Foxconn 875A026EKRS Motherboard

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.

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