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Foxconn 875A026EKRS Motherboard
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Date: Apr 05, 2004
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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Foxconn 875A026EKRS Motherboard - Page 1

Foxconn's 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
A New Motherboard From a Not-So-Familiar Face

By: Jeff Bouton
April 5, 2004


While computer enthusiasts may not have Foxconn on their "short list" of favorite motherboard brands, chances are they have some Foxconn parts in their rig and just don't know it.  For several years, Foxconn has been a driving force in the computer industry, manufacturing a wide range of computer components for various OEM's, including motherboards, computer cases and electronic connectors.  And while they may not be as well known as some other manufacturers, there is a good chance you have a Foxconn component in your machine right now.

Recently, Foxconn decided to take their years of experience and branch further into the commercial market by offering their own branded versions of popular computer components.  Their latest offering is the 875A02-6EKRS motherboard based on the Intel i875 "Canterwood" chipset.  With the extensive connections Foxconn has in the PC market, making the jump to their own branded models seems like a logical next step.  The only question is whether or not Foxconn would bring any compelling changes to a very competitive market, that would persuade potential buyers to consider them an alternative to the mainstream...

Features of the Foxconn 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
A Familiar Feature Set

Size
ATX form factor of 12?x9.6?

Processor
Supports Intel® Pentium®4 Socket 478 (Willamette/Northwood/Prescott) processors
Supports Intel® Celeron® Socket 478 (Willamette/Northwood) processors
Supports FSB at 400MHz/533MHz/800MHz
Supports Hyper-Threading technology

Chipset
Intel® Chipset: Intel® 875P (Northbridge) +ICH5R (Southbridge)

System Memory
Provides four 184-pin DDR DIMM Sockets
Supports for ECC (Error Checking and Correcting) and non-ECC memory
Supports for PC3200/2700/2100
Supports for 128/256/512Mb/1GB technology up to 4GB
Supports Dual-channel DDR

Onboard Serial ATA
150MBps transfer rate
Supports four S-ATA devices, such as HDD, etc.
Supports Raid 0, Raid 1 (SATA1/2 supported by ICH5R (
Southbridge), SATA3/4 supported by Silicon 3112A Raid controller)

USB 2.0 Port
Supports hot-plug
Eight USB 2.0 ports (four rear panel ports, two onboard USB headers providing four extra ports)
Supports wake-up from S1 and S3 mode
Supports USB 2.0 Protocol up to 480Mbps transmission rate

Onboard 1394 (Optional):  IEEE1394
Supports hot-plug
With rate of transmission at 400Mbps
Self-configured addressing
Supports two independent 1394 units (1 rear, 1 front) synchronously at most, such as HDD, CD-ROM

Onboard LAN (Optional)
LAN interface built-in on board
10M/100M/1G LAN interface

Onboard Audio
AC? 97 2.2 Specification Compliant
Supports S/PDIF output
Onboard Line-in jack, Microphone-in jack, Line-out jack
Supports 5.1 channels audio (setting via software) 

Click Image for a Larger View

BIOS
Licensed advanced AWARD (Phoenix) BIOS, supports flash ROM, Plug-and-Play
Supports IDE CD-ROM, SCSI HDD or USB device boot up

Green Function
Supports ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface)
Supports five system modes-SO (normal), S1 (power on suspend), S3 (suspend to RAM), S4 (suspend to disk-depends on OS), and S5 (soft-off)

Expansion Slots
5 PCI slots
1 AGP slot

AGP 8X support
AGP 8X (AGP 3.0) is the VGA interface specification that enabled enhanced graphics performance with high bandwidth speeds up to 2.12 GB/s.

Advanced Features
PCI 2.3 Specification Compliant
Supports Windows98/2000/ME/XP soft-off
Supports Wake-on-LAN function
Supports PC Health function (capable of monitoring system voltage, CPU, system temperature, and fan speed)

Intel® Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT)
The Intel® Performance Acceleration Technology deliver additional system- level performance by optimizing memory access between CPU and system memory on 800-MHz FSB and Dual Channel DDR400 configuration.



The Bundle:

Foxconn may be a veteran in the manufacturing of computer components, but developing commercial bundles is somewhat new territory for them.  Nonetheless, the packaging of the 875A02-6EKRS was as polished and complete as we've seen.  The outer box had a clean, easy to read layout listing all of the board's major features.  Inside, we found a healthy compliment of additional hardware and documentation.  Foxconn included an easy to read User's Manual that thoroughly covered all facets of this motherboard, from its features to its installation and configuration.  It was refreshing to see a clear, concise User's Manual, after seeing a slew of poorly translated manuals recently.  We often find that user manuals were written in another language and then directly translated to English, with little tweaking beyond that.  This can make the documentation a bit more difficult to understand, which is a potential problem for the less experienced user.  With Foxconn's manual, the layout is intelligent, almost resembling that of a text book, broken down into chapters with clearly stated topics.

