Foxconn is not a new comer to the TweakTown labs, but it is a rarity to have the products up on the bench. After our testing with the 890GX based A9DA-S, we wanted to see more. In response to our request Foxconn sent along their entry level H55MX-S motherboard.
This board is a no-frills entry level system that sells for a mere $79.99 at NewEgg.com. It is tailored for the low cost market and is certainly not meant as an enthusiast product. But will that hurt its performance? What happens when we put high-end tests onto an entry level board like the H55MX-S? I am eager to find out; how about you?
The Box and What's Inside
The Foxconn boxes that we have seen lately are all cut from the same mould. They are the same black with the odd (yet cool looking) design and the Foxconn name watermarked across the front. In fact, we can say that the boxes are indeed the same as it is obvious Foxconn only slaps a sticker on the boxes for each new product.
Now, while this is mildly humorous, it is not a bad thing. There are many companies that use a stock packaging and only put different labels on them. It is a very cost effective way of doing things.
Of course, the down side is that you cannot really be detailed about the product inside. This is shown by the very generic back of the box that only details the Fox Central Control Unit that is found on just about all of their motherboards.
Inside the box the goodies are also spared, but then again, with an entry level board you do not need a ton of extras that will only add to your cost and end up gathering dust and grime in a drawer somewhere.
The Foxconn H55MX-S is not a pretty board. I am not saying it is ugly or anything like that, but it is certainly not as stylish as the A9DA-S.
The H55MX-S is based on a Micro-ATX design. This design is a very popular one for entry level and HTPC systems. It keeps things clean and only gives you the basics for what you need. With the H55 Express chipset onboard, you do not even get RAID.
Looking at the upper portion of the board, we see the standard connections. Well, sort of. The H55MX-S has only two slots for RAM and also is equipped with the one thing that most people (entry level or not) will not be using. This is a floppy connector. Out of all the things that could have been put here, I am not sure why a floppy was the choice. I can understand not wanting to spend money on a PATA controller, but I would have thought USB headers or something of that nature would have been a better choice here.
Around the CPU we do see that Foxconn went the extra step and used solid capacitors; unfortunately they did not extend this to the chokes. From the looks of the chokes and the voltage regulators, this is probably not the most power efficient motherboard. I guess it is a good thing that it is not intended for high-performance usage.
Taking a quick look at the lower half of the board, we see the entry level/HTPC trend continuing in the slots available. There is a single x16 and a x4 PCIe slot combined with two PCI 2.0 slots. We also see that Foxconn did not use solid capacitors for everything on the board. We see some traditional ones lurking in a cluster on the lower left hand corner.
You also get six SATA 2.0 ports on the board. However, the first two can be rendered useless by a long GPU. Of course, this is not likely to happen on this entry level board, but it is still important to note.
The ports are what you should be getting with a H55 based board. They are anticipating the use of a Clarkdale CPU+GPU processor.
BIOS and Overclocking
Wow! - The first thing I noticed about the BIOS on the H55MX-S is the total lack of options for overclocking in the BIOS. Ok, there is an area where you can set the speed of the RAM and even bump up the voltage a tad, but that is it. After so many boards with heavy overclocking features, I was flat out shocked at this.
There was also no place to change or set the amount of memory the system used for the GMA HD. The lack of any controls for the GMA HD lead to a very bizarre issue with running some of our tests like Cinebench and even Lightwave 3D.
A lack of AHCI options was shocking, to say the least.
Although there were no options in the BIOS for overclocking the H55MX-S did come with some overclocking software. This was the Fox ONE software. We hit that up to see what we could get.
Running the Auto Clock feature put us at 144x25. However, none of our benchmarks would run at all! I mean, they would crash at the start. We tried everything to get this working, but as there are no options for changing the voltages (other than the memory voltage), there was little that could be done to get this stable. To put it lightly, we were disappointed in the lack of any working overclocking options.
As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary. Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.
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 Comments
The H55MX-S is an entry level board. It is plain and simple. We could tell that by the simple installation options and the software tools. We were disappointed that we were not able to run Cinebench at all with the Core i5 661 installed. This turned out to be due to an incorrect reporting of the GPU and the memory.
When we used GPU-Z to see what we had, it reported the GPU as having 0MB memory. We think that this caused Cinebench to error out in detecting the GPU during the start of the application.
We also had some minor issues with Lightwave 3D; it took four tries to get the application running. We were just about ready to throw in the towel on that one when it finally launched.
