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Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
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Date: Aug 23, 2004
Section:Motherboards
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications & Bundle

It has been about eight weeks since Intel officially launched their i925X (Alderwood) and i915 (Grantsdale) chipsets, and their new LGA775 "pinless" Pentium 4 processors.  Since the launch, we've taken a look at two i925X based motherboards from Abit and Asus (seen here), and we had tested Intel's own D925XCV motherboard in our launch article.  These three motherboards all worked well, and offered their own somewhat unique take on the i925X.  Intel's board made for a good reference platform, Abit's AA8 DuraMAX was a competitively priced, overclocker friendly board, and the Asus P5AD2 Premium was chock-full of technological "bells and whistles".  Today, we're going to take a look at Foxconn's take on the i925X chipset, the 925A01-8EKRS2.  The 925A01-8EKRS2 is a very feature-rich motherboard that takes full advantage of all of the i925X chipset's inherent capabilities.  This board has Gigabit Ethernet, Intel 7.1 channel High-Definition audio, SATA RAID, PCI Express, and the list goes on.  It's also priced fairly aggressively and turned out to be a respectable overclocker.

     

Specifications of the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
Ready For Intel's Best
Processor
_Intel Pentium 4, Socket 775, 800MHz FSB
_Fully supports Intel "Prescott" processors
_Intel Hyper-Threading Technology supported

Chipset
_Intel 925X Express + ICH6R

Memory
_Dual channel, unbuffered, 1.8V DDR2-400/533 w/ or w/o ECC; (4) 240-pin DIMM sockets, max 4GB
_Supports Intel Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT)

Graphics
_Discrete (non-integrated) - use expansion slot

Expansion Slots
_1 x PCI Express x16
_3 x PCI Express x1
_2 x PCI

IDE
_1 x ATA/100
_4 x SATA/150 (w/ RAID)

Audio
_Integrated, 7.1 channel High Definition, including front audio and S/PDIF headers (Realtek)

LAN
_Integrated Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) controller (Realtek)

IEEE-1394
_Integrated (VIA), 1 x rear + 1 x front I/O header
Rear Panel
_1 x PS/2 keyboard
_1 x PS/2 mouse
_1 x RJ45 (LAN)
_4 x USB 2.0
_1 x line-in/line-out/mic (audio)
_Additional line-out for 7.1 channel Intel High Definition audio
_1 x parallel (SPP/ECP/EPP)
_2 x COM (16550-compatible UART)
_1 x IEEE-1394

Internal
_1 x floppy disk drive
_2 x USB 2.0 headers (supports 4 ports)
_1 x IEEE-1394 header
_Front audio header

BIOS
_4Mb flash EEPROM w/ LAN boot, PnP, ACPI, WfM, DMI 2.0
Features
_Wake-on-LAN (WOL), suspend-to-RAM (STR), suspend-to-disk (STD)
_SuperUtilities - SuperBoot, SuperBIOS-Protect, SuperRecovery, SuperSpeed, SuperStep, SuperLogo, and SuperUpdate

Accessories
_Support CD, user manual
_1 x floppy drive cable, 1 x ATA/100 cable, 4 x SATA data cables, 2 x SATA power cables (supports 4 drives)
_Rear I/O shield
_RAID driver floppy disk

Form Factor
_ATX, 12.0" x 9.6" or less - see User Manual

          

Foxconn has taken a "no-nonsense" approach to the 925A01-8EKRS2's accessory bundle.  Included with the board itself, we found two well-written user's manuals; one detailing all aspects of the motherboard, the other focusing on the board's Serial ATA RAID capabilities.  A fairly large quick-reference poster, which spotlights and labels all of the 925A01-8EKRS2's major components, was included as well, along with a driver / utility CD and a floppy disk containing Intel ICH6R RAID drivers.  Foxconn also provided an S/PDIF bracket, a dual-USB bracket and a custom I/O shield.  Lastly we found an assortment of cables, including two SATA data cables, a Molex-to-Dual SATA power connector splitter, a standard floppy cable and an 80-Wire Ultra ATA IDE cable.  Definitely not the most serried accessory bundle, but all of the necessities are there.

