X58 based motherboards are popping up thick and fast. And why not? - Core i7 is Intel's new cash cow and its performance is beyond anything that Core 2 could ever hope for. Thanks to the on-chip memory controller, Intel has finally abandoned the old FSB interface for this high-end CPU and move to a more data friendly bus between the Northbridge and the CPU. No longer are memory transactions between CPU and DRAM required to go across a limited bus.
The sad part is, however, at the present time there is only one chipset supporting Core i7 and that's Intel's own. The only other competitor is NVIDIA and there are no plans so far for a Core i7 chipset from them. My guess is that NVIDIA don't have a bus licence yet. ATI is well out of the market no thanks to being owned by AMD, but it would certainly be ironic to see an AMD chipset for an Intel product.
So far we have tested most of the major companies X58 offerings. We have already seen GIGABYTE, MSI, ASUS and DFI strut their stuff and today we have another channel partner in the fray and that is Foxconn.
Foxconn has really come a long way from just producing simple OEM boards; today they have their own enthusiast lines and we have their latest one in hand, the Quantum Force X58 BloodRage.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Like all of the high-end boards these days, Foxconn has packed its BloodRage board into the oversized boxed. You know the type, ones that if you hit someone over the head with it you'd probably give them concussion. Not that this is a bad thing, the sheer mass of the box means that they are hiding some extra goodies inside. The front of the box has a black, red and orange colour scheme with the company logo and the BloodRage logo along with some artwork to keep things interesting.
While there is no full colour photo of the board on the back of the box, Foxconn has quite a few pictures of the boards features, so you still get a bit of an idea on what you're getting. However, we still prefer to see a picture of the whole board for reference.
Foxconn doesn't skimp on the software and documentation part of the package. In total there are four user manuals. These include one for the board, one quick install pamphlet, a product registration card and a user manual on the external audio. The DVD included contains drivers and software for both 32 and 64-bit variants of the Vista and XP operating systems.
First off on the accessories list we have the cables that are included. There are a total of five SATA data cables as well as two Molex to SATA power converters. A single SAS power/data cable is also included for use with two of the onboard SAS ports.
Inside the Box - Continued
While Foxconn provides a very impressive cooling setup on their boards, it looks as if they believe you can't have too much of a good thing. A 40mm fan is supplied that can be attached to the Northbridge heatsinks if you plan to use air cooling along with quite a few stick-on heatsinks with self adhesive tape.
Also included are two utilux worm-drive clamps, which means the ability to use water will be here somewhere. A PCI expansion cover plate is also included that supports two USB 2.0 ports along with a single 4-pin FireWire port as well as a Link bridge for SLI.
Now this is where Foxconn goes hardcore. On top of the Northbridge is a removable cooling component and depending on what set up you're prepared to use you can take the air cooling module off and place a water cooling top which is in red with two half inch barbs. If you want to go to more extreme cooling, a black bucket is included for use with LN2.
Like so many boards nowadays, Foxconn has decided to place its onboard audio off board. A riser card is included that plugs onto a header on the board that connects the HD Audio codec on the card back to the data path provided on the ICH10R.
Foxconn has decided for its BloodRage board to go with the standard full sized 30x24cm ATX layout. With today's boards having so many memory slots, larger footprint processors and chipsets, not to mention the amount of extra features on the high-end boards, this size is no surprise. The PCB colour that Foxconn has chosen is black with red and black slots; no surprise considering the name BloodRage.
Foxconn has done a fantastic job in keeping the layout as clean as possible. The 24-pin power connector is located behind the three DDR3 memory slots on the right hand side. This board only contains three slots to create one triple channel row. Because this board is aimed for extreme users who will be overclocking, memory is limited to one triple channel to help keep the memory signals clean when pushing higher speeds. The 8-pin EPS12 power connector is located behind the PS/2 / USB combo tower at the top left of the board.
When it comes to keeping the whole thing cool, Foxconn has come up with a very elaborate heat-pipe assembly as well as some off-pipe heatsinks to keep things as cool as possible. The primary heatsink covers the ICH10R, the X58 IOH and the Mosfets and power regulators. The Northbridge can be equipped with either a water cooling or LN2 cooling setup by removing four screws from the Northbridge heatsink and replacing the air fins with either the water block or LN2 bucket.
Keeping things as tidy as possible isn't an easy task, but this is one way to do it. The IDE port runs off the JMB368 controller which also runs the eSATA ports. The six SATA ports driven off the ICH10R are located along the bottom right hand edge of the board and rotated on their sides. The SATA ports are stacked on top of each other, meaning there are only three SATA ports wide, but two high per tower. On the bottom edge of the board there are two more SATA ports. However, these are run off a Marvell SAS controller allowing you to have SATA or SAS drives running off these ports.
Coming down to the power requirements, Foxconn has them covered with a 12 phase voltage regulation system using solid state components, giving the board a true extra edge. The QPI and the memory which are on the CPU UnCore are given a separate two-phase voltage system to help stabilise the memory under heavy clocks, especially since you can't increase the memory voltage past 1.65v without risking permanent damage to the CPU.