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms.
For our synthetic tests we use Everest Ultimate, Sisoft Sandra, FutureMark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.
Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra, Everest and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
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Memory performance is actually where we would expect the H55 based board to be. We even see the expected jump when using the HD 5870.
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.30.1983
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
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Everest Ultimate is a suite of tests and utilities that can be used for system diagnostics and testing. For our purposes here we use their memory bandwidth test and see what the theoretical performance is.
As we were not able to run any overclocking at all, we cannot tell if there would have been a need to drop the RAM speed here or not. But we do see decent performance at stock speeds.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
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HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.
For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.
The Foxconn board does not do too badly here. It is faster than some of the H57 boards, but still slower than many of the other H55s out.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller
The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.
For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and Everest.
The drive speed from the Foxconn H55MX-S is a little behind the others in the group.
Drive speed testing under Everest shows us pretty much the same thing that Sandra does with a little more detail.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Overall System performance and Gaming
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
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Interestingly enough, the H55MX-S from Foxconn does very well in PCMark. It tops out the other boards easily.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here
For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations.
3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. Due to the PhysX support and our use of an NVIDIA GPU, we run with PhysX enabled and disabled to give you the best indication of real system performance. For testing we use the Performance test run.
Again the H55MX-S tops out our chart for 3DMark Vantage, both with the GMA HD and the 5870.
Cinebench R11.5 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here
Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
Cinebench R11.5 was an annoyance. We could not get it to run with the GMA HD at all. It would not start. Even with the 5870 we could not get the OpenGL part of the test to run. All we received was the error you see above. It was quite a pain to have to deal with this.
Real-World Tests - Part I
Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.
It is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.
For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI and two games for gaming testing.
Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
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Unfortunately our Lightwave 3D testing shows that the H55MX-S is not going to be the right choice for high-end rendering. This could also be related to the issue we saw with the GMA HD.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here
AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.
Our AutoGK scores were good, but not great. Still, you could actually use this for transcoding if you wanted.
Real-World Tests - Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frames per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
As most IGPs are not meant for high-end gaming we have swapped out one of our First Person Shooters for a more mainstream game. We have also adjusted down the testing resolution from 1920x1200 to 1280x960. In order to keep full measure of the board we return to 1920x1200 when we test the board with our HD 5870.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: Ten Minutes of Game Play in Sunset Valley
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.thesims3.com/
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The SIMS 3 is the third complete edition of this popular game. In it you create a personality for use in a virtual world. The town we chose was Sunset Valley; we created a basic character and off we went. We performed as many actions as we were able to in order to give the board and GPU as much to think about as we could. The settings we used are shown below.
Our SIMS gaming results are not too bad. You could actually play this game with just the GMA HD. The image quality is not all that great, but the frame rates are in the playable range.
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com
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Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".
In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal. Unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. The settings we used for testing are shown below.
Believe it or not, the Foxconn H55MX-S does well at Far Cry 2 (considering the others in our grouping). You will still not be able to play the game in any decent manner, but it does beat out the others in the group.
So technically, you can game on the H55MX-S, but it is not going to be an awe inspiring thing. We found that the image quality was not good (due to the need to drop the resolution and extras so much) and that even level load times were slow.
Quite a bit of this went away with the installation of the HD5870, but some issues still lingered like the slow level loads. Still, we have to remind you that the GMA HD on the Core i5 661 was not meant for high-end gaming. It was meant for entry level gaming at best.
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).
Power consumption at idle speeds was very good. The H55MX-S was the light drinker out of the group. However, when we put the board under load it really sucked down the power.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; 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.
Heat at both idle and load was nominal and nothing to really talk about.
The Foxconn H55MX-S is a hard one to call. On the one hand there are no tools to tweak the system. You are stuck with what you get. As you cannot dictate the amount of RAM you are allocating to the GPU, your graphical options are also limited. On the other hand, the board was able to perform normal computing tasks very easily.
This leads to a situation where we have to look at the usage model to determine if the Foxconn H55MX-S is worth the time and effort. At $80 from NewEgg.com it is certainly an inexpensive motherboard and one that fits into the usage model of entry level/business. In that category the Foxconn H55MX-S does very well.
You are not going to game with it and you certainly are not going to do any rendering (which leaves out some photo editing abilities like rendering frames etc.), but if what you are looking for is an inexpensive motherboard for simple computing (Internet, email, Office etc) then this is a good choice. If you are looking for higher-level tasks, you should look elsewhere.
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