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Foxconn A7VA Motherboard

An original mix of full ATX design and integrated graphics.

December 29, 2008



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Settings


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
AMIBIOS 2.62 Controlling specific functions of the platform + Cool'n'Quiet
C1E Support
Memory timings - Unganged/Ganged Mode
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
Integrated GPU frequency control + 150-1000 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from x4 at x0.5 steps
CPU voltage control + +25-775 mV at 25 mV steps
Memory voltage control + +50-600 mV at 50 mV steps
Chipset voltage control + +30-360 mV at 30 mV steps (for Northbridge)
+60-360 mV at 30 mV steps (for Southbridge and HT bus)

(*) 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 12.08.08, provided by the manufacturer. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

The choice of settings is worthy of a more expensive motherboard for overclockers, as it offers everything necessary, including voltage control. Only the lack of control over timings may disappoint those users who like to keep everything under control. To be more exact, the motherboard allows you to keep tabs on timing values in BIOS (our memory modules operated with the timings recommended in SPD), but you cannot change them manually.

Overclocking

In order to evaluate 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.


  Clock, MHz FSB Clock (multiplier), MHz Core voltage (according to BIOS), V HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
Athlon X2 4850e (2.5 GHz) 3250 260 (x12.5) 1.54 1300 (x5)
Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz) 2723 248 (x11) 1.25 2228 (x9)

These are very good results, the best ones for our Phenom processor compared to its previous results on other motherboards. Automatic restoration of default BIOS settings after a failed overclocking attempt does not work. So you have to reset CMOS with a jumper -- mauvais ton these days. Overclocking with AMD OverDrive is not supported. To be more exact, you can adjust only multipliers and non-overclocking functions. But Foxconn bundles the motherboard with Fox One, which provides almost all settings available in BIOS. We managed to overclock the integrated GPU from nominal 350 MHz to 700 MHz, NB voltage raised only by 60 mV. And the NB heat sink remained barely warm. On the other hand, we installed Zalman CNPS9700, which makes an efficient contribution into cooling of motherboard elements. So we recommend CPU coolers that drive air lengthwise, if you want to overclock the GPU. If your primary objective is to overclock a CPU, the optimal choice is a CPU cooler installed crossways to the board, so that it cools the voltage regulator. However, there are no all-purpose recipes in this case. Setting up optimal cooling for an overclocked computer is a creative process. For example, if you want to overclock both a CPU and a GPU to maximum, the best cooling solution may be a lengthwise blowing CPU cooler and a case fan on the rear panel near the voltage regulator. The primary advantage of this combined approach is that each fan can rotate at low speed, and the computer won't be noisy.

Performance

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 to ECS A780VM-M2 with the same chipset, but of the microATX form factor, designed for the office segment.


Test Int. graphics Discrete graphics
ECS A780VM-M2 Foxconn A7VA ECS A780VM-M2 Foxconn A7VA
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:40 1:40 1:40 1:38
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:42 4:47 4:41 4:45
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480), fps 59.8 59.3 62.9 62.2
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 42.8 42.9 59.6 58.5
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 82.9 83.4 136.8 136.0
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 52.8 53.1 158.2 162.3

No departure from the reference level of this chipset. By the way, it's an unusual performance level for an office chipset. Thus, some users of this motherboard may decide to use the integrated graphics core not only to plug two monitors, but also to play quiet games.

Power consumption (entire system unit)


Phenom X4 9550 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF) Int. graphics Discrete graphics
ECS A780VM-M2 Foxconn A7VA ECS A780VM-M2 Foxconn A7VA
Text editing, W 38 49 66 61
Playing FarCry, W 67-88 78-83 95-107 85-102

A full-size ATX motherboard consumes more power in idle mode, but its power circuits are more efficient under load, or when you install a graphics card. It agrees with the typical roles of both motherboards: ECS product can be used in a power efficient office computer, while the Foxconn mobo is designed for generic home computers.

Conclusions

We already mentioned in our roundup that Foxconn's low share of the motherboard market (in the segment of inexpensive full-size motherboards for individual customers) can be explained with delayed rollouts of its products based on the new chipsets compared to rival companies. This was happening for about six months. The situation is apparently getting better now. And most importantly, Foxconn engineers managed to design an original motherboard, which has no counterparts among competing products. It goes without saying that only users can judge how well this motherboard meets their requirements. We can only mention its good design and high-quality implementation. If you need even a better product, you may try the S modification. With all its pros, this motherboard won't be expensive, because its manufacturer has no objective reasons to raise its price tag -- modest bundle, no additional controllers (FireWire, eSATA).


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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