While we here at TweakTown focus a lot on the higher end technology, we do tend to forget at times the more budget oriented side of the equation. High-end users while growing don't pale in comparison to the OEM and retail markets, especially companies putting together PC packages for sale in your local computer store. Some will have high-end products, but the low-end is where the business lies, you're not going to need a 3 GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM and an 8800GTX graphics card for your standard internet box or your home / SOHO workstation. Most of these are basic setups which usually use an integrated chipset with onboard graphics, and most of them are based on the Intel chipset with GMA.
Intel's platform design has usually been behind that of the retail market, Intel's onboard graphics are quite basic and can't really handle much in the way of 3D applications; not to mention they're also a a memory hog, stealing as much bandwidth as possible.
With the Intel 3 series chipsets, things have changed; thanks to Vista new features are required to get a motherboard certified for Vista validation, and Intel is definitely one to strive for this. The G33 chipset is the latest instalment from Intel, and it's designed for the Vista environment using its onboard graphics system, the GMA3100.
Today we are looking at Foxconn's version of the G33 chipset budget board, the G33M. How does it perform? Let's have a look.
Specifications of the Foxconn G33M
Supports Intel Core 2 Series CPU
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series CPU
Supports Intel Pentium D Series CPU
Supports Intel Pentium 4 Series CPU
Supports Intel Celeron D Series CPU
Supports 45nm Series CPU on release
Intel G33 Express Chipset
DMI @ 2GB/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64/128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 4GB Total Memory (4x 1GB)
1 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
4 Serial ATA ports
1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 Mouse Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
1 Serial Port
1 Parallel Port
1 CRT VGA Port
6 Stereo Audio Ports
Inside the Box
Package and Contents
Foxconn's G33M motherboard is aimed at the OEM and base line segment, The box is a no frills design with just the name and model written on the front, along with the fact that this motherboard uses a Micro ATX design.
The back of the box contains some marketing info on the board's main features, but nowhere is there a main specs sheet or a colour photo of the board, something that would definitely aid in the decision in whether or not to purchase this board.
The documentation bundle with the Foxconn G33M is rather disappointing, only a basic installation pamphlet is included. The main manual is on the included CD in PDF form, not real helpful if you don't have a second PC around to read the manual on while you set up. Though the board is a budget design, skimping out on the user manual is a definite strike against this board.
Down to the cables and accessories, included you get yourself a single SATA cable along with a SATA power adapter cable and IDE cable. Something we weren't expecting in the box was the inclusion of a Firewire PCI slot cover bracket, always a welcomed addition.
On to the actual board now, and despite the package's shortcomings, the board itself is extremely well designed; its layout and placement of the onboard connectors is exteremly clean.
The 24-pin power connector along with the single IDE slot are located behind the four DDR2 memory slots on the top right hand side of the board. The 4-pin AUX power connector is located at the top left of the board behind the PS/2 port tower, this is certainly one of the best places for this connector on a compact board. The four SATA data ports are located near the bottom right of the board next to the heatsink covering the ICH9 southbridge.
The power regulation system for the Foxconn G33M is quite small, only a 3 phase digital VRM setup is used. This means that the board is not going to be an overclockers delight, especially if you're looking at running a Netburst based CPU who's power requirements are extremely high. A 3 phase voltage system for these CPUs doesn't really cut it, so another black mark against the Foxconn board.
The Rear ports are quite dull. First off there are no DVI or HDMI ports on the board, this is strictly an 'office use only' onboard graphics system, not a HTPC or Digital PC setup. Only a CRT port for VGA-out is included as part of the onboard graphics system. While the GMA3100 can support HDMI and DVI out, they are absent from this board. Foxconn has however added extra USB ports to the rear of the board; instead of the traditional four you get six, and the remaining six are through headers on the board.
Lastly to the expansion slots on the board. While having an onboard graphics system, you don't have to use it if you don't want to. A single PCI Express x16 slot is included for you to run your own discrete graphics system which doesn't suck its memory from the main system memory (unless you get a Hyper memory ATI or Turbocache NVIDIA card). For the additional expansion you get a single PCI Express x1 slot and two PCI slots.
Since the ICH8 and 9 series of southbridge's have done away with IDE ports you need to have an additional chip to gain IDE support. JMicron's PCI Express based SATA/IDE controller is included. One of the biggest gripes here is that the two SATA ports this chip supports go to waste; we would have liked to see them used as e.SATA ports on the back.
As for the Firewire support, a Texas Instruments PCI based IEEE1394a chip gives you two Firewire ports.