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The Board: Up Close & Personal

Foxconn has done a fairly good job with the 925A01-8EKRS2's component placement and overall layout.  It's built upon an attractive dark-blue PCB, with color-coded headers, connectors and slots.  And with the exception of the 4-Pin 12V power connector, which is located between the rear connector panel and the Northbridge, and one of the internal firewire headers that's located between PCI X1 slots two and three, there are no other layout issues to speak of.

The Board: Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
Not a Bad Lookin' Board

          

          

     

Mounted atop the i925x Northbridge is a behemoth passive aluminum heatsink, that does a good job of keeping the chip cool provided ventilation is adequate.  During extended overclocking sessions, it was barely warm to the touch. The heatsink Foxconn uses on the 925A01 is much larger than anything we have seen so far from third party manufactures, including Abit and Asus.  Only Intel built boards seem to ship with a more substantial Northbridge heatsink.  Mounted just behind the four DDR2 DIMM slots (4GB max), is the 24-Pin ATX power connector, the floppy connector, and a lone 40-Pin IDE connector.  Travel a bit further down the board and you'll find the Southbridge, along with 4 SATA connectors, and a cluster of jumpers / headers for additional USB ports, clearing the CMOS, case connectors, front audio connectors, etc.

The Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 is also equipped with a versatile slot configuration that should allow for plenty of expansion, especially considering all of the goodies already incorporated onto the board.  Along with the single PCI Express X16 slot are three PCI Express X1 slots and two standard PCI slots.  Because Foxconn has outfitted this board with a plethora of integrated features, the rear I/O panel is loaded with assorted connectors.  It has dual PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse), four USB 2.0 connectors, a single IEEE-1394 firewire connector (VIA controller), one parallel and two serial ports, an RJ-45 Ethernet connector and 6 assorted 1/8" audio connectors.  The Ethernet connector interfaces with a Realtek 10/100/1000 controller, and the audio connectors, also powered by a Realtek chip, will allow users to take full advantage of the 925A01-8EKRS2's integrated 7.1 channel Intel High Definition audio capabilities.

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The BIOS & Overclocking

The Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 is equipped with an Award / Phoenix v6.0 BIOS derivative, like most other motherboards shipping today.  Foxconn has done some tweaking, however, that gives the 925A01 some fairly unique features and capabilities...

The BIOS: Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
It's Fairly Complete

          

          

          

Most of the BIOS menus contain options that are commonly found on a multitude of other products.  The Standard, Advanced, and Chipset Features menus are home to common features for tweaking memory timings, assigning the boot order, and setting the time and date, etc.  On the "BIOS Features" menu though, we found some Foxconn specific options that aren't very common.  These "BIOS Features" are dubbed SuperBoot, SuperBIOS-Protect, SuperRecovery, and SuperSpeed.  SuperBoot basically trims down the POST routine on warm-reboots to shave a few seconds off of the boot process and SuperBIOS-Protect prevents unwanted programs, like a virus for example, from overwriting the BIOS and damaging the board.  Nothing revolutionary, but very useful nonetheless.  SuperRecovery is a bit more interesting, however.  SuperRecovery uses a hidden hard drive partition to backup data that will allow users to recover from a fatal error.  Think of SuperRevoery as a basic version of Drive Image or Norton Ghost built right into the system BIOS.  SuperSpeed is essentially a link to the "Frequency and Voltage Menu" where all of the overclocking tools are located.  Speaking of overclocking...

Overclocking Tools: Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
Getting Better With Age...

