Intel is a rejuvenated company in 2007, its Core 2 Duo processors are sweeping the market and the company is clawing back lost market share from AMD in spades. While most of news has been focusing on the high end market, it's in the entry level arena that Intel is making the greatest headway. Here the performance to cost ratio is key, and Intel wins against AMD and company hands down.
The 965 Express series chipsets gives Intel something that it has been
lacking for a couple of years; a versatile chipset that offers excellent
performance for a low price. Add in a graphics capability and you have an
excellent workstation chipset with plenty of power.
The Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H motherboard is a prime example of what Foxconn can do. Based
on the Intel G965 Express and ICH8R 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 Intel G965 Express chipset operates with a
533/800/1066MHz Front Side Bus (FSB). It features 3GB/s SATA II RAID (0, 1, 5,
0+1) so you can hook up four SATA hard drives like the Western Digital WD740
Raptor together for data
redundancy in RAID 1, or the pure speed of RAID 0. One port is devoted to eSATA devices at the
rear I/O. A JMicron 'JMB361' controller brings an IDE and an extra SATA
channel into the fold. 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 G9657MA-8KS2H
test system today, and with Microsoft Windows Vista installed you
expect 1GB RAM the absolute minimum.
Off the shelf, the Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H
comes with the "-8KS2H" feature set; 8 for 8-channel High Definition 'Azalia'
audio, K for dual Gigabit LAN, 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 five internal SATAII channels, one external (eSATA) jack for external data storage devices, eight
480Mbps USB2.0 ports (four at rear & four headers) and no Firewire support
There is a good level of device integration built
into the Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H , with expansion possible via the PCI
Express x16 slot for a stand alone videocard, the PCI Express x1 and two
32-bit PCI slots for legacy hardware. The G9657MA-8KS2H features the Intel G965
Express GMA3000 integrated videocard, so a PCI Express x16 videocard really
isn't even required if all you intended on using the system for is Microsoft
Office, the internet, or email. The Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H retails for about $139
CDN ($118 US, £59 GBP).
The Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H motherboard is standard MicroATX size and at 24.3 x 24.3 cm will fit in pretty much any case out there. Despite the lack of real estate Foxconn did an excellent job with the layout of the motherboard. There's easy access to the memory slots as well as the various headers around the motherboard. The Intel G965 Express Northbridge and ICH8R Southbridge generate a fair amount of heat, that's why Foxconn places aluminum heatsinks on both.
To ease installation
headaches, ports and connectors and jacks on the Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H are
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 and IDE & SATA connectors
are all in matching shades. The case front panel I/O connector pins are suitably
Power Supply and Wattage Demands
ATX 1.4 spec power supplies (given away by a 20-pin main ATX power connector)
will still work with the Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H motherboard. Just make sure it has enough
at least 30A+ capacity on the 12V line.
It's good practice 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. 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.
Foxconn's Fox One
Foxconn's 'Fox One' chip controls the fan
speed and noise output of the G9657MA-8KS2H system, with an eye
towards reducing noise as much as possible. It operates with a software program
to provide WindowsXP-based system monitoring, overclocking, and even fan speed
The catch is that SmartFan mode must first be
enabled in the BIOS. To turn SmartFan on press the Del key at system POST and go
to the PC Health Status section in the G9657MA-8KS2H 's BIOS. There you will
find the SmartFan options. All you need to do is make sure it is set to 'PWM
mode'. If that is the case, SmartFan will automatically adjust the heatsink fan
speed according to the temperature values you set. All stock Intel LGA775
heatsinks uses a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) powered fan, but many after market
heatsinks may not.
differentiate a PWM fan from the standard variety by the 4-pin fan power cable.
Standard 12V DC computer fans will use either 2-pin or 3-pin fan power cables.
The 3-pin connector is by far the most common as the third pin acts as an RPM
sensor. The 4-pin PWM motherboard CPU fan header is backwards compatible with
the 3-pin fan variety, but the extra controls PWM fans bring to the table are
specific to that class of fan.
External eSATA Device Support
(aka external Serial ATA) support is one of the most exciting features to pop on
motherboards recently. When it comes to external mass storage, bandwidth has
always been an issue, and Serial ATA makes even IEEE 1394b's 800Mbps bandwidth
look paltry by comparison. An external SATA (eSATA) port is located at the rear
I/O of the Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H motherboard.
connection uses a slightly modified SATA cable (not included), which is better
suited to external connections. Standard internal Serial ATA cables are
sufficient for internal connections, but SATA-IO governing body decided a while
back that the external version should be a somewhat different format, thus
creating the eSATA standard. eSATA enclosures for hard drives are widely
available, and the great thing is that hard drives connected over this standard
are just as fast as internal devices.
connectors are hot swapable, so it makes adding and removing an massive external
hard drive about as complex as pluging in a USB memory key. For anyone who as
ever had to move Gig's of data over a USB cable, eSATA is simply awesome. Next
up PCSTATS will be running through the basic features and capabilities of the
Intel G965 Express chipset, and how it stacks up before diving into overclocking
and plenty of office oriented and gaming benchmarks..