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Appeared on: Sunday, November 05, 2006
Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H


1. Introduction

- Introduction

Foxconn has a long tradition of releasing quality motherboards with integrated VGA chipsets on board. In this review, we will examine their latest proposal for the AM2 socket, a design with a different approach, based on VIA chipset as opposed to Nvidia/ATI designs.

- Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H

The Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H is based on the VIA K8M890 + VT8237R-plus, which supports AMD Sempron, Athlon 64, Athlon 64FX, Athlon 64X2 processors for Socket AM2. It features 2000 MT/s HyperTransport FSB and Dual channel DDR2 800/667 x2 DIMMs (max 2GB).

- Main features

- VIA K8M890

The VIA K8M890 chipset has an Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) and PCI Express connectivity. VIA K8M890 delivers DirectX 9 graphics support with hardware pixel shaders to meet the requirements of the upcoming Windows Vista operating system, and rising high definition video requirements. Integrating support for the latest PCI Express graphics cards and high speed peripheral devices, the VIA K8M890 supports the full range of AMD Athlon64 and AMD Sempron processors.

At the core of the VIA K8M890 North Bridge lies the all new VIA Chrome9 IGP, delivering a rich visual experience through the implementation of innovative features such a 128 bit 2D/3D engine with dual pixel pipeline. The K8M890 also features extensive display support for all HDTV output formats including 1920x1080p and additional advanced graphics capabilities include the Chromotion Video Display Engine, comprehensive de-interlace support, and DuoView for enhanced productivity and presentation capabilities. The K8M890's highly flexible architecture also allows for an external PCI Express x16 port for optional graphic card upgrades.

The VIA K8M890 integrates VIA's Hyper8 technology supporting a 1GHz/16-bit (upstream and downstream) HyperTransport processor-to-chipset link, that delivers up to 8GB/s of bandwidth to help ensure all AMD64 processor-based systems achieve their full performance potential. The VIA K8M890 benefits from VIA's unique V-MAP (VIA Modular Architecture Platform) architecture that facilitates faster product development and speeds up time to market, and features the high-throughput Ultra V-Link interconnect running at speeds of up to 1GB/s between the North and South Bridge.

North Bridge  
Processor Support AMD Athlon64 & AMD Sempron Single/Dual Processor Support
Front Side Bus 1GHz/16-bit (Upstream & Downstream) HyperTransport Bus Link
Graphics / Video Integrated VIA Chrome9 IGP
  • DirectX 9.0 engine
  • Pixel Shader 2.0
  • Dual pixel pipelines
  • 128-bit 2D/3D engine
  • 250MHz engine clock speed
  • Optional external PCI Express x16 interface
  • - VT8237R Plus South Bridge

    The VIA VT8237R has been designed from the ground up to meet the increasing demands of today's software while providing all the necessary headroom for the data-intensive applications of tomorrow. Previously confined to niche enterprise and enthusiast segments, the VT8237R brings to the mainstream for the first time the latest high performance storage technologies, Serial ATA and RAID, as well as a host of connectivity features such as USB 2.0 and 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, as well as the Ultra V-Link chipset interconnect with over 1GB/s of bandwidth.

    The VIA VT8237R comprises four distinct application segments: the new VIA DriveStation Controller Suite with the first native support for Serial ATA RAID, the VIA Advanced Connectivity Suite that includes support for eight USB 2.0 ports, the VIA Vinyl Multi-channel Audio Suite for superlative onboard sound, and the VIA Modular Architecture Platform (V-MAP) providing maximum flexibility to motherboard manufacturers. As PC audio becomes an increasingly crucial factor in purchase decisions, the VT8237R provides support for the VIA Vinyl Multi-channel Audio Suite, delivering a platform solution to enable the highest levels of onboard audio performance. Enabling six-channel and the only 8-channel onboard solution, with support for 24/96 resolutions, the VT8237R with VIA Vinyl Audio delivers a full featured, rich, warm audio experience.

