Foxconn and Gigabyte Tackle Socket AM2

by Jarred Walton on 6/22/2006 1:30 AM EST
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  • Kougar - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Just wanted to say thanks for another good review!

    Really appreciated all the charts and info on the sound, as I've been eyeing the $25 Audigy2 SE (SB570) card that's now out as an upgrade to my old AC97, since it appears to be better than the older Audigy2 ZS (SB360) in some areas... Primary motivation was to offload work from the CPU. Hmm
    Reply
  • Operandi - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    I think we've gotten to the point now where performing benchmarks on these boards has gotten to the point to where it should be of little concern. I/O performance is slightly more useful but again generally the same within the same chipset family.

    I not saying the benchmarks are not important, they are. But from a real world stand point it’s so close you’d never now the difference if somebody didn’t illustrate it for you in a pretty graph.

    I would like to see more attention paid to board features, by that I mean features aside from overclocking options. Some of us actually have other priorities other then all out performance. For awhile there you guys were looking at fan control for example. What happened to that?, that’s something I found useful, loud fan’s are no fun.

    It would also be nice to know about the bundle of the board, what it includes and what it doesn’t, w/ pics.

    Providing some information some information on the caps used on the board would also be appreciated.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    I did try to focus more on features as opposed to benchmarks. The benchmarks are mostly used to show that none of the boards have severe performance problems. Overall, I think the Gigabyte board has more features, with the exception of FireWire 1394b support. I would also say that right now the Foxconn motherboard has the better BIOS implementation.

    In terms of fan control, both motherboards reviewed here do have "smart fan speed" options in the BIOS. Given that there are no fans on the Gigabyte motherboard, noise is something that will be created by the CPU fan, GPU fan(s), and case fans rather than the motherboard. If you are worried about system noise levels, the choice of cooling and case is going to be almost certainly be more important than the motherboard.

    Capacitors? I know the Foxconn board uses some Rubycon capacitors; you can see the label on the close-up shot. My understanding is that these are good capacitors, but honestly I don't know. The Gigabyte board uses Rubycon capacitors as well, though it's a bit more difficult to see the name in the enlarged image of this area.

    As far as accessories goes, we only received a preproduction motherboard from Gigabyte, with a few accessories. We are waiting for the complete retail board to show up, and I will provide an image here once that arrives. I did take a picture of the Foxconn accessories, though I didn't include it in the actual article because it just didn't seem that important. For those that are interested, here it is:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/motherboards/r...">Foxconn Accessories
    Reply
  • Operandi - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Since a system is only as quiet as its loudest fan, fan control is a very important tool. In my opinion just as important as heatsink, fan, and case choice.

    The whole idea behind BIOS (or software) level fan control is that it offers dynamic control over all of those loud CPU, system, as well northbridge fans; it has very little to do with the noise output of the motherboard itself. Basically it’s much better alternative to manual fan controllers, you get the cooling performance when you need it (gaming, encoding, ect.) and much quieter system then would otherwise be possible at idle. Having built several high-end yet dead silent systems it’s pretty much a requirement for me at this point.

    More to the point fan control is a feature and since we both agree that features are more important then the benchmarks why exclude it?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 24, 2006 - link

    I can't remember the last time I encountered a BIOS without fan speed controls. It wasn't excluded because it's not important, but more because it's so common now that I take it for granted. Sorry. Will try to make sure I mention this next time. :) Reply
  • Operandi - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Excellent ;)

    BIOS fan control is kind of like overclocking options. Most boards at least support it but some are obviously better then others.

    Example, some boards may only control the CPU fan, or offer very little in the way of flexibility. Others are much better; and can control multiple fans and offer a wide range of temperatures and speed settings.
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    The caps used on the Foxconn are Rubycon MCZ which is the best cap out there period, however I also saw a small Ost cap in the high-res picture but generally caps below 1000µF rarley fail (and Ost is among the better of the crap brands...)

    And to answer the comment about Rubycon and Taiwan; They make most of their caps in Japan, check their site out, Rubycon is one of the largest and definantley best regarded capacitor manufacturer. AFAIK they only have a branch office in Taiwan

    I think mainboard manufacturers that only use good capacitor brands should deserve a definitive extra point for this, because unlike the other comment the "capacitor issue" is not at all over, it is only getting worse with increased demands on newer processors with more cores and higher power usage... Currently there are more Pentium 4 boards with Badcaps than there are AMD being reported on the site Badcaps.net but that is most likley because the P4 boards simply demand more from the capacitors so they fail sooner. If crap caps are used on AMD boards it is however just a matter of time untill they will also fail.

    There is a reason Abit took the plunge after the lawsuit against them and went with 100% Rubycon only capacitors...

