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Foxconn 945G7AD-8EKRS2H Motherboard
on Intel 945G Chipset

Motherboard on Intel 945G Chipset

January 30, 2008



Basically, this board is a complete analog of the 945P7AD-8EKRS2H model. It has an additional bonus in the form of an integrated graphics adapter thanks to i945G being used as northbridge instead of i945P. That is why we see no reason to object to anyone, who wants to consider this article as a review of both models. The only exception being the part that concerns integrated graphics adapter (which isn't going to be a lot).

The main distinction of the new Foxconn's series based on i945P/G chipsets is support of processors with Conroe(-L) core. They are: Pentium Exxx, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme and Celeron based on the new core. We can also note that for the first time Foxconn has produced boards based on i945x in the ATX form-factor. Until now this chipset has been "given the honor" of serving only as part of microATX boards. We have even reviewed one of them previously.

The board itself is a typical average model, a workhorse, aplenty in the market. The reason these boards are so numerous is that they provide the most sales. We can't say that about interesting top-of-the-line products with complex circuitry, extra controllers, fancy power supplies and cooling systems. The objective of such boards is to be installed into a chassis and... sink into oblivion. That is why the less it reminds of its existence, the better. Price determines the rest.

945G7AD model in particular offers, as we have said earlier, integrated graphics adapter as an extra bonus. For a full-size ATX board it is, frankly speaking, not a very attractive bonus. It makes no sense buying an ATX form-factor board for cheap office or household computers. It would suggest a chassis of equivalent size, which cannot be compact. Still it is quite clear why this doesn't trouble Foxconn: 945G7AD's wiring is practically identical to that of 945P7AD, so they did not have to design anything new. On the other hand, there will always be a certain number of users, who would rather buy a "big" board for the future, but would also appreciate having the option of not buying a graphics card right away.




The board's wiring is standard for budget solutions, a compromise between the need to satisfy wiring requirements and the desire to do it as cheaply and quickly as possible. The users will without a doubt notice the "original" placement of two PATA slots (with respect to one another), the "simplicity" of having to route a cable to the audio outputs on computer's front panel almost all the way across the board, as well as many other little details. However, as we have mentioned previously, this board is not intended for systems, whose insides are going to be shown off to friends or acquaintances on a weekly basis, or systems that are going to be upgraded and reassembled every month. For a one-time job one can muster up the patience, and after some suffering forget about expansion cards, connectors and cables for 2-3 years. That is why we are not going to painstakingly examine the wiring—the product's class is not right for that.

Chipset cooling is absolutely ordinary: passive heatsinks, typical for this class of products. There is no sign of any "refinement" in terms of optimization of shape, placement and number of fins. However, both heatsinks have a pressure spring and reside upon thermal paste. The socket's surroundings allow installing a cooler that is somewhat bigger than the boxed one. Again, for this class of products it is quite a good characteristic. In 99% of cases such a board will be paired with a CPU that is far from upper-class, and a boxed cooler will be enough for it. The 4-channel VRM uses 3 field transistors per channel, 4 3300 microfarad Sam Young capacitors and another 3 of 1500 microfarad each. We approved of the ferrite core chokes being used, because they heat up less. Also, 4 channels for the voltage regulator with a total of 12 field transistors is significantly better than the competitor motherboard solutions in this category.

Summing it up, we can say that with the pros and cons added together the board is fully representative of its class in the bounds of the given market segment. It does not promise much excitement to the owner, but spares him from any serious disappointments. As an exception, the odd location of COM port bracket header is bound to get lots of emotional comments from anyone who tries to connect a corresponding bracket to it. We simply did not have enough cable length... Yes, of course these ports are obsolete, but if a manufacturer hesitates to abandon them altogether, he should at least provide their full usability.

System Monitoring (ITE IT8718F-S, from BIOS Setup and Windows Utilities Data)

  • Voltage of CPU, memory, +3.3, +5 and +12 V;
  • Rotation rate of the 2 fans;
  • Temperature of CPU (by built-in CPU sensor) and of the motherboard (by on-board sensor);

Brand FOXONE utility adds nothing to this list.

