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Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2 — a Motherboard Based on Intel 945P Chipset

July 4, 2005



  • Intel 945P chipset (i945P northbridge and ICH7 southbridge)

As usual, the announcement of a new chipset series from Intel has caused a deluge of motherboards from all manufacturers. Foxconn models have been among the first motherboards that appeared in our test lab (based on all the three chipsets - i955X, i945P, and i945G) — the company corroborates to its plans to become one of the leading suppliers under its own brand (Foxconn used to be one of the largest OEM suppliers). The 945P7AA-8KS2 model does not come shipped with a rich bundle and does not carry a lot of additional on-board controllers. But functionality of modern chipsets is so high that you can hardly call this motherboard a low end solution. (However, you can look at this matter from a different angle: functionality of low end solutions has grown much of late.)




We have found no obvious drawbacks in the PCB layout. The only problems you may have is when you try to install high and long expansion cards into the last PCI slots, because all IDE and SATA connectors are located in this area. A heatsink on the northbridge is not as large as on motherboards from Intel. But it's rather high and is placed near the CPU socket, so there may be problems with installing non-standard large CPU coolers. 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 seven 3300 uF capacitors and four 1800 uF ones. The memory voltage regulator contains 3300 and 1800 uF capacitors as well as five 1000 uF ones reinforced with L-elements. In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Rubycon and Nippon Chemi-Con (high quality and reliable components).

The model under review has an "elder sister" 945P7AA-8EKRS2, based on the same PCB, but featuring maximum functionality planned for i945 motherboards by the company: it uses the ICH7R southbridge (hard drives connected to SATA connectors can form RAID 0, 1, 10(0+1), 5, and Matrix RAID) and features FireWire (for two ports) and the second gigabit network controllers (it's also from Broadcom, but it's connected to the PCI bus). Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (standard ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

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
  • 2 x PCIEx1
  • 3 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
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for 2 ATA100 devices (chipset based connector) and 4 ATA133 devices (based on the additional ITE controller), the latter can form RAID 0, 1 and 0+1
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for 4 SATA300 devices (chipset based connectors)
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for the second COM port
  • 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 S/PDIF-Out (Coaxial)
  • 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 Intense 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.

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 BCM5789KFB chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec (PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet)
  • IDE RAID controller, based on the ITE IT8212F chip, supporting four ATA133 devices that can form RAID 0, 1, and 0+1.

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:
+0,14, -0,24
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-84,9
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
84.6
Good
THD, %:
0.0035
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.019
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-83,0
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.017
Very good

General performance: Very good (details). The good audio quality of this motherboard is not marred even by the relatively long distance between the audio codec and the analog outputs.

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 = Auto, 100—200 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI = 33.33, 36.36, 40 MHz, Ref PCIEx (to increase proportionally to the PCI Express frequency increase)
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 1066—1400 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, +0.03, +0.06, +0.10 V
Chipset voltage control + Default, +0.03, +0.06, +0.10 V
FSB voltage control -  
PCI-E bus voltage control -  

We used BIOS dated 26.04.2005, 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 three 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.

Test Gigabyte 8AENXP-D (i925XE) Gigabyte 8I945P-G (i945P) Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 (i945G) Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2 (i945P)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:18 7:14 7:18 7:17
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 5:15 5:17 5:19 5:18
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec 33:05 33:14 32:38 32:40
Unreal Tournament 2004 (800x600x32), fps 72.6 71.9 71.2 71.3
Unreal Tournament 2004 (1024x768x32), fps 68.0 67.2 66.7 66.9

All the motherboards demonstrated similar results with this testbed configuration, the Foxconn model under review is not the fastest, but it's only insignificantly slower than its competitors. We shall publish a detailed roundup of motherboards on Intel 945/955 chipsets a tad later, after we review the majority of motherboards on these chipsets. Fortunately, there was nothing special about the process of testing Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2. That is we had no problems.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
July 4, 2005.


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