 

 

Along with a User's Manual for the motherboard and SATA RAID controllers, a quick reference diagram was included to help easily identify the board's various components.  Additionally, two floppy disks were provided with drivers for both of the board's SATA RAID controllers.  The Motherboard Installation CD included drivers for all of the board's components as well as copies of Adobe Acrobat, Norton Internet Security 2004 and Foxconn's own SuperUtility.  SuperUtility consists of 3 modules, SuperStep for overclocking, SuperLogo for customizing the board's boot image, and SuperUpdate which can backup and update the system BIOS from within Windows.

   

SuperStep was a simple, yet effective utility that offered a window showing the status of the board's inner workings.  We could monitor and set limits for fan speeds and voltages, and could also raise the bus speed on the fly.  SuperLogo allowed an easy way to change the boot image to a BMP or JPG of your choice, letting users personalize their system a bit.  Lastly, SuperUpdate offers a one stop spot to check, download and apply the latest BIOS available for the motherboard.

Clearly, the Foxconn 875A02 comes with a decent bundle that adds to the overall experience of the product.  The company paid close attention to detail, most specifically with the documentation, while providing a good collection of additional hardware and software.  Next we'll get better acquainted with the motherboard itself.

 

The Board and The BIOS

 

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Foxconn 875A026EKRS Motherboard - Page 2

Foxconn's 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
A New Motherboard From a Not-So-Familiar Face

By: Jeff Bouton
April 5, 2004


The Foxconn 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
Something a Little Different

The Board:

The Foxconn 875A02 is a sharp looking motherboard, built on a blue PCB.  Equipped with the Intel 875P Northbridge and ICH5R Southbridge, this board offers support for the latest components available, including Intel's Prescott Pentium 4.  The board has 4 DIMM slots that supports a total capacity of 4GB of DDR memory and offers Dual-Channel capability.  The CPU socket is surrounded by an ample collection of capacitors aimed at conditioning and stabilizing the voltage being provided to the CPU.  We did find that the capacitors were a bit close to the cooler frame, and even managed to catch the top of the lower center capacitor when mounting the cooler.  We liked the placement of the ATX power connectors, which helped to keep the power cabling far from the CPU cooler.  Once again, however, we found capacitors precariously close, this time to the main power connector.  There was a large capacitor butted up against the right edge of the connector and the lower capacitor was a little close to our thumb when releasing the locking mechanism.  These are not tremendous issues, but care should be taken to be very deliberate with each move or you may inadvertently knock a capacitor off.

   

The board comes with 5 PCI slots for plenty of expansion as well as an AGP 3.0 compliant slot to accommodate an AGP video card.  The 875A02 sports two RAID controllers, first the integrated RAID in the ICH5R Southbridge and a Silicon 3112A controller from Silicon Image.  Each controller offers two SATA RAID connections while IDE RAID support has been abandoned altogether.  Instead the board is equipped with two standard IDE connectors supporting a total of 4 drives as well as one floppy connection for legacy support.

   

The backside of the board holds a nice collection of inputs and outputs.  Along with legacy support for PS2, Parallel and Serial connections, the board comes equipped with a total of 4 USB 2.0 ports, an IEEE1394 port, an RJ-45 connector to provide gigabit Ethernet and an audio header.  The Audio header includes Line-In, Line-Out and Microphone ports driven by the ALC650 AC'97 CODEC, that can reconfigure the three ports for 6 channel output.  Headers are provided for S/PDIF, Aux-In and CD-In as well as one for a front mounted audio connection.  The board also has an additional header for another IEEE1394 connector, but Foxconn does not include the additional hardware necessary to fully utilize the IEEE1394 header nor was a S/PDIF connector included.

The Bios:

Bringing all of the system components to life was a custom version of the popular Phoenix-AwardBIOS.  The initial setup screen looked very familiar, however, as we dug deeper, we found this configuration to be less common.  The first, and most notable option we came across was Foxconn's SuperBoot preference.  SuperBoot was designed to reduce the boot time of the motherboard by streamlining the POST process.  Instead of polling each component on boot, once a successful boot has occurred, the settings are held in CMOS and accessed during subsequent re-boots.  This seems like an intriguing option, as with SuperBoot enabled, we shaved roughly 5 seconds off of the boot time.  While this was a relatively small improvement, we found it odd that with special attention being given to speeding up the boot process, we did not find any way to disable the Silicon Image RAID controllers in the BIOS.  This means that every time we booted, the controller was active and searched for drives every time.  Being able to disable the RAID controller if it's not being used, would help decrease boot times by roughly 10 seconds or more when combined with SuperBoot.

   

In the same section we found the ability to adjust the system bus for overclocking.  Sadly, this option was severely limited to a top setting of 233MHz.  We say sadly because the Pentium 4's of today have so much headroom that this board doesn't let you take full advantage of the additional CPU power.  Nonetheless, a 33MHz increase does equate to a 16.5% gain which is pretty good, but we would have liked to see 250MHz be the top setting at a minimum.  What we also found was there were no voltage settings available in the Frequency/Voltage Control section to tweak performance.  Naturally, with such a low range of bus speeds available, the omission of voltage settings is less of an issue since stress on components is at a minimum even at the maximum setting for this board.  However, some high performance memory modules on the market benefit from a slight increase in voltage, a setting that was missing with this motherboard.

