It's amazing how well equipped flagship motherboards
really are these days. In the past, highly integrated motherboards usually meant
zero to little upgrade capacity, and were usually targeted towards the
system builder or integrator markets. With the Foxconn 955X7AA motherboard,
we see that by the '-8EKRS2'
acronym following the board model number it comes with pretty much every option a
modern day computers needs, save for wireless LAN.
Foxconn, once primarily an OEM supplier, has turned towards the vastness of the retail market with
a core offering of entry level to high end motherboards that
are surprisingly hot for their complex alpha-numeric names. Looking at the specs of its flagship
Intel 955X chipset based solution, the 955X7AA-8EKRS2, we're left quite impressed. The board supports up
to 8GB of PC5300 DDR2 memory as well as 800/1066MHz FSB Intel Pentium 4,
Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition processors.
Network connectivity comes care of two Broadcom Gigabit
NICs, IEEE 1394a/b Firewire is taken care of with a PCI bracket, the board boasts an additional
Serial ATA/RAID controller as well as an IDE ITE RAID controller, and finally,
7.1-channel audio is the work of Intel's 'High Definition' Azalia audio controller. If
you need to upgrade, there is the standard PCI Express
x16 graphics card slot as well as three traditional white 32-bit PCI slots
for legacy peripherals and three PCI Express x1 slots for future high
It's considered sound advice never to
judge a motherboard by its packaging, but I
think in this case the packaging used for the Foxconn 955X7AA-8EKRS2 motherboard is worthy
of mention. The box is subtle, all black without the distinctive graphics we've come
to expect on computer packaging, and self sealing with some integrated magnets.
Moving right along, with the number of ports and
connectors integrated into the Foxconn 955X7AA-8EKRS2 the resulting board layout
is pretty busy. However, everything seems be in an
easily accessible location, without creating any major obstructions for any of the expansion slots.
With Intel phasing out the IDE standard from its
Southbridge chipsets, it was nice to see Foxconn equip the board with an ITE
IT8212F IDE RAID controller. IDE has been the HDD standard for the last twenty
or so years, and it is not going to be replaced by SATA as fast as Intel would
like. The inclusion of the extra IDE controllers allows this board to support up
to six IDE devices, rather than just two. This enables uses with a lot of IDE devices to
move up to a more advanced platform, without sacrificing older functional hardware.
With that in mind, Serial ATA is the way of the future so we
are also pleased to see Foxconn integrate an additional Silicon Image
Sil3114 Serial ATA controller onto the 955X7AA-8EKRS2 motherboard. One thing is for sure, if you have a
lot of HDDs or need a lot of storage space this model is
definitely up to the task: eight Serial ATA and six IDE devices!
capacitors have become an issue with the long term stability of many
motherboards (from every vendor), we're reassured to see primarily good quality capacitors used on the 955X7AA-8EKRS2board
we tested. Around the CPU socket there are mainly Rubycon branded
caps, while we find various brands else where on the board from TEAPO to Luxon,
Lelon and KZJ.
Among the bundled goodies are some very nice rounded
cables. The IDE cables that accompany the 955X7AA-8EKRS2 are the same high
quality ones you find at modding stores that go for about $10
ea. The ones included have the individual wires cut and wrapped properly which allows the cables
to mold very easily around corners. Two IDE rounded cables, and one Floppy
drive rounded cable are included in the package.