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Foxconn's WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS
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Date: Jan 05, 2005
Section:Motherboards
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications & Bundle

A few months ago, we took a look at a sampling of Athlon 64 Socket 939 motherboards, and ended up giving an Editor's Choice award to the NVIDIA nForce 3 Ultra based MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum.  At the time, the K8N Neo2 Platinum struck the best balance between features, performance, overclockability, and price.  Another motherboard tested in that round-up was also powered by the nForce 3 Ultra, and two others were based on VIA's K8T800 Pro. Since then, a few new PCI Express enabled chipsets for the Athlon 64 have sprung up, but they haven't begun shipping in any real volumes just yet.  Plus, PCI Express graphics cards are more expensive than their AGP counterparts for the most part, and folks who already own high-end AGP graphics cards probably aren't too keen on abandoning their investments just yet. Fortunately, there's a lot of life left in AGP, and some new chipsets from companies like Silicon Integrated System, or SiS, and ALi are still being introduced.
The SiS755FX Chipset

Today on HotHardware, we're going to take a look at a motherboard powered by the SiS755FX chipset, the Foxconn WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS.  With the 755FX, SiS has added support for Socket 939 Athlon 64 processors, dual-channel memory, and a 1GHz HyperTransport clock.  Other than these three additions though, the 755FX chipset is essentially identical to the 755.  The 755FX also uses the same SiS964 Southbridge as the 755.  The SiS755 chipset wasn't very popular, but it was one of the higher performing Athlon 64 chipsets available when it was initially released.  As a result, we were eager to see what the FX version chipset could do.  Here's what we discovered putting the 755FX based Foxconn WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS through the wringer.

Specifications & Features of The WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS
Full-Featured Socket-939 Mobo
Processor
_AMD Athlon 64 / Athlon 64 FX, Socket 939 (939-pin)

Chipset
_SiS755FX + 964

Memory
_Dual channel, unbuffered, 2.5V DDR266/333/400, (4) 184-pin DIMM sockets, max 4GB
_DDR400 w/ 2 DIMMs Installed
_DDR333 w/ 4 DIMMs Installed

Graphics
_Discrete (non-integrated) - use expansion slot

Expansion Slots
_1 x AGP 8X, 5 x PCI

IDE

_2 x ATA/133 + 4 x SATA/150 (up to 2 x 2-drive RAID 0, 1 arrays)

Audio
_Integrated, 7.1 channel, 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

Internal
_1 x floppy disk drive
_2 x USB 2.0 headers (supports 4 ports)
_1 x IEEE-1394 header
_Front audio header
_1 x S/PDIF (coax out) 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 audio
_1 x coax S/PDIF
_1 x parallel (SPP/ECP/EPP)
_1 x COM (16550-compatible UART)
_1 x IEEE-1394

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's manual (or installation guide)
_Rear I/O shield
_1 x floppy drive cable
_1 x HDD/ODD drive cable (supports UDMA/ATA 33/66/100/133 drives)
_RAID driver on floppy disk(s)
_2 x SATA data cables
_1 x SATA power cable (supports 2 drives)
_1 extra HDD/ODD drive cable (supports UDMA/ATA 33/66/100/133 drives)
_Rear cable/bracket assembly w/ 2 x USB 2.0 ports
_Processor heat sink retention mechanism

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

   

The Foxconn Winfast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS ships with a "no-nonsense" accessory bundle, which is perfectly fine considering this is a value priced product. Among the accessories included with the board, we found two 80-wire IDE cables, a single floppy cable, a pair of SATA cables, and a 4-Pin-to-Dual-Sata power cable splitter.  We also found a couple of user's manuals outlining the features and installation of the board, a driver CD-ROM, and two floppy disks - one with SiS RAID drivers, the other with Silicon Image SATA drivers. Also included with the board were a processor heatsink retention mechanism and back plate, a USB case bracket, and a custom back panel I/O shield.  The processor heatsink retention mechanism is the same as what would usually come pre-installed on other Socket 939 motherboards, but you'll have to install it yourself with the Winfast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS.

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The Board & Layout

Foxconn's WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS is not the flashiest motherboard we've ever seen, but it makes up for it with a very good physical layout.  It seems like Foxconn focused their attention on the board's physical layout, rather than figuring out which colors go best together...

The Board: WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS
Pretty Plain By Today's Standards

      

      

The WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS has a very clean layout, with very little that we didn't like. The 755FX Northbridge is passively cooled with a basic aluminum heatsink, but the SiS964 Southbridge is left bare. This may seem like a negative to some folks, but neither chip got very warm to the touch throughout our testing, so additional cooling is not necessary. The 20-Pin ATX power connector is located along the front edge of the board, behind the DIMM slots, and the 4-Pin 12v power connector is situated between the rear I/O panel and CPU socket. Both power connectors are in good locationa, and shouldn't pose a problem if clean case wiring is a top priority. And while we're talking about power, it's also worth noting that the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS has a 3-Phase power array, which isn't very common on affordable motherboards of this type.

The IDE and floppy connectors are also mounted parallel to the front edge of the board. And the 4 DIMM slots behind them are color coded in blue and yellow, and support up to 4GB of RAM.  Please note, however, that the 755FXK8AA-8EKRS will run at DDR333 speeds when all four DIMM slots are populated.  With 2 DIMMs installed though, the board will run at DDR400 speeds. Below the floppy and IDE connectors, at the lower corner of the board, you can see the SiS964 Southbridge and Silicon Image SATA controller, surrounded by four SATA connectors.  The 755FXK8AA-8EKRS supports RAID 0 and 1 configurations through either one of these controllers. Along the bottom edge of the board, beneath the 5 PCI slots and single AGP8X slot, you'll find all the case connector header surrounded by a plastic shroud, and all of the unused headers for the additional USB, Firewire and audio ports available.

Gigabit Ethernet duties are handled by a Realtek controller, and audio capabilities come by way of Realtek as well. Their ALC850 codec, which is quite capable, is used on the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS. This board supports 7.1 discreet channels of audio, including S/PDIF inputs and outputs.  The audio connectors can be seen in the rear I/O panel, alongside 4 USB ports, a single Firewire port, one serial and one parallel port, PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors, and a lone RJ45 jack.

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The BIOS & Overclocking

The Foxconn WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS is equipped with an Award / Phoenix v6.0 BIOS derivative, like most other popular motherboards shipping today. There are some rather unique features available in the BIOS, however, that aren't found in competing products...

The BIOS: WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS
Just The Essentials

      

      

      

Most of the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS's BIOS menus contain options that are commonly found on a myriad of other products. The Standard, Advanced, and Chipset Features menus are home to common features for tweaking memory timings, assigning the boot order, setting the time and date, and enabling or disabling integrated peripherals. 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, which unfortunately were quite few...

Overclocking Tools: WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS
Not For Hardcore Overclockers...

   

The Foxconn WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS' overclocking tools are limited by today's standards.  Users have the ability to tweak CPU voltages, up or down, by a fraction of a volt (+.05v max / -.01v min), bus speeds between 200MHz and 350MHz are available in 1MHz increments, and the AGP/PCI clocks are locked at 66MHz/33MHz to maintain stability. However, there is an issue with the board's clock generator that prevent bus speeds above 233MHz from functioning. An updated revision of the board, with a new clock generator will be necessary to enable speeds above 233MHz. Needless to say, the Foxconn WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS isn't for hardcore overclockers. We were able to use the 233MHz FSB without a problem though, so there is some fun to be had.

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Our Test System & SiSoft SADNRA

How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, we first entered the system BIOS and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults."  We then manually configured our RAM to run at 200MHz (DDR400), with the timings set by the SPD.  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional 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, drive indexing, and System Restore were also disabled, and we set up 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
"AMD Inside!"
SYSTEM 1:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS

SiS 755FX

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

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

Windows XP Pro
SiS Gart 1.17E
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939
NVIDIA nForce3 250GB

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

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

Windows XP Pro
nForce Driver 4.27
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 3:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
NVIDIA nForce3 250GB

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

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

Windows XP Pro

nForce Driver 4.27
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 4:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

MSI K8T Neo2-FIR
VIA K8T800 Pro

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

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

Windows XP Pro

VIA Hyperion 4.53
DirectX 9.0c
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 subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2004 suite (CPU, Multimedia, and Memory).  All of these tests were run with our processor set to its default clock speed of 2.4GHz (12x200MHz).  (Note: Some of these boards ran the processor with an FSB higher than 200MHz. Where necessary, we manually set the FSB to 200MHz to keep the playing field level.)

 

 

Throughout this review, we'll be comparing the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS' performance to two nForce 3 Ultra powered motherboards, the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 and the MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum, and the VIA K8T800 Pro based MSI K8T Neo2-FIR.  This should give us an accurate measure of where the SiS755FX chipset stands in terms of performance with competing AGP chipsets for the Athlon 64.

In all three of the SANDRA modules that we ran, the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS ran neck-and-neck with its competition. In the CPU module, there are no notable performance differences worth pointing out.  And the same is true with regard to the Memory bandwidth test, although the nForce 3s did have a slight edge.  In SANDRA's Multimedia benchmark though, the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS took an ever so slight lead in the floating point portion of the test.

