8-channel, 100-megabit instead of gigabit network, it also lacks FireWire) Motherboard dimensions – 305x200 mm (narrow ATX, six-screw mounting). The ITE IT8712F-A chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU voltage, +3,3, +5 and +12 V
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775 supports Pentium 4 processors up to 3.4 GHz and Celeron D processors up to 3.06 GHz, but the list may be expanded in future)
  • 2 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 2 GB DDR200/266/333/400 supporting dual channel mode), the list of certified modules can be found on the manufacturer's web site or in the user's manual
  • 1 x AGP 8x (with a latch)
  • 5 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.1 (20 pins) and a 4-pin ATX12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) – both are in the chipset (four ATA100 devices)
  • 2 x SATA (Serial ATA) – both are in the chipset (two SATA150 devices)
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 1 connector for brackets with an additional FireWire port
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 1 x audio port
  • S/PDIF-Out for a bracket with proper output jacks
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 2 x fan connectors (both with RPM control) – barely sufficient for these days

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x COM
  • 2 x USB and 1 x FireWire
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x Audio (Rear, Center/Sub, Line-In/Side, Front, Mic-In)

Package Contents




  • Iridescent box of a bright design
  • Documentation: a brief motherboard guide in English, a poster that advertises Foxconn products and technologies
  • Cables: 2 x Serial ATA (with a power adapter for two SATA devices), 1 x ATA66/100/133, and an FDD cable
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with software:
    • Motherboard drivers
    • DirectX 9.0b
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • Norton Internet Security 2005 (antivirus, firewall, etc)
    • Foxconn SuperUtility (a set of proprietary Windows utilities to overclock the system, modify the flash screen at the POST procedure, search for new BIOS versions and flash them).

Integrated Controllers

  • AC'97 Realtek ALC850 Audio Codec supporting 7.1 surround sound audio, with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • LAN, based on the Realtek RTL8110S-32 chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec Base-T (PCI Gigabit Ethernet)
  • FireWire based on the Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip supporting two FireWire ports

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.4 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.08, -0.93
Average
Noise level, dB (A):
-73.8
Average
Dynamic range, dB (A):
73.7
Average
THD, %:
0.041
Good
Intermodulation distortion, %:
0.085
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-75.4
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.105
Average

General performance: Good (details). The overall sound quality rated by RMAA still looks not quite correct – the satisfactory mark would have been more appropriate. A detailed analysis (see the link above) proves that the half-board distance between the codec and the analog audio outs results in a high level of distortions and noise. In our opinion, the formal support for 7.1 channel output (that's not High Definition Audio, it's just AC'97 v2.3!) does not compensate for these flaws, so it's a rare occasion when we do not recommend to take integrated audio as an advantage of this motherboard.

Proprietary technologies

  • SuperBoot (to accelerate system reboots by skipping the POST procedure – it's not recommended, because the process is only a couple of seconds faster and is accompanied by the black screen and the lack of other signs of life)
  • SuperRecovery (backing up the data in the hidden HDD sector and restoring it in case of a data loss)

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In Award BIOS v6.00PG from Phoenix Memory timings + CAS latency time, Active to precharge delay, RAS to CAS delay, RAS precharge
Memory frequency selection + Auto, DDR266, DDR320, DDR400 (for 800 MHz FSB)
AGP bus setup -  
PCI bus setup -  
AGP and PCI frequency divider setup -  
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200-232 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + x12-x17
CPU core voltage control -  
Memory voltage control -  
Chipset voltage control -  
AGP voltage control -  

We used BIOS dated 01.12.2004, the only available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

Performance

Having compared it with Shuttle FB77 (part of the Shuttle XPC SB77G5 barebone-kit), based on the Intel 875P chipset and also designed for Socket 775 processors, one can notice that the Foxconn model under review is rather a slow representative of the i865PE. All other things being equal, it would be outscored even by the majority of i865PE/G motherboards, to say nothing of "enable PAT", which allows to compete with i875P motherboards in performance. Of course, Foxconn 865PE7AF-8EKS manages to avoid the direct confrontation with a great number of i865PE/G motherboards just due to a different CPU socket. But there are higher-performance models even among i865/875 motherboards for Socket 775.

TestFoxconn 865PE7AF-8EKSShuttle FB77 (i875P)
Writing to memory (RMMA, MB/sec)14961746
Reading from memory (RMMA, MB/sec)36744530
Memory latency (RMMA, ns)48,436,4
Archiving (7-Zip, min:sec)7:337:19
Doom3 (640x480@Minimal, fps)87,288,0

This model on the manufacturer's web site




Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)
February 24, 2005



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