    - Full specifications

    Processor: AMD Sempron, Athlon 64, Athlon 64FX, Athlon 64X2 processors,
    Socket AM2
    Chipset: VIA K8M890 + VT8237R-plus
    Front Side Bus: 2000 MT/s HyperTransport
    Memory: Dual channel DDR2 800 / 667 x2 DIMMs, Max 2GB
    VGA on Die: Integrated
    Expansion Slots: 1 X PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI
    IDE: ATA 133 x 2
    Serial ATA(SATA)/RAID: Serial ATA x 2 with RAID 0, 1,JBOD
    Audio: 5.1 channel, Realtek ALC653 (AC'97)
    LAN: 10/100 M LAN, Realtek RTL8100C
    IEEE1394: N/A
    Back Panel I/O Ports: 1 x PS/2 keyboard
    1 x PS/2 mouse
    1 x parallel
    1 x VGA
    4 x USB 2.0
    1 x RJ45
    1 set 5.1 channel Audio jacks (3 jacks)
    1 x Serial Port
    Internal I/O Connectors: x USB 2.0 headers, support 4 ports
    1 x front audio header
    1 x RM
    1 x IrDA header
    1 x CD IN
    1 x AUX IN (reserve)
    1 x COM2 header
    1 x speaker
    1 x Front panel
    1 x SPDIF out header
    1 x Buzzer
    BIOS Features: LPC-4Mb, ACPI 1.0b, APM 1.2, PnP 1.0a, SMBIOS 2.3, USB 2.0, WfM 2.0
    Support CD: Drivers, Super Utilities, DirectX, Adobe Reader, Norton Internet Security, Manual & Raid Manual, Wordperfect
    Standards/Manageability: P USB 2.0, WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, LPC 1.1 Interface
    Special Features: CnQ, HDA, SuperRecovery, SuperBoot, SuperBIOS-Protect, SuperSpeed, SuperStep, SuperLogo, SuperUpdate, Humanity Technology
    Form Factor: Micro ATX (9.6" x8.8")

    2. The Package

    Foxconn's retail package is very simple. It has the WinFast logo and can be found at the retail price of US$50~60, making it a very affordable solution for entry level users:

    Below is a list of what's included in the retail package

    The board itself looks very uncomplicated and most parts can be identified easily.

    Click to Enlarge!

    Via's K8M890 chipset can be found under the right passive heatsink The board can facilitate an extra PCI-E card, that automatically disables the inter grated VGA card, for faster and better graphics abilities. 2x PCI is still offered, with 2x2 ATA133 for HDD and optical storage drives and of course, 2x SATA connectors.

    There are several, extra connectors on the motherboard for extra USB2.0, Front Panel Audio, COM2 and Firewire. However, Foxconn hasn't included those in the retail package, probably to keep the retail price low. The back I/O panel has the usual connectors, 5.1 channel Audio (3 jacks), PS/2 keyboard and mouse, 1 x parallel, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x 100Mb LAN and lastly 1 x D-Sub15 VGA port. The bulk disc includes all the required drivers to get everything going:


    3. Bios

    The BIOS is Phoenix - Award, and should be familiar to most users.

    Under the Central Control Unit, we find the major settings for voltages and overclocking

    Vcore settings are a little cumbersome, since you cannot set an absolute value, but instead have to select a voltage offset to the one the motherboard has automatically selected:

    More settings under Advanced Bios features:

    The memory settings are very limited:

    The onboard VGA card supports several display modes, while you can set the shared memory size

    Lastly, the onboard PC Health status reports several values for evaluating your system stability


    4. Installation

    By using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, we were able to get more information about the motherboard itself,

    And the chipsets:

    Foxconn LiveUpdate is a very useful software that can automatically look for new BIOS, drivers and utilities versions. Our motherboard, was armed with the latest:

    Finally, let's see the default running specs with CPU-Z:

    Memory was set to Auto and worked at 400MHz:

    A newer driver set was used for all tests, Via HyperionPro v5.10A


    5. Tests - Page 1

    In order to test the board we used the following setup:

    For comparison, we post results from another Foxconn AM2 based motherboard, the Foxconn C51XEM2AA.

    - Everest Ultimate Edition 2006

    Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiast PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimization 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. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.

    The first test results concern memory performance. As we can see, there is quite a difference, especially in the copy/read tests, while in memory write, the motherboards are very close:

    In the FPU/CPU tests, the performance between is very similar:

    Lastly, the Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1 scores, show that while there is very little between the boards, the C51XEM2AA motherboard is slightly faster than the K8M890M2MA:


    6. Tests - Page 2

    Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses.

    Below you can the three available scores: memory, CPU, and total:

    Click for homepage!3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

    Her, we see both the CPU and total score. In both cases, Foxconn's C51XEM2AA performance was higher.

    Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias.  Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

    Pov-Ray s a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, which supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.


