915P Chipset Roundup: ABIT AG8, ASUS P5GD2 Premium, and Foxconn 915A01-P
Foxconn's 915A01-P Closeup
Though Foxconn doesn't have the reputation of either of its competitors in this roundup, the 915A01-P introduces its fair share of value, evident even from the board's back panel. Of course, it includes standard PS/2, serial, and parallel ports. However, it also comes with four USB 2.0 ports; an IEEE 1394a port; an RJ-45 jack that interfaces with a Gigabit Ethernet controller; and six 1/8-inch mini-plugs that enable eight-channel analog audio output, microphone input, and a line input.
As with the other two boards, Foxconn's 915A01-P offers plenty of room for installing larger processor cooling solutions. The 915P MCH is outfitted with a passive heatsink, and the ICH6-R isn't covered at all, making it the only board in our roundup that doesn't have at least some sort of ICH cooling solution. Nevertheless, we didn't encounter any stability problems with the board during testing.
The 915A01-P's memory subsystem consists of four 184-pin, color-coded memory slots to make it obvious where each module should go in a dual-channel configuration. It supports up to 4GB of DDR2-533 or DDR2-400 memory and is capable of delivering up to 8.5GB per second of bandwidth to the Pentium 4 running at 800MHz. Naturally, because the Pentium 4 only has 6.4GBps of bandwidth to itself, the extra throughput really isn't necessary for the 915A01-P.
Intel's ICH6-R controller hub enables four Serial ATA ports, which are all grouped together in the bottom corner of Foxconn's 915A01-P. The –R suffix also means that the ICH6 supports both RAID 0 and 1 on different partitions across two hard drives through Intel's matrixing technology. And, whereas ABIT chose to save money by using a cheaper six-channel audio codec, Foxconn opts for Intel's high-definition specification and includes Realtek's ALC880, a 7.1-channel codec with four 24-bit, two-channel DACs and up to 192kHz sampling rate. Realtek's RTL8110S provides Gigabit Ethernet through a 32-bit PCI connection, while VIA's VT6307 PHY/Link enables Firewire connectivity with the 1394a specification (at 400Mbps).
Foxconn does a great job placing the IDE and floppy connector within easy reach on the right side of the motherboard. The Serial ATA ports are also all easily accessible, as is the primary 24-pin power connector. However, the four-pin auxiliary power input actually snakes over the processor heatsink and fan, which could present a routing problem if you're using Intel's reference cooling solution with its high-speed, exposed fan. Moreover, NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 GT comes very close to scraping up against the memory retention mechanism that naturally won't open with a graphics card installed. ATI's X800 XT is a little more comfortable, but the fit is certainly close.
The 915A01-P's bundle is simple, yet effective. Both the coaxial S/PDIF output and two-port USB 2.0 header expand on the board's otherwise comprehensive back panel. Foxconn should have also thrown in a Firewire header and perhaps an extra Serial ATA controller, especially since the 915A01P's product Web site advertises that the board includes six SATA ports, while in reality our sample only came with four.