   

We were glad to see Foxconn offered a good selection of memory performance options in the Advanced Chipset Features.  The memory timings were manually configurable or could be set automatically by the SPD.  When configured manually, the CAS setting ranged from CAS 2, 2.5 and 3.  The Active Precharge ranged from 5 to 8 in increments of 1 and both the DRAM RAS to CAS and DRAM RAS to Discharge could be set to 4, 3 or 2.  The memory frequency could be adjusted to Auto or manually locked to run at DDR 266, 320 or 400.

   

Lastly we found the PC Health Status window that gave some insight as to the state of the system's critical voltages and temperatures.  A CPU Warning could be configured if desired to let the user know if the CPU was running too hot, and a Shutdown Temperature could be set to automatically shut off the machine if the CPU temperature became too excessive.  While this is most useful with overclocking, if the CPU cooler was to malfunction, these settings could save the processor from being damaged, especially if the system was running unattended.

Overclocking with the Foxconn 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
Limited Options

We were mildly disappointed with the limited range in bus speed available with the 875A02, especially since our particular Pentium 4-C at 2.4GHz has demonstrated amazing gains in a number of reviews.  Nonetheless, this wasn't going to keep us from trying.  To demonstrate our point, we started out by raising the bus to the maximum setting of 233MHz. and had no trouble getting the system to POST.  However, once Windows started to load the system would BSOD and reboot spontaneously.  This was because the memory was still set for DDR400, which would result in an overclocked speed of 466MHz, well beyond our DIMM's capabilities.  So we dropped the memory setting to DDR320 allowing us to boot into Windows without error while appreciating fair gains from overclocking.  In the end, we managed to hit a peak CPU speed of 2.79GHz., which equals a gain of 16.25%.  While this processor can go much higher, this is a respectable amount of additional horsepower.

Next we'll run a series of benchmarks to assess the board's overall performance.  In each test we will include results at stock and overclocked speeds to demonstrate the effects of the increased bus speed on the system.

Time For Sandra & Futuremark's Finest

 

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Foxconn 875A026EKRS Motherboard - Page 3

Foxconn's 875A02-6EKRS Motherboard
A New Motherboard From a Not-So-Familiar Face

By: Jeff Bouton
April 5, 2004


UT2003 & Comanche 4
Gaming Tests

We also tested the two motherboards with a couple of popular games.  We used Novalogic's Comanche 4, an extremely CPU limited benchmark, because its results reflect CPU performance quite well.  We also used Epic's UT2003, set a low resolution, to isolate overall system performance.

Like we saw with PCMark04, the graphics performance of the Foxconn 875A02 lagged ever so slightly behind the comparison board.  Once we overclocked the system bus to 233MHz, we saw healthy gains in both tests, tacking on an additional 27.71 FPS in UT2003 and 7.93 FPS in Comanche 4, gains of approximately 13-15%.

PC Magazine's Content Creation 2004 and Business Winstone 2004
Real World Application Testing

For our last round of tests we ran both Content Creation Winstone 2004 and Business Winstone 2004.  Each application gauges a system's overall performance with workstation and multimedia applications.  Content Creation 2004 tests multimedia intensive applications, while Business Winstone 2004 compares performance with common workstation applications.  Below is a list of the programs each test uses to calculate its final score.

Business Winstone 2004

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

Content Creation 2004

  • 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 Foxconn and Albatron boards traded victories in the Winstone benchmarks.  In CC2004, the Albatron board managed to outpace the Foxconn 875A02 by about 3%, but in the Business Winstone 2004 test, Foxconn rebounded and took the lead by the same 3%.

After taking a good look at the Foxconn 875A02, and giving it a fair work out, we were somewhat impressed with this motherboard.  The Foxconn 875A02 was built well with good component placement overall and a very complete list of on-board features.  We were equally impressed with the supporting bundle of hardware and software, and especially liked the clearly written instruction manual.  On the performance front, the motherboard performed on par with similarly configured Canterwood boards we have reviewed in the past.  Foxconn also did a good job of making their system board look a little different than competing products, both physically and with it's relatively unique BIOS options and supporting software.  We were mildly disappointed with the company's conservative approach to overclocking, however, which somewhat limits this board's audience.  In the end, the Foxconn 875A02 did reach the peak system bus speed available in the BIOS, without issue, which resulted in performance gains in excess of 15%.  If you are a serious overclocking enthusiast looking for a high-performance motherboard, you will probably want to look elsewhere.  However, from a feature and performance perspective, the 875A02 did a good job of satisfying our needs and impressing us with a complete, feature rich package.  And at only $128 it is one of the least expensive Canterwood boards we've come across.

We give the Foxconn 875A02-6EKRS a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating 7.5


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