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We tested with the memory at 800MHz and were satisfied with the results although they look poor compared with the Asus P5Q deluxe which also uses a P45 chipset. It’s a quirk of PCMark05 that the graphics score can return different figures with the same GeForce 8800GT graphics card. The Asus scored 17,000-18,000 marks while the Foxconn scored 13,000-13,500 however both motherboards achieved near-identical results in 3DMark06 which is a pure test of graphics power.
Things were improved when Foxconn emailed a Beta BIOS that will go live on their website in a few days time. The revised BIOS allowed us to raise the memory speed to the correct 1,066MHz which gave performance that was identical to the Asus apart from that pesky graphics element of PCMark05.
Working with the BIOS was a novel experience as the Voltage options aren’t especially clear. It’s simple to bump up the RAM Voltage from its stock setting of 1.8V to 2.07V as you hit the + key and watch the numbers increase. Working with the Northbridge voltage is more challenging as you choose a setting from 0-9 where 0=1.02V and 9=1.27V. The default is 3 or 1.1V and each step is 28mV.
It’s a similar story with Voltage settings for the Southbridge, FSB VTT and CPU PLL and in each case the voltage step is different. As obscure BIOS settings go the ELA takes the biscuit.
It also takes the proverbial when it comes to pricing as this motherboard sells for a startling £202.69 which is £84 more than the accomplished Asus P5Q Deluxe. Foxconn is determined to earn a reputation for high end motherboards that command a premium price and broadly speaking we think the ELA is headed in the right direction as the hardware looks good and the BIOS could do the trick with a bit more work. The problem is the small details.
For instance when you run the driver CD you can install drivers and utilities, just as you can with any motherboard on the market. The problem is that the CD browser doesn’t have an X that allows you to shut it down when you have finished. After you’ve installed the FOX LiveUpdate utility and updated the BIOS as we did you’ll see a message that it is ‘backuping now’ which surely isn’t a real word. Once the update is complete you are told the BIOS will ‘take affect after a restart’ when it should be ‘effect’.
Also, after we had finished testing the Foxconn, Windows Vista returned an error message when we tried to install the FOX LiveUpdate utility. These aren’t the sort of problems that we expect to suffer with a motherboard that costs over £200.
Foxconn charges an epic price for a P45 motherboard that is rather good but there’s no way we can recommend it until the price drops significantly.