975X Express Motherboard Round-Up: Foxconn, Abit, and MSI
Foxconn 975X7AB: The Motherboard
Upon initial inspection, the Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H doesn't stand out physically amongst many of today's flashy, high-end Core 2 compatible motherboard. But closer inspection reveals a very interesting product with some unique features.
If you focus on the area around the CPU socket, you'll see what we mean. Unlike most other motherboard, the 975X7AB-8EKRS2H is outfitted with a digital VRM. Foxconn calls it "Digital PWM" circuitry, or Digital Power Management. What Digital PWM mean to users is that all of the capacitors, MOSFETs, and inductors that are usually situated around the CPU socket are gone. In their place are four, small digital PWM drivers, four embedded chokes and a small aluminum heatsink. As you can see, the Digital PWM circuitry really cleans up the area around the CPU socket, and it supplies power without generating nearly as much heat as traditional VRMs.
While it's not incredibly flashy by today's standards, the 975X7AB-8EKRS2H does have a nice layout. The Northbridge is actively cooled by a small, aluminum heatsink and fan combo, and the Southbridge is outfitted with a thin, aluminum heatsink. There are no large heat-pipes on this baby. Most of the expansion headers and power connectors are situated along the edges of the PCB, with the exception of an auxiliary 4-pin power connector that's adjacent to the board's first PCI Express x1 slot.
The 975X7AB-8EKRS2H has six total expansion slots, two PCI Express x16 Slots, two PCI Express x1 Slots, and two standard PCI Slots. It fully supports CrossFire and with a pair of double-wide graphics cards installed, one x1 and one standard PCI slot are still available. There are also four SATA ports and on eSATA port on the board. Audio duties are handled by a Realtek ALC882 (8-channel) CODEC, and dual-Gigabit LAN functionality comes by way of a pair of Marvell 88E8056 PHYs.
The board's I/O port cluster is home to PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, the eSATA port we mentioned earlier, a parallel port, four USB 2.0 ports, a pair of RL45 GigE LAN jacks, and eight audio related ports including optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs.