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Appeared on: Monday, December 18, 2006
Foxconn Q9657MC Motherboard


1. Introduction

Foxconn on September 6th of 2006 announced the Q9657MC-8KS2H motherboard featuring the revolutionary Intel® vPro™ technology. Whether running a small or large network, Intel® vPro™ technology provides a host of dynamic and integrated management solutions that enable IT professionals to remotely diagnose, monitor, secure, and control a fleet of Q9657MC-8KS2H-based PCs from their management consoles. This capability eliminates time consuming desk-side visits, reduces IT costs, and effectively reclaims lost man-hours via faster IT response and service. Fully compatible with the Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor family, the Q9657MC-8KS2H enhances system responsiveness for multi-tasking business environments and achieves more performance per watt than any other platform available.

In contrast with traditional IT management, Intel® vPro™ technology in the Q9657MC-8KS2H enables authorized IT technicians to update, reboot, repair and obtain vital system information from networked PCs even when they are shut down. This innovation fast-tracks routine IT tasks including hardware and software asset tracking, maintenance, and installation of critical security patches and product updates which would normally take days to accomplish. Intel® vPro™ technology also provides a tough network defense system that protects the PC from security attacks and isolates an infected PC from the rest of the network, ensuring reliable and uninterrupted operation.

The Q9657MC-8KS2H includes the latest version of Intel® Active Management Technology (AMT) - an Intel® vPro™ technology cornerstone - that provides a robust and unified PC management solution. Since all Intel® AMT features are built into the board hardware and firmware, communication channels run outside the OS sphere, giving IT technicians access to essential PC information even when the PC is off. Intel® AMT enables remote communications, power-up, boot, and console redirection that allows IT professionals to repair critical system problems, perform property inventories, and heal infected PCs in the network without leaving their seats.

With system information always available, performing an asset inventory is fast, accurate and convenient as IT administrators can trace all hardware and software resources down-the-line during an audit cycle or even when the OS and management agents are not yet installed. Desktop PCs with Q9657MC-8KS2H are tracked in minutes and readily respond to inventory processes with specific hardware tags, improving asset tracking and speeding end-of-lease inventory-taking.

The Q9657MC-8KS2H with Intel® vPro™ technology streamlines computer diagnosis and repair by speeding up IT response using round-the-clock monitoring, remote problem identification, discrete patch installation, and relevant updates to keep the PC system in top shape.

Fortified defense factor

Addressing data loss and system breakdowns caused by network security assaults, the Q9657MC-8KS2H is armed with a built-in defense system designed to stop threats before they reach the operating system or create further network damage. Intel® vPro™ technology proactively sets checkpoints for viruses, worms, and malware on the network, and automatically isolates an infected PC to prevent widespread infection that could disrupt and halt productive computing. In addition, the Q9657MC-8KS2H supports the Intel® Virtualization Technology that enables the user to run a virtual environment outside the OS, like a virtual security appliance, for value added platform security at no extra cost and without affecting system performance.

The remote management accessibility of the Q9657MC-8KS2H allows the PC to instantly send alerts to IT technicians during a security breach, enabling the latter to immediately dispatch fixes and virus updates on the PC even when productive applications are running in the foreground or when the PC is switched off. With dependable event logging and remote boot capability, Intel® vPro™ technology helps IT technicians identify the cause of the breakdown and allows them to quickly issue notices and fixes to other PCs in the network.

- Foxconn Q9657MC-8KS2H

The Q9657MC-8KS2H, fused with the latest Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor, excels in the most demanding business computing applications. Equipped with a 1066 MHz front side bus, DDR2 800/667/533 MHz system memory, reliable Gigabit network connectivity, and an arsenal of I/O interfaces, the Q9657MC-8KS2H boosts productivity and enhances the user experience. The platform also supports Intel® Quiet System Technology (QST) for automatic system fan-speed control and quiet operation.

Combined with recommended CPU and memory components, the Q9657MC-8KS2H supports the next-generation Windows Vista™ Premium OS and offers multitasking efficiency even when running CPU- and memory-intensive applications like virus scans and multi-party teleconferencing running in the background.

The Q9657MC-8KS2H comes with an Intel® 82566DM gigabit network controller that uses the PCI Express® lane for the fastest possible network connectivity, and 7.1-channel high-fidelity audio that conforms to Intel® High Definition Audio specifications. The Q9657MC-8KS2H supports up to 8MB of system memory, six Serial ATA II devices, ten USB 2.0 ports with USB-locking capability, and PCI Express® and 32-bit PCI slots for convenient system expansion. The Q9657MC-8KS2H’s microATX form factor fits slim and compact desktop chassis that are popular in today’s space-conscious office setups.