Ports, Connectors and Sockets on Board's Surface

  • CPU Socket 775, that supports processors with FSB frequencies of 533/800/1066 MHz of the following families: Celeron D, Celeron 400, Pentium 4/XE, Pentium D, Pentium Dual-Core, Core 2 Duo/Extreme;
  • 4 DDR2 SDRAM DIMM slots (up to 4 GB of DDR2-400/533/667; with support of dual-channel mode when two equivalent modules are paired);
  • 1 PCIEx16 graphics accelerator slot;
  • 2 PCIEx1 slots;
  • 3 PCI slots;
  • Power supply connectors: ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and EPS12V (8 pins), besides, the latter also supports ATX12V connectors (4 pins) without having to use any adapter;
  • FDD slot;
  • 2 IDE (Parallel ATA) slots, with functionality provided by the chipset (for 2 ATA100 devices) and an external controller (for 2 ATA133 devices);
  • 4 SATA-II slots with functionality provided by the chipset, disks can be combined into a RAID of levels 0, 1, 0+1 and 5;
  • 2 bracket headers for 4 extra USB ports;
  • A bracket header for an extra FireWire port;
  • A bracket header for an extra COM port;
  • CD/DVD-drive audio-out header;
  • Block of analog audio-in/out connectors for the computer's front panel;
  • A header for Chassis Intrusion detector;
  • IrDA socket;
  • TPM (Trusted Platform Module) socket;
  • S/PDIF-Out header;
  • 2 fan sockets (4-pin for the CPU fan), both support rotation rate monitoring, CPU fan socket provides automatic rotation rate control functionality.

Board's rear panel (left to right, blockwise)





click to view the board in 3/4 perspective from the rear-panel side
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports;
  • VGA (D-Sub), LPT, Coaxial S/PDIF-Out, eSATA sockets;
  • 2 USB ports and 1 FireWire port;
  • 2 USB ports and 1 RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet) port;
  • 6 analog audio sockets (Line-In, Front-Out, Mic-In, Rear-Out, Center/Sub, Side-Out).

It is nice to see that being basically a budget product the board has digital audio output and an eSATA slot.

Package contents




  • Packing: a standard box of quite a low-key design;
  • Documentation: a large sheet with brief CPU and cooler installation instructions, a large photo of the board with a layout legend for of all of the sockets, and on the reverse side a guide for some BIOS settings and instructions for installing drivers with a brand utility, that allows installing all drivers "in a single click". The information is available in 12 languages.
  • Cables: 1 PATA, 1 SATA (with a supply adapter), 1 FDD;
  • Rear panel plug for corresponding connectors;
  • CD with the necessary drivers and brand utilities including FOXONE (hardware monitoring as well as overclocking) and LiveUpdate (updating BIOS, utilities and drivers for this board through the Internet).

No additional brackets, which the board has headers for, were included in the package in our case. However, the contents of different packages can vary significantly, that is why it is more reasonable to find it out from the vendor at the time of purchase.

Integrated controllers

  • Audio controller, based on an 8-channel Realtek ALC861 budget level HDA-codec;
  • Network controller, Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Mbit/s), is based on a Realtek 8111B PCI-controller;
  • Additional IDE and SATA-II controller, based on a JMicron JMB361 chip (PCIEx1 interface), supports two devices on the ATA133 channel and one SATA300 (support is implemented through an eSATA slot on the board's rear panel);
  • FireWire controller, based on a VIA VT6308P chip, supports 2 FireWire ports.

We have evaluated quality of the integrated audio in 16-bit 44-KHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 testing suite and ESI Juli@ sound card:

Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 KHz), dB
+0.16, -1.44
Average
Noise level, dB (A)
-89.1
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A)
89.0
Good
THD, %
0.028
Good
THD + N, dB (A)
-69.2
Average
IMD + N, %
0.042
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB
-89.0
Excellent
IMD at 10 KHz, %
0.387
Average

Overall rating: Good (details)—the quality of analog audio output is good according to our test results. However, deficiencies in certain characteristics make it clear that even in comparison to modern motherboard audio codecs this solution doesn't look very favorable.