          

          

We've had experience with a few other Foxconn motherboards, and found their overclocking options to be somewhat limited.  Initially, the 925A01-8EKRS2 left is with the same impression, but over time Foxconn seems to have turned over a new leaf.  We've had this board on the test bench for a quite a few weeks.  The initial BIOS revision that shipped with the board had overclocking options to alter the FSB and to raise the CPU voltage, but other than that where wasn't much else available.  In June a newer BIOS revision was released that added more voltages, but in mid July yet another BIOS revision was released that added quite a few useful tools.  When equipped with this latest BIOS revision, the 925A01-8EKRS2 has overclocking tools available that rival some much bigger names in the business. System memory can be clocked asynchronously from the FSB at DDR2400 or DDR2533 speeds and the PCI clock can be clocked at 33.33MHz, 36.36MHz, 40MHz, or in reference to the PCI Express clock.  The PCI Express clock can be set to any speed between 100MHz and 200MHz, in 1MHz increments, provided your card can handle the increased clock speed (which it probably can't! ATi and NVIDIA's PCI Express cards usually malfunction once the PCI Express clock hits about 115MHz).  The FSB can be set to any speed between 200MHz and 350MHz, also in 1MHz increments, and CPU, Memory and Chipset voltages can all be altered.



CPU-Z
Pentium 4 @
3.91GHz
18x217MHz

CPU-Z
Pentium 4 @
3.53GHz
14x252MHz

SANDRA CPU Benchmark
Pentium 4 @ 3.91GHz
18x217MHz

When we actually go to overclocking our processor, we had some very interesting results.  We used an engineering sample CPU, so we have two sets of numbers to digest here.  First is the maximum stable clock speed we were able to hit with our particular CPU, which turned out to be just a hair below 4GHz.  We hit that speed with a multiplier of 18 and a Front Side Bus speed of 217MHz - PCI Express and PCI clock speeds were locked at 100MHz and 33.33MHz respectively, the memory was clocked at DDR2400 speeds, and we raised the CPU core voltage by .1v.  We should also note that Foxconn has a "built-in" overclocking recovery tool with this board's BIOS.  Select an FSB that's too high, and that system will fail the POST, and automatically revert to an FSB of 200MHz without having to manually clear the CMOS.

Then we set out to find the highest FSB the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 could utilize.  We dropped the multiplier on our CPU and raised the FSB until the system would no longer POST and had some interesting results.  First we raised memory and chipset voltages by .1v (the maximum available in the BIOS), and with the PCI Express clock locked at 100MHz, the highest FSB we could hit was a paltry 217MHz (we tried both ATi and NVIDIA video cards).  

We did some experimenting though, and found that as we raised the PCI Express clock, we could hit higher and higher FSB speeds.  In the end, we found the highest PCI Express clock that worked reliably with our video cards was 116MHz.  At this PCI Express clock speed, the highest FSB we could hit was a rather impressive 252MHz.  It seems that with the serial point to point connections of PCI Express, i925X owners should do some experimenting with their PCI Express clock to find their highest stable speed, before raising the processor's FSB.  The reason for this may be that timing characteristics of the i925X chipset are significantly more relaxed when interfacing to higher speed PCI Express links, afording more margin on its on the front side bus speed. We'll be experimenting further with some other motherboards and will update you with more information on this in the near future.

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Our Test System & SiSoft SANDRA

How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, first, we entered the system BIOS and set each board to their "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults".  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP1) was installed. When the installation was complete, we hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones related to Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, and removed Windows Messenger from the system altogether. Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, and we setup a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives and ran all of the tests...

Test System Specifications
"Intel Inside!"
SYSTEM 1:
LGA775 - Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz)

Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2
Intel i925x

2x512MB Corsair DDR2 533

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT

On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1
NVIDIA Forceware v61.45
DirectX 9.0b
SYSTEM 2:
LGA775 - Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz)

Abit AA8 DuraMAX
Intel i925x

2x512MB Corsair DDR2 533

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT

On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1
NVIDIA Forceware v61.45
DirectX 9.0b
SYSTEM 3:
S478 - Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz)

DFI LANPARTY Pro875B
Intel i875P

2x512MB Corsair PC3200

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT

On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1
NVIDIA Forceware v61.45
DirectX 9.0b
Preliminary Benchmarks With SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Synthetic Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran three of the built-in sub-system tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2004 suite (CPU, Multimedia, and Memory). All of these tests were run with the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 powered by a Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz) processor...


