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Foxconn 955X7AA-8EKRS2 — a Motherboard on Intel 955X

October 5, 2005



  • Intel 955X chipset (i955X northbridge and ICH7R southbridge)

Intel chipsets hold the largest share of the motherboards market (at least, for Intel processors). No wonder that representatives of this very group are the most frequent guests in our test lab. We already reviewed two Foxconn motherboards equipped with Intel 945P and 945G (945P7AA and 945G7MA) not long ago. Today it's time to turn our attention to a product from this manufacturer, being a top model due to its chipset as well as overall functionality.

The 955X7AA model is designed in traditional Foxconn red-black-white colors, packed in a very convenient box (which resembles a chest :)), made of pressboard with a magnet latch. The contents and the box design are well matched: excellent i955X features in terms of SATA II support are supplemented with 4 x SATA ports (based on an additional controller). Those who prefer the old storage device interface are not abandoned upon the mercy of ICH7R (which really needs a supplement in this case) — the motherboard has the integrated ATA133 RAID controller supporting four devices. In the best modern traditions, there are two network interfaces on the 955X7AA. Both of them support 10/100/1000 Mbit/s; finally, owners of the corresponding devices may count on two FireWire ports and one GigaWire. Any user will be glad to have 8-channel integrated HDA controller with good (but not the best, according to the RMAA results) analog audio output quality.




On the whole, the PCB layout is not bad (for such a feature-rich model). A lot of connectors along the bottom (on the photo it's on the left) edge of the motherboard pose no special problems, as all short PCIEx1 slots are located there instead of regular long PCI ones (besides, your expansion cards will most likely be for the new slot type as well). However, the number of connectors (including the graphics slot) around DIMM slots hamper manipulations with memory modules anyway. Access to the jumpers is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There are brief descriptions of jumper functions on the PCB.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates four 1800 uF capacitors and ten 561 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator, consisting of one 3300 uF capacitor, one 2200 uF capacitor, and ten 470 uF ones, reinforced with L elements. In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Sanyo and Rubycon (high quality and reliable components). As the 955X7AA is the only model on i955X offered by the company, there is nothing surprising about its PCB being unique and having no unsoldered elements. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Winbond W83627EHF, according to BIOS Setup):

  • CPU and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V, and +12 V
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, officially supports 800/1066 MHz FSB, compatible with all existing (at the time of this review) top processors from Intel: Pentium 4 (571 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz), Pentium Extreme Edition (840))
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB DDR2-400/533/667; supports dual channel mode, if 2/4 modules of the same capacity and organization are installed in pairs; DDR2-400 is not supported, if processors with 1066 MHz FSB are installed)
  • PCIEx16 for video accelerators
  • 3 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
  • 8 x SATA/II (Serial ATA) — for four SATA300 drives (chipset-based connectors) supporting RAID 0, 1, and 0+1, as well as four SATA150 drives (these connectors are based on the Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 controller) with similar RAID support;
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB ports
  • 3 connectors for brackets with two FireWire ports (FireWire-400) and one GigaWire (FireWire-800)
  • Connector for a bracket with an additional COM port
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 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)
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 3 x fan headers (all with RPM control; 4-pin CPU fan header; one of the headers is occupied by the cooler on the chipset northbridge).

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, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Outs
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x analog audio jacks (Line-In, Front, Mic-In, Rear, Center/Sub, Side)

Package Contents




  • Package: the box is a tad thicker than usual, of a stylish (but modest) design. It's made of thick cardboard and equipped with a magnetic latch (so that you can open a close the lid as if it's a regular chest)
  • Documentation in English: User manual and a poster with brief installation instructions
  • Cables: 2 x SATA (with power converters for 4 devices), 2 x ATA66 (black and round), and an FDD cable (black and round)
  • Rear panel bracket with 1 x FireWire/GigaWire
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB
  • Rear I/O shield
  • 3 floppies with drivers for all RAID controllers (ICH7R south bridge and two additional ones)
  • CD with drivers and proprietary Foxconn utilities, Norton Internet Security 2005 and WordPerfect 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
  • Two network controllers, both supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/s; one of them is based on the Broadcom BCM5788KFB chip (PCI Gigabit Ethernet), the second is based on Broadcom BCM5789KFB (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
  • SATA RAID controller, based on Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 chip, supporting four SATA150 devices that can form RAID 0, 1, and 0+1
  • GigaWire, based on Texas Instruments TSB82AA2/TSB81BA3 chips, supporting two FireWire ports (FireWire-400, IEEE 1394a) and one GigaWire port (FireWire-800, IEEE 1394b).

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:
+0,15, -0,16
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-85,1
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
84.5
Good
THD, %:
0.0031
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.038
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-73,8
Good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.017
Very good

General performance: Good (Details).

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 Allows to disable specific CPU functions + Hyper-Threading, Execute Disable Bit
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 = 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 + 266—350 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 1066MHz FSB and 200—265 MHz at 1 MHz steps for processors with 800 MHz FSB
CPU multiplier -  
CPU core voltage control + Default, +0.0125—0.1875 V at 0.0125V steps
Memory voltage control + Default, +0.07, +0.13, +0.18 V
Chipset voltage control + Default, +0.05, +0.10, +0.15 V

We used BIOS v1.7.1.53, 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.

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz
  • Memory:
    • 2 x Corsair XMS2-4300 CM2X512A-4300C3PRO (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)
    • 2 x Corsair XMS2-5400 CM2X512-5400C4 (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)

  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA), 7200 rpm
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • Power supply unit: FSP AX500-A
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We should mention right away that the motherboard failed to startup with our standard Corsair XMS2-4300 Pro memory modules. So we had to replace them with DDR2-667 with the same timings and the same memory frequency (533 MHz). As a result, we saw no performance surprises, the Foxconn motherboard is slightly outperformed in its group by the current leader ASUS P5WD2 Premium.

Test ASUS P5WD2 Premium Foxconn 955X7AA-8EKRS2
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:07 7:12
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 5:14 5:18
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec 32:16 31:56
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Lowest@640x480x32), fps 73.5 71.2
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps 68.6 66.8

As you can see, the difference is insignificant. But if you are interested in the performance rating of chipset representatives irregardless of their performance differences from each other, we shall soon have a large-scale roundup of motherboards on Intel 945P/G and 955X.

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

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
October 3, 2005.


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