Settings

Based on jumpers CMOS reset jumper  
Through BIOS based on AwardBIOS v6.00PG Ability to turn specific CPU functions off + C1E, Execute Disable Bit, EIST, Virtualization Technology
Memory timing settings + CAS Latency, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge, tRAS
Memory clock rate selection + Auto, 400, 533, 667 MHz
Ability to set frequencies of peripheral buses + PCI-E: 100—255 MHz in 1 MHz increments
Manual distribution of interrupts by slots + additionally, BIOS Setup shows the current links between interrupts and devices as a tip
Adjusting FSB frequency + 100—600 MHz in 1 MHz increments
Adjusting CPU multiplier -  
Adjusting CPU core voltage + Default, from -0.05 V to +0.25 V in 0.0125 V increments
Adjusting memory voltage + Default, from +0.7 V in 0.1 V increments
Adjusting chipset voltage + southbridge: Default, up to +0.3 V in 0.1 V increments
Adjusting FSB voltage + Default, up to +0.3 V in 0.1 V increments

For testing we have used 08/21/07 version of BIOS, which was the latest one available at the time of testing. The aforementioned BIOS capabilities are available in the specified version of the BIOS. Non-standard settings were not tested for operability. The board allows launching a built-in utility for updating BIOS by pressing Alt+F combination during POST procedure. However, a floppy disk is the only allowed storage medium for the new version.

In addition, BIOS Setup includes a setting called "Fox Intelligent Stepping". In Default mode it sets FSB frequency and supply voltage to standard values. Manual mode allows controlling all parameters by hand, while the Step1/2/3 states correspond to overclocking factory presets. So the minimal setting (Step1) raises the FSB frequency to 273 MHz (from the standard 266) and the CPU supply voltage by 0.05 V, without affecting any other parameters. Step3 (which apparently is the safe maximum in Foxconn egineers' opinion) raises FSB frequency to 287 MHz and the CPU supply voltage by 0.15 V and all other adjustable voltages by 0.2 V. Considering the excellent overclocking potential of the [low-end] Conroe models, no other term except "toy overclocking" seems to apply. It only fits a really lazy or inexperienced user.

Performance

Testbed configuration:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4 GHz)
  • RAM: 2 x 1 GB Corsair CM2X1024-9136C5D modules (tested in DDR2-667 and DDR2-800 modes with timings of 4-4-4)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon X1900 XTX 512 MB
  • Hard drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • PSU: GlacialTech GP-PS450AP
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

The interest towards this board for the most part is due to its support of processors based on Conroe core. Therefore, we shall compare Foxconn 945G7AD-8EKRS2H not against other models based on the same chipset, but rather with more modern boards with Intel's integrated graphics of the two following generations. Due to the fact that i945 supports only DDR2-667 memory, we have tested it in exactly that mode, considering it as giving a little head start to the competitors.

Benchmark Foxconn 945G7AD-8EKRS2H (DDR2-667) Gigabyte 965G-DS3 (DDR2-800) Gigabyte G33M-DS2R (DDR2-800)
Data compression using 7-Zip, min:sec 4:26 4:10 4:10
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 3:41 3:37 3:37
Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps 203 218 218
Doom 3 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 121 121 121
FarCry (Low@640x480), fps 341 363 359
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 151 151 152

Benchmark Foxconn 945G7AD-8EKRS2H (integrated graphics i945G) Gigabyte 965G-DS3 (integrated graphics G965) Gigabyte G33M-DS2R (integrated graphics G33)
Data compression using 7-Zip, min:sec 4:28 4:12 4:11
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 3:41 3:38 3:37
Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps 23 23 23
Doom 3 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 7   5
FarCry (Low@640x480), fps 53 122 85
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 15    

Well, the main character of this article loses a little (6-7%) to the majority of the modern solutions for Conroe. Its integrated graphics adapter (in the games and the modes where it is still reasonable to talk about speed) is quite obsolete.

Conclusion

This is a rather decent full-size ATX motherboard in the budget category with integrated graphics as a bonus. Of the drawbacks one can point out less than perfect wiring layout and mediocre operating speed. On the positive side are its functionality (eSATA, S/PDIF-Out, FireWire, 3 PCI slots) and price, of course. For a board with Core 2 support anything less than 80 dollars is very little (for the moment when the article was written). However, the integrated graphics adapter is unsuitable for games and would not support many of the modern display devices. Nevertheless, purchasing a graphics card will completely solve the problem and, therefore, Foxconn 945G7AD-8EKRS2H can aspire to significant popularity during its short lifetime (until Intel stops the production of i945 chipset series).

This model on the manufacturer's website

Memory modules for the testbed provided by Corsair
Stanislav Garmatyuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
January 29, 2008

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