Moving along to the rear I/O ports, we see that Foxconn has done away with one of the PS/2 ports. Only the keyboard port remains where two USB ports replace the mouse port. Even though the audio connectors have been removed and placed on a separate audio port, a Toslink and RCA S/PDIF port are still on the rear I/O section. In the place where the audio ports would normally be, two eSATA ports are put in their place. These two ports are run off a PCI-E based SATA controller that is also responsible for running the IDE port.
Lastly are the expansion ports. There are a total of four PCI Express x16 slots for use with graphics cards. There are two red x16 slots and two black x16 slots. The two red slots are full speed x16 slots allowing Crossfire using two graphics cards (this includes x2 series cards) as well as SLI using two graphics cards (again, standard two GPU SLI or Quad SLI).
If you want to run four graphics cards, if you plug graphics cards into the black slots, the two red slots become x8 slots, giving the board an 8/8/8/8 config setup. For additional expansion on the PCI-E bus a single PCI-E x1 slot is located above the top x16 slot, allowing it to be used despite what graphics cards you use. Lastly there is one PCI slot for legacy expansion.
BIOS and Overclocking
The BIOS is where we now focus our attention toward and Foxconn has gone with the tried and true Award Modular v6 BIOS which is what we are pretty well all used to these days.
Quantum BIOS is where all overclocking features can be found .
CPU Base Clock (MHz): 133MHz to 500MHz in 1MHz increments
CPU Voltage: +10mV to +1260mV in 0.2mv Increments
CPU VTT (UnCore): +20mV to +1260mV in 0.2mv Increments
1.8 PLL Voltage: 1.7v to 2.405v in various increments
CPU Clock Amplitude Control: 0.7v to 1.0v in .01v Increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.5v to 2.86v in various Increments
X58 IOH Core Voltage: 1.1v to 2.36v in 0.02v Increments
X58 IOH VCCA 1.1 Voltage: 1.108v to 2.207v in various Increments
X58 IOH VCCA 1.5 Voltage: 1.502 to 1.8v in Various Increments
Overclocking the board was pretty easy. Foxconn gives you quite a bit of voltage tweaking. However, there are a few missing, so it wasn't possible to really get into it. And with our limited time on each board, we managed to get an impressive 175MHz BCLK out of the BloodRage which took the CPU to 3.5GHz. This makes the board the third highest clocking board we've tested, just behind the ASUS offerings of the P6T and the Rampage II.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 17 965 @ 3.2GHz (24x 133MHz)
Memory: 3x 2GB DDR3-1600 Corsair Dominator (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M 80GB SSD (Supplied by Intel)
Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 1GB (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: Stock Intel cooling
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista X64 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 22.214.171.1248, Forceware 180.24
It's benchmarking time and like clock work we get stuck straight into it. We have the ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm and Rampage II as our baseline boards to compare against along with the Foxconn board. So it's all smooth sailing from here.
For our stock settings we left the CPU at its default 3.2GHz and used a DDR3 1333MHz memory divider. When we started to push the system we wanted to get the CPU and FSB as high as possible, so lowering the multiplier and raising the FSB while tweaking voltages were the order of the day.
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.
First off, EVEREST gives us a preview of things to come. Memory performance at stock is pretty well even as we would expect. However, the Foxconn board gives us a pretty good score at overclocked speeds. Despite being a lower BLCK, the Uncore and memory multipliers were in a good spot to keep up with the ASUS P6T.
Benchmarks - Sisoft Sandra
Version and / or Patch Used: 2009
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra shows a similar result to EVEREST so this gives us a definite that the boards are equal across the stock range and there are is no tweaking for certain memory tests.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
PCMark Vantage puts the Foxconn board in overall second place when we overclock. While it has a lower BLCK, its memory and Uncore frequencies are higher than the ASUS P6T's, allowing a slight lead.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.
SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista.
SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
A similar trend is seen in SYSmark 2007. Foxconn manages to still hold its second place over the ASUS P6T motherboard.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
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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 really likes high clocks and memory bandwidth and Foxconn does a good job with a 3.5GHz core clock and enough memory bandwidth. It does fall slightly behind the ASUS P6T here, but it's nothing to really call it a failure.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Under synthetic gaming we see that there is little difference between all three boards. Foxconn manages a good result in overclocked tests, despite the lower BCLK.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
Now for some real word gaming through Crysis and we see there that the ASUS P6T and the Foxconn manage to tie it up for second place.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
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.
Foxconn uses no special power saving software or hardware, but they manage to produce a good result compared to boards using such technologies.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Foxconn's heat-pipe is quite efficient. However, it doesn't beat out any of the other boards. The tests were done on air and water cooling may lead to a cooler setup. But obviously LN2 will lead to even better results due to its below zero nature.
X58 is certainly the hot topic and its performance with the Core i7 makes for a huge performance gain over the Core 2 series. And with cheaper versions of the CPU on the way, X58 is becoming more attractive than ever.
So far we have seen quite a few impressive boards, some with better overclocking than others, but one thing it all depends on is what the user wants. All the bells and whistles in the world won't matter if the board doesn't have what the user wants, whether that be bling bling for case mods or many extra features; it's all a mix.
Foxconn has managed to not only make a board that looks good in cases with side windows, but also has many features such as SAS and eSATA along with external audio. The board is very impressive; just as impressive as anything that ASUS, GIGABYTE or GIGABYTE has on the market.
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