It's amazing how little accessories like good set
supple rounded IDE cables, can make you feel good about a new motherboard.
The thinking must be that if Foxconn can get the small details right, then it must have a handle on the bigger picture too. Right...? From what you're about to see of this Intel 975X Express based Foxconn motherboard running with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor, this bright red platform could be the makings of one very nice workstation computer!
The flagship Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H
motherboard is a prime example of what Foxconn can do. Based on the Intel
975X Express and ICH7R chipsets, the board supports all Socket
775 Intel CPUs from the Celeron D to the Pentium 4/D/XE, and of course Core
2 Duo. The 975X Express chipset operates with a 800/1066MHz Front Side Bus
(FSB). It features 3GB/s SATA II RAID (0, 1, 5, 0+1) so you can hook up as
many as four SATA hard drives like the Western Digital WD740
Raptor together for data
redundancy in RAID 1, or the pure speed of RAID 0. A 'JMB361' controller
brings a secondary IDE channel into the fold, so along with the
one Intel's core logic has graciously provided, up to four IDE
devices are supported. On board memory is skewed for dual channel
pairs of DDR-II RAM of course, and as much as 8GB of PC2-800/667/533 memory
can be installed. PCSTATS will be using 2GB of Corsair
Twin2X2048-6400C4 in the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H test system
today, and with Microsoft Windows Vista on the horizon I wouldn't
recommend building a new system with any less than 1GB RAM.
Off the shelf, the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H comes with the
"-8EKRS2H" feature set; 8 for 8-channel High Definition 'Azalia' audio, E
for IEEE1394 Firewire, K for dual Gigabit LAN, R for RAID of course, S
for plenty of Serial ATA II hard drive support, 2 for DDR-2 and H because
this slab of solder and circuits is RoHS compliant. A closer examination
reveals four internal SATAII channels, one external (eSATA) jack for external data storage devices,
eight 480Mbps USB2.0 ports (four at rear & four headers) and two 400mbps Firewire ports.
Despite the high level of integration already present,
the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H still has plenty of expansion options available for
additional cards. Along with the two PCI
Express x16 slots for videocards are two PCI Express x1 slots for high bandwidth peripherals, and two 32-bit PCI slots for legacy hardware. The 975X7AB-8EKRS2H is ATi CrossFire compatible. If you have two ATI videocards that can be configured for Crossfire mode, each videocard would receive half of the PCI Express x16 bus, or in other words eight PCI Express lanes apiece. All of this will run you about $220 CDN ($200 US, £106 GBP).
The board layout of the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H is
virtually identical to that of the Foxconn 975X7AA-8EKRS2H motherboard
which PCSTATS has also tested. It's a good layout, it's easy to access component
like the DDR-II modules when the system is fully packed, and cables and
connectors are pushed towards the outer edges where they don't get in the way.
This full sized ATX motherboard measures in at 305 x 244 mm for those who need
to know. The Intel 975X Express and ICH7R get particularly toasty,
and for cooling
we find an active Northbridge heatsink and low profile passive Southbridge
heatsink. PCSTATS would also advise good case cooling habits; the extra heat
dumped into the chassis by twin ATI Radeon X1950 Pro videocards, the processor,
and a rack full of SATA hard drives is significant. A box like the Asus
Vento 3600 could be just the ticket, though it's far too flashy for most offices.
To ease installation headaches, ports and connectors and jacks on the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H are colour coordinated. Memory DIMM slots are paired to indicate which are channel A, and which are channel B. Other bits and bobs like the USB 2.0, IEEE 1394a, and IDE & SATA connectors are all in matching shades. The case front panel I/O connector pins are suitably labelled too.
Power Supply and Wattage Demands
Legacy ATX 1.4 spec power supplies (given away by a
20-pin main ATX power connector) will still work with the Foxconn
975X7AB-8EKRS2H motherboard. Just make sure it has enough at least
30A+ capacity on the 12V line. Otherwise it's best to use an ATX 2.0 spec
power supply (noted by the 24-pins of its main ATX connector) power
supply, like the modular cable Seasonic M12 700W, or PC Power & Cooling's monster Turbo-Cool 510W Express/SLI which is great for any system running power hungry dual videocards. Either of these recommendations has the ESP12V connector. Most high end motherboards call for the EPS12V connector to deliver a stable and sufficient supply of power to the CPU, and realistically sooner or later legacy support for just a 4-pin auxiliary power connector is going to get dropped.
The Intel 975X Express is a dual purpose chipset,
meaning it is intended to be used in both the high end desktop
and workstation computer markets. Such as that is, the 975X Express supports ECC memory in case you need the extra reassurance Error Correcting Code DDR-II can provide. Which ever memory you select, it's important to note that you cannot mix and match ECC and non-ECC memory!
Next up, some simple accessories that have PCSTATS staffers all