    Just FYI on the Foxconn I spotted these cap brands:

    Rubycon MCZ for VRM input (12v side)
    Fujitsu fpcap (V-Core side of VRM, the yellow caps...)
    United Chemi Con (unknown model but probably KZG, spread around the board...)

    On other samples I have also seen Teapo and Lelon, the Lelon are utter crap, in the same level as GSC, on this sample there where not Lelon though, easy to spot with their light green color...

    So the Foxconn is IMO a mixed bag, on one side they really spent some money for good caps around the VRM and also the nice Chemicon caps spread around the board, but cheaped out on the TEAPO, Ost and other misc stuff... The bad caps might be ok though since they are below 1000µF but might still cause the strange mysterious issues like power down/up failures (cold boot issues) etc...

    The Gigabyte uses 2x 3300µF Sanyo (probably WG) caps for CPU VCORE, along with 4x Sanyo solid Polymers, a very odd combination that I have not seen used elsewhere... Then it uses only 3x input caps for the 4-phase VRM however they look pretty large so they might hold more capacitance than more regular layouts with one cap for each phase... (they appear to be Nichicon but I'm not certain)
    Next there are a few United Chemicon caps spread out, along with Nichicon HM

    Had this been an older board the Nichicon HM would have been given a warning but that issue seems to have been fixed by now (there was a bad batch that affected even Intel mainboards...) Still if they are old capacitors from stock there could be problems, but I think Gigabyte known better than this...

    So to recap (haha) I would say that the Gigabyte gets my 2x thumps up for Capacitor choices and the Foxconn only gets one due to cheaping out on the small capacitance caps, of course with the note that I own neither board and am only going by the not so high resolution pictures of this review...

    But all in all a heads up to Anandtech for providing high-res pictures of some of the capacitors, good job
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Just to add, yes, Lelon caps exploded on my MSI boards, and on my Chaintech 7SID0 board, a great SIS735 board, the OST caps are exploding on them. Oddly enough though, the OST caps on my old Shuttle XPC SS40G are not.

    On the Foxconn board, their uATX nforce 4 board, it also uses rubycon for the power supply side but cheap ones for the rest.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Damn... I humbly bow to your *far* superior capacitor knowledge. I did get hit by the badcap bug with an older Abit BE6-II board, and had a few systems I built fail for similar reasons. Thankfully, no recent problems for me. I've tried to get better pictures of the capacitors, but I have yet to figure out how to get clear pics without depth-of-field coming into play. Gary managed to get much better results, so most of the images are from him.

    BIOS failures are my problem lately... I've had four boards die during BIOS updates the past 6 months, and two last week. (Possibly an early AM2 issue).
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Well, thank you but it's become more of a necessity to learn (by replacing dead capacitors on mobos because the mobo manufacturers cheaped out in the first place...)

    About the pics, I assume the Sony DSC-H1 camera is Garys? Quite impressive shots, I've been looking for a replacement for my Konica KD-400Z but never found anything with a much better macro function than my Konica for the use I have... And don't wanna go SLR...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Must be - I have a Canan Rebel EOS now, and I haven't come to grips with the manual yet. LOL Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Rubycons I believe are Taiwaneese caps, but they had the proper formula for the electrolyte in them so they never "blew up", whereas others tried to copy the formula and got it wrong and did "blow up." I still have boards with them from the 2000-2002 time frame still working whereas the other boards with other caps are leaking all over and the boards failed.

    That is no longer an issue, but still, they are good.

    About those new connectors, anyone use a normal cable on them? I did on one, the MSI GF6150 board, and litterally had to crush the connector cable to get it out because it was not one of the new style ones. Anyone else have this happen to them?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    I haven't had a problem with any cables in the new style connector, but here's a shot of the GB cables:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/motherboards/r...">Gigabyte (Pre-Release) Accessories

    Basically, there's a small metal latch that you depress to allow the cable to disconnect. I've seen SATA connections that were so loose they could literally fall off with a slight bump, so the latch avoids that. If you have a cable with a really fat connector, it could cause problems, but all of the other SATA connectors I've seen are about the same, minus the metal latch.
    Reply
  • Phiro - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    On the first page matrix, you list the Gigabyte as having the Realtek 883, then from about then on, you switch to the 888. Which one is it? Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    The board has the ALC-888 but Gigabyte had planned on the ALC-883 in the beginning, unfortunately the first set of drivers we used incorrectly reported the chipset but after looking at the chip itself (magnifying glass) and running the latest drivers confirmed our sample had the ALC-888. Sorry we missed the update on the first chart. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    It's ALC888, though that's about the same as 883. 888T would be the interesting option, as that adds some support for Skype and VoIP. Reply
  • photoguy99 - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Why would anyone invest in AM2 now when we can see the price/performance shakeout of Conroe in 1 month?

    Maybe AM2 will come out as a good choice - If a 4800+ drops to $199 I can see getting on board.