CPU-Z
Pentium 4 @ 3.4GHz
17x200MHz

SANDRA CPU Benchmark
Pentium 4 @
3.4GHz
17x200MHz

SANDRA MM Benchmark
Pentium 4 @
3.4GHz
17x200MHz

SANDRA Memory Benchmark
Pentium 4 @
3.4GHz
17x200MHz

The basic SiSoft SANDRA tests show the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 performing right on par with the reference systems listed in the database.  In the CPU Benchmark, the Foxconn board's ALU performance was slightly higher than the similarly configured reference system, but the FPU performance was a bit lower.  The Foxconn board was also a bit faster then the Pentium 4 550 reference system in the Multimedia test.  And in the Memory Bandwidth Benchmark the 925A01-8EKRS2 just barely missed breaking the 5GB/s mark.

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PCMark04: CPU and Memory

For our next round of benchmarks, we ran the CPU and Memory performance modules built-into Futuremark's PCMark04.  For those interested in more than just the graphs, we've got a couple of quotes from Futuremark that explain exactly what these tests do and how they work...

Futuremark PCMark04
More Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks

"The CPU test suite is a collection of tests that are run to isolate the performance of the CPU. There are nine tests in all. Two pairs of tests are run multithreaded - each test in the pair is run in its own thread.  The remaining five tests are run single threaded. These tests include such functions as file encryption, decryption, compression and decompression, grammar check, audio conversion, WMV and DivX video compression."

Abit's AA8 DuraMAX outpaced the Foxconn 915A01-8EKRS2 by a very small margin in PCMark04's CPU performance module, and both boards were slightly faster than a similarly clocked i875 system.  The 76 points separating the top two boards equates to only a 1.5% different, however, which is well within the margin of error in this test.


"The Memory test suite is a collection of tests that isolate the performance of the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem consists of various devices on the PC. This includes the main memory, the CPU internal cache (known as the L1 cache) and the external cache (known as the L2 cache). As it is difficult to find applications that only stress the memory, we explicitly developed a set of tests geared for this purpose. The tests are written in C++ and assembly. They include: Reading data blocks from memory, Writing data blocks to memory performing copy operations on data blocks, random access to data items and latency testing."

We had a similar result with PCMark04's memory performance module.  In this test, the AA8 was again the victor, but again it was by a very small margin.  It outpaced the Foxconn board by 91 points, or 1.6%, and both of the i925x boards were again slightly faster then the i875.

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3DMark03 & Windows Media Encoder

We continued our testing with another application from Futuremark, 3DMark03, and with a video encoding benchmark, Windows Media Encoder 9.  In the WME9 test, we took a 416MB Digital Video file and encoded to WMV9 format.  Times were recorded in Minutes : Seconds, with lower times indicating better performance.

Windows Media Encoder 9
More Digital Video Encoding

The previous trend continued with the Windows Media Encoder 9 benchmark.  Here, the Abit AA8 DuraMAX was again the fastest of the bunch, completing the test 5 seconds faster than the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2.  A 5 second difference equates to about a 3.3% advantage for the Abit board here, which was one of the larger deltas we saw in all of our testing for this article.

3DMark03
DirectX Gaming Performance - Sort Of

It's not an actual game, but 3DMark03's built-in CPU test is a "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance among similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are generated with a software renderer, which is dependant on the host CPU's performance.  This means that the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator, are instead sent to the central processor.  The number of frames generated per second in each test are used to determine the final score.

3DMark03's CPU performance test didn't show much of a variation between the three systems we tested.  The Abit AA8 did post the highest score, but again the performance delta between the Abit and Foxconn boards was so small (13 points) it falls well within the margin of error in this test.

