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Foxconn Blood Rage GTi
In an ideal world we would have reviewed the Foxconn Blood Rage before we moved on to review the GTi version but things haven't shaken out that way. The GTi tag implies that this is the hot hatch version of the original Blood Rage but in actual fact Foxconn is using the GTi name in the same way that MSI uses Pro in its model codes (or at least in its old ones).
Blood Rage is Foxconn's take on a high end gaming motherboard for Core i7 with a layout that is dominated by four PCI Express graphics slots and a price that's eye watering. Blood Rage GTi offers a subset of the features in Blood Rage at a price that is reduced by about £40. It's hard to be exact as the GTi will go on sale very soon so we are presently working from a guide price of £223.25 inc VAT.
The list of missing features in the GTi is quite short and consists of the removal of Firewire, the absence of a SAS controller chip and a move to a simpler cooling system on the chipset and power regulation hardware. The core set of features in the GTi also looks very strong and initial impressions are favourable but you don't have to scratch the surface very hard to raise a number of questions.
The layout of the four PCI Express graphics slots is the key thing as the slots are arranged in two pairs such that you can only install two double slot graphics cards. If you want to use three or four graphics cards you are limited to single slot models such as the GeForce 9800GT or the Radeon HD 4850. There's nothing wrong with SLI or CrossFire using that sort of hardware but a pair of GeForce GTX 260 or Radeon HD 4890 will deliver better performance at a lower cost. Sticking with two high end graphics cards will also reduce the risk of a conflict between your graphics drivers and the games you play.
You might expect that we would complain about the three memory slots as most motherboard manufacturers choose to provide six slots. A few months back that may well have been our view but these days we have no problem with Foxconn's direction of travel as the price of DDR3 has plummeted. Specifically the price of low voltage Core i7 DDR3 has dropped like a stone and you can now buy 3 x 2GB kits of 1333MHz DDR3 for £65 or 3 x 2GB of 2000MHz DDR3 for £100-£120. When you can get 6GB of fast DDR3 that operates below the 1.65V limit of Core i7 for that sort of price it's hard to see why anyone would want to use six modules. That said, we would have hoped there would be a fair amount of space around the memory modules but it all looks remarkably cluttered and the area around the CPU socket is quite tight for space.
The Blood Rage models have a Sonar X-Fi riser card that carries the six analogue mini jacks so the only audio connection on the I/O panel is coaxial S/PDIF. This leaves an enormous gap that is barely filled by eight USB, dual LAN, single PS/2 and two eSATA ports, the latter of which hang off a JMicron controller. It's a shame that Foxconn felt it was necessary to scrap the Firewire ports but that's product differentiation for you.