BIOS and Overclocking
Now we get to the board's BIOS setup. Foxconn has gone with the traditional blue menu based Award 6 BIOS that we know and love. The motherboard's budget status eliminates it from being an overclockers board. Foxconn has placed what overclocking features it supports under the "Fox Central Control Unit" menu.
Bus Speeds :-
CPU FSB Overclock Choice: 800MHz to 3000MHz in 1MHz Increments
DIMM Voltage Control: 1.68v to 2.36v in Various Increments
NB Voltage Control: 1.16v to 1.62v in Various Increments
PCIE Voltage Control: 1.38v to 1.95v in Various Increments
CPU Voltage Offset: +/- 0 to 40mV in 1mV Increments
As you can see there are very little overclocking options on the board. With this limited amount of settings we only managed to get the motherboard to 438MHz.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Test System Setup
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (Supplied by Intel)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia)
Graphics Card: MSI Geforce 8800GTS 640MB(Supplied by MSI) and Onboard GMA3100
Cooling: Gigabyte Neon775 (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: Intel INF 188.8.131.523, Forceware 162.
Now we get into our testings. Today we have compared our Foxconn G33M motherboard to our tried and true Gigabyte P35-DQ6 motherboard using stock and overclocked speeds. Overclocked specs were 528MHz x 6 on our DQ6 and 438MHz x 7 on our Foxconn. We used our usual suite of tests and also decided to run them on the onboard GMA3100 graphics chip to see how well it performs.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
At stock speed using the discrete graphics, the two chipsets are identical in memory performance. P35 and G33's memory controllers are identical in design, resulting in great memory scores on both platforms. When the onboard graphics is used, we see a drop in memory performance due to the graphics card sucking system memory and bandwidth for its UMA setup.
When the overclocking comes into the equation, the G33 falls behind as it's not able to keep up with the higher FSB result of the P35 DQ6.
Benchmarks - PCMark05
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/
Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Using discrete graphics the overall scores when at stock are almost identical. Using the onboard graphics drops the result quite substantially as the rendering power of the onboard GPU is very weak compared to the 8800GTS.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Premiere Elements puts the G33 and P35 on a dead heat when using the 8800GTS. Using the onboard graphics does increase the encode time, but not by a huge amount as the graphics system isn't rendering as much thanks to the DivX codec putting its stress on the CPU and memory instead. The GMA3100 isn't using much memory at all during these tests.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachBuy It Here
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
HDD performance is identical in all of the tests here, even with the use of the onboard GMA3100 we see no performance hit.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
3DMark06 takes its toll on the G33's onboard graphics processor, it's only just able to complete the 1024x768 resolution and is extremely poor in 1600x1200. Stock speeds using the 8800GTS shows the P35 and G33 equalling each other, Overclocking is another story however due to the significantly higher FSB speed of the P35 board.
Benchmarks - Prey
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Prey on the GMA3100 is barely playable at stock speeds. While overclocking did make it playable at 1024x768, 1600x1200 is in no way usable.
Benchmarks - Far Cry
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Benchemall Default Demo(download here)
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.com
Buy It Here
While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems as it is able to utilize all parts of the system. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.
Far Cry is an older game and is quite playable on the GMA3100 at both stock and overclocked speeds using 1024x768.
Benchmarks - Power Consumption
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Using only three phases of voltage regulation makes the Foxconn G33M more power hungry as it's running close to its maximum, this resulting in more heat and greater energy draw.
With the GMA3100 used we see a drop in power usage thanks to the power hungry 8800GTS taken out of the equation.
Intel's 3 series chipsets are extremely capable, even the G33 which takes its place in the OEM and integrated market segment; it was never designed to take the place of the P35. If you're going to run it at stock speeds in a basic system, G33 isn't a bad option as its performance using a dedicated graphics card is right on top of the P35. If you're going to overclock though you're best off keeping clear of the G33.
Foxconn's reputation for cheap boards continues, as the G33M board comes in at a good price for its features and design it's on par with most of the budget G33 boards. While we haven't had a chance to test many G33 boards yet, we are a little disappointed that the overclocking of the Foxconn G33M topped out at only 438MHz, this being due to the lack of voltage and bus options in the BIOS. With more voltage to the CPU, northbridge chipset and memory we possibly could have gotten close to 500MHz, but Foxconn has let us down.
The G33M also had a few black marks against its name in the features department. The exclusion of the two SATA ports provided by the JMicron chip could have gone to use as e.SATA ports, and a better documentation manual for offline installs would have been a much nicer design as well.
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