iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Foxconn A79A-S Motherboard

For reasonable enthusiasts.

December 16, 2008

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Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
Buttons to power on/off and reset a computer  
AMIBIOS 2.62 Allows to disable specific CPU functions + Secure Virtual Machine
Cool'n'Quiet (Power Now!)
C1E Support
TLB Patch
Memory timings + Unganged/Ganged Mode, 1T/2T Mode, CAS Latency, Min RAS Active Time, RAS to CAS Delay, Row Precharge Time, Row to Row Delay, Row Cycle Time, Precharge Time, Write-To-Read Delay, and a wide selection of additional timings
Memory frequency selection + Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800, 1066 MHz (you actually specify a multiplier to the FSB frequency)
HT bus setup + Auto, 200-2600 MHz at 200 MHz steps
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCIE=90-250 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 190-400 MHz at 1 MHz steps
SB reference frequency control + 90-150 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from x4 at x0.5 steps
CPU voltage control + +24-600 mV at 24 mV steps (core)
2.30--2.99 V (CPU PLL)
Memory voltage control + 1.776-2.480 V at 0.048 V steps
Chipset voltage control + 1.680-2.355 V at 0.045 V steps (Northbridge)

(*) Adjustment ranges of CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as HT bus, depend on a given processor. We publish results for our Phenom 9550.

We used BIOS P05 dated 03.09.08, provided by the manufacturer. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

It's very inconvenient to specify a CPU multiplier in BIOS with the hexadecimal CPU FID (for example, x4 corresponds to 8h, x8 -- 10h). This system is used rarely, and it's often used together with the standard method. Perhaps, the next BIOS versions will have the standard option. For this reason we decided to overclock the system with AMD OverDrive, using BIOS Setup only to adjust processor core voltage in those cases when the tuning range in the utility was insufficient. In other respects, all BIOS settings look consistent, tuning ranges are sufficient practically for any overclocking.


In order to evaluate the motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary (but if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier). Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run stability tests from AMD OverDrive (all tests for five minutes). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.

CPU Clock, MHz FSB Clock (multiplier), MHz Core voltage (according to BIOS), V HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz Note
Athlon X2 4850e (2.5 GHz) 3312 265 (x12.5) 1.47 1325 (x5)  
Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz) 2717 247 (x11) 1.22 2223 (x9)  
Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz) 2950 236 (x12.5) 1.48 2320 (x10) Bus-overclocked
3100 200 (x15.5) 1.52 2000 (x10) Multiplier-overclocked (ACC OFF)
td>3400 200 (x17) 1.54 2000 (x10) Multiplier-overclocked (ACC ON)

The motherboard indeed allowed to squeeze maximum from the processors taking part in our tests. We had all rights to expect such results from a motherboard of this class.

We are again pleased with Advanced Clock Calibration (to gain advantage from this technology, you need a Black Edition processor with the unlocked multiplier, it does not help in overclocking with the reference frequency). We set ACC to +2 % (for all cores). Performance gain of 900 MHz is really impressive, especially as the motherboard demonstrates no signs of overheating, it was fully stable. It goes without saying thatPhenom processor, overclocked to at least 3.2 GHz, manages to provide necessary data flow for Radeon HD 4870 X2 in all modern games. If you install two such cards, you will have to set antialiasing and anisotropic filtering to maximum to use the entire potential of the cards. We speak of high graphics quality modes and options available to powerful computers, not artificially reduced modes (for some reasons, such low modes are often used to prove the advantage of some eXtreme CPU modifications, probably because it cannot be done in other modes).

To facilitate overclocking experiments with BIOS, Foxconn engineers should have added an option to save profiles, which is implemented in most motherboards of this class. However, constantly developing Windows utilities for overclocking render BIOS improvements less and less important.


Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 (2 GB, DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD3870, 512 MB GDDR4
  • Power supply unit: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We decided to compare the motherboard under review with Foxconn A7DA-S based on AMD 790GX. We publish only its results with an installed graphics card.

Test Foxconn A7DA-S Foxconn A79A-S
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:38 1:36
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:44 4:41
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 58.6 59.6
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps 59.0 59.4
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 125.8 136.2
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 125.8 134.6
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 159.9 159.4
DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps 158.3 158.4

Our testing methodology for motherboards without an integrated graphics core seeks bottlenecks, which may theoretically appear because of mistakes made by engineers and BIOS programmers, as they may spoil the reference performance level, typical of the given combination of a processor, graphics card, and memory. Foxconn A79A-S demonstrates formal performance advantages. But the real difference is too small to notice. Thus, it makes absolutely no sense now to choose a motherboard without an integrated graphics core (lest the integrated core should somehow reduce computing performance), even if you want to install a graphics card. As we have already mentioned, only gamers may choose such a motherboard, if they want a CrossFire system based on two most powerful dual-GPU cards (which may theoretically suffer from insufficient throughput of PCI Express 2.0 in x8 mode in top resolutions), or if they want to install three or four single-GPU cards.

Power consumption (entire system unit)

Phenom X4 9550 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF) Discrete graphics
Foxconn A7DA-S Foxconn A79A-S
Text editing, W 61 77-93
Playing FarCry, W 102-126 118-134

More robust power circuits and more CPI Express lanes to some degree (not much) offered by AMD 790FX, as well as additional controllers increased power consumption of the motherboard under review relative to the 790GX-based model. However, we can see that the board itself won't ask for a more powerful PSU. It will depend on power requirements of graphics cards and their number installed.


We like three main properties of this motherboard, which actually shape the attitude of hardcore users to the price tag: functionality (ports/connectors, we have nothing to complain here), support for top CrossFire configurations, and a sufficient set of BIOS settings for overclocking (what's no less important, the board allows to reveal full overclocking potential of a processor, which has to do with the design of the voltage regulator, cooling system, and many other solutions not usually apprehended by users). The AMD 790FX + SB750 combo apparently plays its part in the overall image.

The other manufacturers are expected to roll out their products with this combination of bridges after the announcement of Socket AM3 supporting DDR3 memory. But our recent tests (on both platforms) have demonstrated that higher memory bandwidth does not yield relevant advantages to modern applications. Taking into account that Socket AM3 processors with the overhauled architecture are backward compatible with Socket AM2+, the most impatient users may start their migration right now. And this motherboard from Foxconn seems to be a good choice.

The motherboard provided by the manufacturer,
ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card provided by PowerColor.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, performance, conclusions

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