    7. Tests - Page 3

    Nero Digital

    One of the major advantages of having Core2Duo is faster video encoding. Nero Digital is one of the best known Digital formats, offering both an ASP and AVC encoder.

    For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 as packaged with Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source, we used a VOB file of 5mins duration. We encoded for each processor, in two modes (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (same bitrate and dual pass). The encoding time displayed below, is what Nero Recode reported. The lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.

    Both motherboard had similar times, with only 2 seconds difference between, either way.

    CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS, based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

    Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of all subtests is displayed in the following chart..

     

    A Total SuperPI result from Intel XE6800SuperPI has become a utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

    The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For both CPUs, we tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.


    8. Overclocking

    While Foxconn offers several settings in the BIOS to overclock your CPU. We didn't have much success overclocking our Athlon AMD 4600+ higher than 204FSB (200default). Obviously, this isn't a motherboard you can expect much from in the way of overclocking.


    9. VIA Chrome9 IGP chipset

    - VIA Chrome9 IGP chipset

    This is the first time we have laid our hands on a motherboard with VIA's Chrom9 IGP chipset. After reading VIA's press release, I was very curious as to how well the inter grated chipset would perform, since it is known that its capabilities are rather limited. After removing the MSI 7600GT graphics card, we set the shared memory size to 128MB and used Everest Ultimate 2006 to check the specifications.

    As we can see, the Chrome9 IGP has 250MHz GPU and 350MHz Ram clocks. We installed the latest available driver pack, and after a reboot we checked display properties:

    Next, we tried to run several benchmarks to see how VIA's Chrome9 IGP would perform. Unfortunately, most of the tests refused to run or worked very slowly. For example, Prey worked at a low 2.5 FPS, while NBA Live 07 with low visual quality settings, couldn't manage more than 15FPS. To give you an idea, in comparison Intel's GMA 950 had 10 and 30FPS respectively in both tests. So, don't expect much from VIA's Chrome9 IGP, at least in gaming.

    Next, we were curious as to how the IGP would perform when playing back Mpeg2, Mpeg4 and HD content. We can say from the test results, that the CPU % was low in most tests:

    Player
    Mpeg2
    Mpeg4
    WMV 720p
    Windows Media Player 10
    10%
    22%
    20%
    Windows Media Player Classic 6.4
    8%
    19%
    24%

    The most "difficult" test was playback of a WMV 720p file. The highest CPU % we saw was ~24% from MPC (Media Player Classic), whereas Windows Media Player had somewhat lower CPU%. In any case, this motherboard can be used to playback HD content, even with the integrated VGA card.


    10. Conclusion

    Foxconn already has a winning product for the AM2 platform in the C51XEM2AA motherboard. Shipping another product for the same category seems rather strange, unless of course it is aimed for another user level. The Foxconn K8M890M2MA is only suited for low entry users, who want an affordable and stable system, without expecting a lot, at least in advanced features like overclocking and SLI.

    This motherboard supports all currently sold AMD processors for the AM2 socket - Athlon 64, Athlon 64FX, Athlon 64X2. The board is built on VIA's K8M890+VT8237R-plus chipsets. Another special feature is the integrated graphics card, again from VIA, the Chrome9 IGP. Looking at the raw performance stats for all tests, the K8M890M2MA was slower than the C51XEM2AA, but in some tests, the difference was slight. While graphics performance with the built in IGP is probably the main weakness of this motherboard, considering the price, it isn't such a bad solution after all :-)

    The inter grated VGA card is indeed a little disappointing, and doesn't perform as well as we would like. Its performance with 3D games is very poor. Other integrated chipsets (for example the Intel GMA950) offered much better performance with not so demanding games (NBA Live 07). On the other hand, the good news is that during playback of HD content, we noticed low CPU % load, meaning you can use it for playing back your favorite movies, even in HD format. Foxconn does provide you with the option of adding a faster, more powerful graphics card if you want to through the available PCI-E slot.

    Moving on to the board itself, the overall design is good and keep in mind, this is a micro ATX forma factor design. There are 2x SATA (no SATAII support!) and 2xIDE ATA 133 connections available for HDD and optical storage devices. Several expansion slots are also available, but the required cables are not included in the retail package.

    Ending our presentation, we can say that for a retail price of around US $60, we were satisfied with this motherboard. Anyone interested in buying it, shouldn't expect anything in the way of overclocking, but now that all Athlon X2 processors are very affordable, it makes for a very nice system for entry level users.



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