    If anyone out there is jumping now for an AM2 I would honestly be interested in the logic behind it.

    Reply
  • glennpratt - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    I just bought an AM2 3500 for $100. I doubt Conroe will be at that price point anytime soon and my budget isn't flexible, plus you can't get a geforce 6150 for intel (HTPC). So for $300 I have an excellent upgrade to my media center IMO. New Case, A64 3500, 1GB DDR2, gerforce 6150.

    I would see your point if I was shooting for the latest and greatest, but personally I never spend more then ~$100 for a component in my PC's (usually < $80). And in my experience things don't change too quickly in that price range. Regardless of hype.
    Reply
  • photoguy99 - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    That makes sense Glen, good luck with your new system. Reply
  • Mant - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    This is off topic...does anyone know where can I buy one of those cool new copper heatpipe coolers that are on these boards to replace the Turbo-charged-extreme-jet-turbine fan on my 939 motherboard? I'm dying to retire that POS and this would be just the thing to replace it! Reply
  • archcommus - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    As the article conclusion mentions, I have a Epox 9NPA+ right now. Should I stick with this board and socket and just pick up a cheap X2 sometime soon instead of switching to this new platform? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Probably. In a month prices should be at much more reasonable levels, and while DDR2-800 with all other parts being more or less equal will be 5-10% faster, unless you're after maximum performance you're better off just upgrading your current CPU to dual core. Reply
  • archcommus - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    Thanks. The only crappy part about that is having to invest in another gig of DDR memory instead of putting my money towards DDR2, but I guess if it'd last me all of next year, it's not a big deal. Reply
  • Myrandex - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    I was surprised from reading the specs list that the Foxconn has ieee1394b and the giga-byte doesn't. Traditionally Gigabyte has been the only manufacturer to consistently include this ont heir boards and it was a factor with me in the past wanting Gigabyte motherboards. Those clamp SATA connectors are nice though as the traditional ones are somewhat flimsy.
    Jason
    Reply
  • R3MF - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    that is an absolute winner, and Gigabyte deserve praise for it.

    i am still waiting for a mATX 570SLI motherboard which has the same third 16x (8x) expansion slot.

    preferably a fourth 1x slot as well, but i appreciate the crusties may want at least one legacy PCI slot.
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Friday, June 23, 2006 - link

    While I appreciate the thought, there is nothing but video cards and a handful of middle of the road devices that work with PCIe. Kinda sucks. Reply
  • MacGuffin - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    But something strikes me odd: Compare Page 4 of this review with Page 4 of the Biostar/MSI roundup. The HTT Overclocking Charts from the Biostar and the Foxconn are IDENTICAL (except the Memory Settings row: 9x332HTT=DDR2 665/9x332HTT=DDR 664)! Maximum CPU & Maximum FSB are the exact same!

    Max CPU Overclock: 258HTTx12 (3100 MHz) +29%
    Max FSB Overclock: 332HTTx9 (2989 MHz) +66%
    Reply
  • MacGuffin - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Also on Page 9, right after the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory chart,
    "All three of the nForce4 590 SLI"
    Should be nForce 590 SLI.:-)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    That one I can entirely blame on Dragon NaturallySpeaking... though of course I have to blame my eyes for not catching the extra number as well. Reply
  • MacGuffin - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Hehe...no problemo. Finish up reviews on MSI K9N Diamond, and ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe within 2 weeks and I won't ask for my money back ;-) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    You are correct: there was a bit of confusion between Gary and myself (he was hoping to validate benchmarks). Somewhere along the way I thought that he actually managed to get the Foxconn board running at 332, but in reviewing my e-mail he maxed out at 314 or something. He has a pre-release Board where as I have the retail shipping Foxconn motherboard, so my results were supposed be used. I have corrected this information now. :-) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    hoping = helping. Sorry. Reply
  • glennpratt - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    If you got your specs right, then the Foxconn (ALC882D) has Dolby Digital Live.... HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    ALC882D features Dolby® Digital Live output for consumer equipment

    http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/products1-2.asp...">http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/products1-2.asp...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Yes, they are accurate. Dolby Digital Live support does make the 882D technically superior, but I'm not sure either one is really all that different in actual practice. I used both motherboards, and at least with games I really would be hard-pressed to tell which was which. Reply
  • glennpratt - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    Well, DDL support means that you can go direct into your reciever with AC3 digital sound over SPDIF/TOSLINK, so A) you don't have to use crappy onboard DACs and B) you don't need a big mess of wires to get six channel out. AKA, what we all loved about SoundStorm and nForce 1/2.

    IMO, if DDL functions properly and that's what you wan't to use, then you have no reason to spend $80-$130 they are charging for DDL soundcards these days.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 22, 2006 - link

    I have updated the text slightly now. Reply

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