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PCMark04: CPU & Memory Modules

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."

As expected, all four of the motherboards we tested performed at near identical levels in PCMark04's CPU performance module.  With the same CPU installed in each board, running at the same clock speed, there is little chance of one motherboard outperforming another in synthetic test like this.


"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."

PCMark04's memory performance module also indicated that all four of the boards tested performed similarly. Because the Athlon 64's memory controller is on-chip, the motherboard's chipset has very little impact on memory performance.  In this test, the VIA powered K8T Neo2-FIR has a slight advantage, followed by the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS, and then the two nForce 3 based boards.

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Windows Media Encoder 9 & 3DMark03: CPU

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 WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS fell behind a bit in our custom Windows Media Encoder 9 test.  The WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS finished the test in 2 minutes and 41 seconds, which was 2 seconds (1.2%) longer than the K8T, and 4 seconds (2.5%) longer then either of the nForce 3 Ultra based motherboards tested here.

3DMark03: CPU Test
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 had the WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS finishing just slightly ahead of the other motherboards.  The performance deltas were quite small though.  The difference between the fastest and slowest boards in this test, was only 10 points, which equates to approximately 1.7%.

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Wolfenstein: ET & Unreal Tournament 2004

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 III engine, which makes it a very easy-to-use benchmarking tool.  We ran the test using the "Fastest" setting at a low resolution of 640 X 480, 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

The WinFast 755FXK8AA-8EKRS lagged behind the competition by a few frames per second in our custom Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory benchmark.  At 139.6 FPS, the 755FXK8AA-8EKRS finished about 4 frames per second behind the MSI K8T Neo2-FIR.  The nForce 3 Ultra powered K8NSNXP-939 and K8N Neo2 Platinum, held the lead here.

Unreal Tournament 2004
DirectX Gaming Performance

Next, 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.

Unreal Tournament 2004 told a completely different story than Wolf: ET.  In this test, the 755FXK8AA-8EKRS actually finished in first place, followed by the MSI K8T Neo2-FIR.  And in this game, the nForce 3s brought up the rear.  The performance delta separating the "fastest" and "slowest" boards was again quite small, however. With only 4.47 FPS (3.1%) separating the 755FXK8AA-8EKRS from the K8NSNXP-939 it's tough to declare any of the motherboards tested here a clear winner.

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Business & Content Creation Winstones

Synthetic benchmarks and games only tell part of the performance story, so we tested the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS in some "real-world" scenarios, as well.  For our first set of real-world tests, we did some benchmarking with PC Magazine's 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

NVIDIA powered Athlon motherboards have consistently finished ahead of their competition in the Business Winstone 2004 benchmark.  The 755FX8KAA-8EKRS wasn't quite able to catch the NF3 powered boards here, but it did sneak passed the VIA K8T800 Pro based K8T Neo2-FIR.


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 SiS755FX powered WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS was able to dethrone the nForce 3 based motherboards in the Content Creation 2004 benchmark.  With a final score of 35.9, only .2 points higher than the Editor's Choice winning MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum, the 755FX8KAA-8EKRS didn't dominate, but outpacing an nForce 3 Ultra in either Winstone test is no small feat.

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Summary & Conclusion

Benchmark Summary: Even though the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS is target at budget conscious consumers, it's obvious that they won't have to sacrifice performance just to save a few dollars. The 755FX8KAA-8EKRS was as fast, or faster, than two nForce 3 Ultra based motherboards and a VIA K8T800 Pro powered board throughout our suite of benchmarks.

When the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS starts shipping in the next few weeks, it will be one of the best values in the Socket 939 Athlon 64 motherboard market.  Foxconn expects the board to have street prices hovering at, or below, the $100 mark, which will make the 755FX8KAA-8EKRS one of the most affordable Socket 939 motherboards available.  Couple this board with an inexpensive Athlon 64 3000+ or 3200+, with some mild overclocking, and you'll have the basis of a very fast system, for a moderate investment of about $250.

Our only concerns with the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS have to do with the board's limited overclocking tools, at least in its current state.  Considering how fast and stable the board was in its default configuration, we would have liked to have had more control over CPU voltages, and wished that FSB speeds above 233MHz were available. For that matter, we would have also preferred to find a more comprehensive suite of overclocking tools as well. Hopefully, Foxconn will take this into consideration and release a new version of the board or its BIOS geared more towards overclockers. Nevertheless, the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS is a great board for the money and should be attractive to anyone looking to build an Athlon 64 powered system, as long as you don't plan to do any major overclocking.  This is a fast and stable motherboard, with a very complete feature set for the money.  We're giving the Foxconn WinFast 755FX8KAA-8EKRS an 8 on the Heat Meter.

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