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Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 — a Motherboard Based on Intel 945G Chipset

July 1, 2005



  • Intel 945G chipset (i945G northbridge and ICH7 southbridge)

Foxconn motherboards (as well as mobos from many other manufacturers), based on chipsets with integrated video, are traditionally designed in microATX form factor (for example, 915M07-G-8EKRS and 915M03-G-8EKRS2). The model under review possesses unassuming functionality for a motherboard on the latest chipset from Intel, but on the other hand this fact should have a positive effect on the price to consumer. On the whole, a gigabit network adapter, Serial ATA II support, and High Definition Audio will satisfy most common users, though they are usual attributes of state-of-the-art systems. Besides, the 945G7MA-8KS2 model has an advantage - integrated video controller Intel GMA 950, which demonstrates quite acceptable (for integrated video, of course) results.




On the whole, the PCB layout is successful, though its miniature dimensions lead to tightly packed connectors: IDE and PCI, FDD and the main power connector, DIMM and video PCIEx16. Access to the jumpers is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There are no brief descriptions of jumper functions on the PCB. The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates six 3300 uF capacitors, one 2200 uF capacitor, and four 1500 uF ones. The memory voltage regulator contains 3300, 2200 and 1500 uF capacitors as well as seven 470 uF ones reinforced with L-elements. In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Rubycon, Nippon Chemi-Con (high quality and reliable components) and less reputable components from Lelon.

The model under review has an "elder sister" 945G7MA-8EKRS2, based on the same PCB, but with an on-board FireWire controller and ICH7R southbridge (hard drives connected to SATA connectors can form RAID 0, 1, 10(0+1), 5, and Matrix RAID). PCB dimensions - 245x245 mm (standard microATX, the board is firmly mounted with eight screws).

System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A):

  • CPU, memory, and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V 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, it's claimed compatible with all existing top processors from Intel at the time of the announcement: Celeron D (345), Pentium 4 (570 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz), Pentium Extreme Edition (840))
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-533/667 without ECC; supports dual channel mode, the total memory capacity in both channels must be the same — for example, 256/256 or 256+256/512)
  • PCIEx16 for video accelerators
  • PCIEx1 slot
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can connect a regular 20-pin connector, but in this case it's not recommended to use powerful up-to-date componentry like top PCIE video cards) and 4-pin ATX12V for a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA100 devices (chipset based connector) and two ATA133 devices (based on the additional ITE controller), the latter can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for 4 SATA300 devices (chipset based connectors)
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB ports
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • S/PDIF-Out
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • TPM connector (Trusted Platform Module, a device with a controller that is used to check authenticity of digital signs and keys as well as other encryption and security functions)
  • Only two fan connectors (both with rpm control, the CPU fan connector also allows automatic rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 1 x VGA (D-Sub)
  • 2 x USB
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Analog Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front, Center/Sub, Rear, Side).

Package Contents




  • Package: standard box with an updated design, indicating that the model belongs to the Compete series
  • Documentation in English: user's manual and a brief installation guide
  • Cables: 2 x SATA (with a power converter for 4 devices), 2 x ATA66 and 1 x FDD cable
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and proprietary Foxconn utilities, as well as Norton Internet Security 2004 and Word Perfect Office 12.

The bundle includes all necessary SATA power converters (it will come in handy, if your PSU is not equipped with such connectors) and Norton Internet Security 2004 — a good personal firewall. Foxconn SuperUtilites package is a typical set of utilities: SuperStep (to overclock and monitor system parameters), SuperLogo (to change the graphic logo at startup), and SuperUpdate (to search for the latest BIOS version via Internet and to flash the loaded image).

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the HDA codec Realtek ALC880 supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • Network, based on Broadcom BCM5788KFB chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec (PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet)
  • IDE RAID controller, based on the ITE IT8212F chip, supporting two ATA133 devices that can form RAID 0 and 1.

Interestingly, in order to support two additional IDE devices, our sample has the ITE IT8212F controller, which is actually a dual channel IDE RAID controller (RAID 0+1 for 4 devices). In case of the 945G7MA-8KS2, only half of its capacities can be used, as the board contains only one ["non-chipset"] IDE connector. We can only guess whether these motherboards will have a different controller later on (layout-compatible?) or Foxconn gets these chips at a moderate price. The available documentation does not specify a model of this controller.

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:
+0,16, -0,35
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-81,8
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
81.5
Good
THD, %:
0.0032
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.027
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-80,2
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.020
Very good

General performance: Good (Details). There is nothing unusual about the quality of analog audio output in this motherboard.

Proprietary technologies

  • 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

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
Top Boot Block (BIOS) jumper It loads an interface to flash BIOS, if the previous flash procedure was a failure
In AwardBIOS v6.00PG from Phoenix Memory timings + CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge, Precharge Delay (tRAS)
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 533/667 MHz
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = Ref CPU (to increase FSB clock proportionally), Fixed (100 MHz at any FSB clock)
PCI = 33.33, 37.7, 44 MHz
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 1066—2000 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 1066MHz FSB and 800—1060 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 800 MHz FSB
CPU multiplier + If a processor does not allow CPU multiplier control, it's fixed at the minimal value for the series (x14)
CPU core voltage control + Default, +0.0125—0.1875 V at 0.0125V steps
Memory voltage control + Default, +0.05, +0.10, +0.15 V
Chipset voltage control + Default, +0.05, +0.10, +0.15 V
FSB voltage control + Default, +0.1 V
PCI-E bus voltage control -  

We used BIOS dated 21.04.2005, the latest 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.

Preliminary test results

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair XMS2-4300 CM2X512A-4300C3PRO (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA), 7200 rpm
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

The table below contains the results demonstrated by the first motherboards on i945P/G that we reviewed and the results of the fastest (according to the roundup of six motherboards on Intel 925XE) i925XE representative — Gigabyte 8AENXP-D. We have also tested our model with the integrated video (Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950).

Test Gigabyte 8AENXP-D (i925XE) Gigabyte 8I945P-G (i945P) Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 (i945G) Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 (with integrated video i945G)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:18 7:14 7:18 7:21
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 5:15 5:17 5:19 5:21
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec 33:05 33:14 32:38 33:00
Unreal Tournament 2004 (800x600x32), fps 72.6 71.9 71.2 33.0
Unreal Tournament 2004 (1024x768x32), fps 68.0 67.2 66.7 30.8

All motherboards demonstrated similar results with this testbed configuration. Gigabyte 8AENXP-D, equipped with the i925XE chipset of the previous generation, not only keeps on the level with all its competitors, but it even manages to demonstrate higher results in some tests! However, it's an advantage of this model rather than the defects of the new motherboards — Intel 945/955 series chipsets are not intended to noticeably outperform representatives of the previous generation (i915/925). Besides, an indisputable advantage of the Gigabyte 8I945P-G and the Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 is their support for dual core processors. Another point: judging from the preliminary results, the new generation of integrated video from Intel is quite justified and can be a good substitute for discrete video in some cases.

We shall soon publish a large roundup of motherboards on i945P/G and i955X chipsets and determine what model is the fastest. We shall also compare their performance characteristics with the motherboards on the main (for this moment) competitor to Intel chipsets — NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition).

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
July 1, 2005.


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