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Foxconn X38A Digital Life Motherboard (Page 4)

By Cameron Johnson on Jan 14, 2008 at 11:00 pm CST - 3 mins, 47 secs reading time for this page
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Foxconn

The Board

Pressing on we get our first real look at the board. Foxconn's Digital Life X38A uses a full ATX layout of 30x24cm on a 6-layer PCB. Foxconn has done an extremely good job on placement of connectors, the 24-pin power connector along with the floppy disk connector are located behind the memory slots. The 4/8 pin combo power is put up on the top left of the board behind the PS/2 ports and just above the heatpipe assembly.

Foxconn has been one of the first to give an X38 based motherboard both DDR2 and DDR3 on the same board. In total you get four DDR2 memory slots which are coloured dark blue and yellow. Two light blue DDR3 memory slots are also included to allow you to upgrade to DDR3 later down the track if you so desire, however you can't use DDR2 and DDR3 at the same time as the memory controller for DDR2 and DDR3 are almost the same on the Northbridge; only a few different protocols are used to switch it to DDR3.

Moving along we have six SATA ports located towards the lower right hand side of the board along with a single IDE port which is controlled by a JMicron PCI-E based controller chip. Since Intel has seen fit to remove IDE totally from its ICH8 and ICH9 series of chipsets it's up to a third party to provide this.

The X38A's CPU area is extremely clean, there are no large capacitors sticking up around the board because Foxconn has switched over to using Solid State capacitors rather than electrolyte versions which handle more power and a greater range of frequencies as well as generating less heat and coming in smaller sizes. While their price is higher than electrolyte capacitors the amount of space these new components save is remarkable, giving a saving of PCB real estate which costs less in the long run.

The CPU is powered by a 6-phase voltage regulation system that is cooled by a large heatpipe assembly on the Mosfets which is more then enough to run today's Core 2 CPU's and even better again for the 45nm Penryn.

Moving along to the rear I/O ports and Foxconn has its own setup like most motherboards these days which require their own I/O shield. There are no Serial ports or Parallel ports on this board. In terms of digital connections there are three major players; first off we have the new FDM or Foxconn Digital Media port. This is a new proprietary port that will be used to interface new products from Foxconn to the board itself. We aren't sure on what sort of bus this port runs off, possibly PCI Express or Firewire. Next we have the two S/PDIF ports, one RCA and one Tolink that allow you to connect to digital receivers. Lastly we have two e.SATA ports on the back which are connected to the JMicron PCI Express controller chip that also runs the IDE port on the board.

Foxconn's arrangement of expansion ports on the board is incredible for a more cost effective board. First off you will notice there are three PCI Express x16 slots on the board; two are coloured blue and one black. The two blue slots are run from the X38 Northbridge and support full Speed PCI Express x16 lanes as well as the new PCI-E 2.0 protocol which when in conjunction with PCI Express x16 graphics cards allows for 8GB/s in both directions (16GB/s total) or 4GB/s in both directions (8GB/s total) using PCI-E 1.0a cards. With this setup you can run full Speed Crossfire which ATI has given the full tick of approval to Intel for when it comes to their X38 and X48 chipsets.

The black PCI Express x16 slot is electrically only a x4 slot which is run off the Southbridge, the same slot that gave P35 chipsets their Crossfire support. This slot can be used to allow a third graphics card to be installed which can be used for PPU applications or even if you want to install a PCI Express x4 or x8 RAID controller card, it's limitless.

Topping things off there are two PCI Express x1 slots that are not usable when the third PCI Express x16 slot is in use as well as two PCI legacy slots.

Foxconn have gone with Marvell PCI Express network controller chips, a JMicron PCI Express SATA/PATA controller chip and a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip.

Last updated: Nov 15, 2019 at 01:16 pm CST

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Cameron Johnson

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