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Business & Content Creation Winstones

Synthetic benchmarks only tell part of the performance story, so we took the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 to task in some "real world" scenarios as well.  For our first set of real world tests, we did some benchmarking with Ziff Davis' Business Winstone 2004 suite, followed by the more demanding Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite.

Business & Content Creation Winstones
Real-World Application Performance

The PC Magazine Business Winstone 2004 test utilizes the following applications in its benchmark.

  • Microsoft Access 2002
  • Microsoft Excel 2002
  • Microsoft FrontPage 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
  • Microsoft Project 2002
  • Microsoft Word 2002
  • Norton Antivirus Professional Edition 2003
  • WinZip 8.1

 

The PC Magazine Content Creation Winstone 2004 test utilizes the following applications in its benchmark.

  • Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1
  • Adobe Premiere 6.50
  • Macromedia Director MX 9.0
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
  • NewTek's LightWave 3D 7.5b
  • Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f

 

The Business and Content Creation Winstone benchmarks further corroborated what we had seen throughout our testing.  In both of these tests, the Abit AA8 DuraMAX posted the fastest scores, again by very small margins, besting the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2.  In the Business Winstone 2004 test, the i875 based test system even managed to pull ahead of the Foxconn board, but again - like most of the other tests - the delta fell within the margin of error.

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Wolf: ET & UT2004

To start our in-game testing, we ran through a batch of time demos with the OpenGL game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.  Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein, that was released a few years back. It uses a heavily modified version of the Quake 3 engine which makes it a very easy to use benchmarking tool.  We ran the test using the "Fastest" setting at a low resolution of 640X480, using 16-bit color and textures.  Running this test with a high-end graphics card, at these minimal settings, isolates processor and memory performance, without being limited by the graphics subsystem.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
OpenGL Quake Engine Gaming

 

Using our custom Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory demo, we found that all of the systems performed similarly, with the Abit AA8 DuraMAX once again coming out on top.  The Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 came in a very close second, followed by the i875 based system.  Only 6.4 frames per second separated the "slowest" from the "fastest" systems in this test though, which is a difference of less than 5%.

Unreal Tournament 2004
DirectX Gaming Performance

Lastly, we did some benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2004.  When we tested these systems with UT 2004, we ensured that all of them were being benchmarked with the exact same in-game settings and graphical options, and we dropped the resolution and detail levels to isolate CPU and memory performance.

Talk about sounding like a broken record.  In the Unreal Tournament 2004 tests, Abit's i925x walked away with yet another victory, trailed by the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2, and then the i875 based test system.  The delta separating the first and last place finishers in this test was also very small, just barely over 4%.

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Summary & Conclusion

Benchmark Summary: When compared to the similarly configured Abit AA8 DuraMAX motherboard, the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 wasn't able to outperform the Abit board in any of the benchmarks we ran.  However, the deltas between the two board were so small that, for all intents and purposes, they performed at identical levels.  When compared to a similarly configured i875 based test system, the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 was consistently faster in all but one test, but again the margins of victory were quite small.

The Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 is a very good product that is worthy of your attention, should you be in the market for an i925x based motherboard and an LGA775 Pentium 4.  Foxconn has outfitted this motherboard with an excellent compliment of integrated features and it's priced very competitively at about $175 U.S.  The layout of the board was also quite good, the BIOS is very feature-rich, and from the moment we set it up the 925A01-8EKRS2 just worked. We didn't encounter any problems worth noting, and found that even when overclocked to extreme levels the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 was rock-solid and stable.  Just about the only gripe worth mentioning was the fact that Abit's AA8 DuraMAX, which is actually one of the only i925x based motherboards that is less expensive than the 925A01-8EKRS2 at the moment, outpaced it in all of the benchmarks.  The performance differences were so small though, that we can't realistically say one board was really that much "faster" than the other.  The deltas were so miniscule for the most part, that if we ran the very same tests with a different AA8 and a different 925A01-8EKRS2, the performance scales may very well tip slightly the other way.  The bottom line is that the Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 is a competitively priced, well performing, stable motherboard.  We're giving it an 8 on the Heat Meter.

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