- Main features

- Full specifications

Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo, Pentium® D, Pentium® 4, Celeron® D processors , Socket T (LGA775)
Chipset: Intel Q965+ICH8DO
Front Side Bus: 1066 / 800 / 533 MHz (FSB)
Memory: Dual Channel DDR2 800 / 667 / 533 x 4 DIMMs, Max 8GB
VGA on Die: Integrated
Expansion Slots: 1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI
IDE: -
Serial ATA(SATA)/RAID: Serial ATAII x 6
Audio: 7.1 channel Audio, Realtek ALC888 (HDA)
LAN: GbE LAN, Intel Nineveh 82566DM (PCIe)
IEEE1394: N/A
Back Panel I/O Ports: 1 set 7.1 channel Audio jack (6 jacks)
1 x PS/2keyboard
1 xPS/2mouse
4 x USB 2.0
1 x serial
1 x parallel
1 x RJ45
1 x VGA
Internal I/O Connectors: 3x USB 2.0 headers support 6 ports
1 x Audio header
1 x Buzzer
1 x IrDA header
1 x Front Panel header
1 x AUX-in header
1 x Serial port header
1 x Intrusion Alarm header
1 x SPDIF out
1 x BIOS protect header
1 x RM
1 x Heatsink
1 x TPM header
BIOS Features: ACPI 2.0b, APM 1.2, PnP 1.0a, SMBIOS 2.3, USB 2.0
Support CD: Drivers, DirectX, Adobe Reader, SuperUtilities, Norton Internet Security
Standards/Manageability: PCI 2.3, USB2.0, DMI 2.0
Special Features: BIOS PXE Supports
Form Factor: Micro ATX (9.6"x9.6")

2. The Package

There's nothing particularly flashy about Foxconn's retail package and is available at the retail price of €115, making it an affordable solution for all levels of users:

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

It's rather funny that Foxconn has bulked IDE and Floppy cables since the motherboard doesn't support either of those ports. The board itself is densely packed with components but all parts can be easily identified.

Located mid right on the motherboard, we find the CPU socket. At the center, under the passive heatsink lies the 965Express chipset, while at bottom left, under a smaller passive heatsink is Intel's X3000 embedded chipset.

The CPU region is not as densely populated, so it should fit some of the larger third party CPU coolers:

Intel's X3000 chipset promises superb performance, compared with the previous G9xx generations. We will find out if this promise is kept, later on in our review:

The board has the ability to take a PCI-E graphics card, that automatically disables the integrated VGA card, for faster and better graphics capabilities. 2x PCI are still offered and the SATAII connectors can accommodate up to six storage devices (either HDD or optical drives). There are several extra connection on the motherboard for USB2.0, Front Panel Audio, COM2 and Firewire. However, Foxconn has not included cables for those in the retail package, to keep the retail price down. The back I/O panel has the usual connections, 7.1 channel Audio jack (6 jacks), PS/2 keyboard and mouse, 1 x parallel, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x 100 LAN and lastly 1 x D-Sub15 VGA port. The bulked disc includes all drivers to get everything going:

After having used the board for a while, we found that because of the close proximity, if you plan to use the onboard VGA adapter and any bulky USB devices such as memory sticks, you will run into problems. As our photo below shows, there is a small gap from the VGA connector with just a standard USB cable plugged in:


Everything works ok in this case...


However, with something larger such as this USB stick, is a no-go situation.


3. BIOS

The BIOS is the very familiar Phoenix - Award. What's rather annoying is that the board doesn't offer any form of overclocking capabilities (voltages or DRAM timings). The best you can do is change the internal CPU ratio.


4. Installation

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, we were able to get more information about the motherboard:

And the onboard chipsets:

Foxconn LiveUpdate doesn't work with the specific motherboard.

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

Memory was set to Auto and worked at ? MHz. CPU-Z didn't show any memory timing indication:


5. 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 optimizations and tweaking, it provides essential system and overclocking 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 make EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has several tests for memory and CPU/FPU built-in.

We include the results of two other motherboards for comparison and see that the fastest motherboard in the Everest Ultimate Edition Memory Tests was the Asus P5B Deluxe. This can be explained in that with the ASUS board you can set the memory to work at a CPU:RAM ratio of 1:2, resulting in higher running speeds, something that cannot be achieved with the other two motherboards.

In the CPU tests, the Foxconn Q9657MC was top performer in the first four tests and only lagged behind in the Photoworxx benchmark test.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

In Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1 CPU tests, there is very little between the three motherboards. In the Memory Tests, the ASUS P5B Deluxe had a slight edge.


6. PCMARK - 3DMARK

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 see all three available scores, memory, CPU and total.

Looking at the Memory and CPU scores, for the Foxconn, we find it lagging behind the other two motherboards according to PCMark 05 although the final score is quite good.

 

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.

3D Mark06 tests both the CPU and RAM, as well as graphics card performance. The Foxconn Q9657MC has the lowest overall score of the three, although there isn't a great difference between the motherboards.


7. Science Mark - PovRay - Nero Digital

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, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.

Certainly no thanks to its "unknown" memory timings, the Foxconn Q9657MC gets third position in the ScienceMark and second in the Pov-Ray tests.

- Nero Digital

Nero Digital is one of the most popular Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoder profiles.

For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 found in Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source, we used a VOB file of 5 mins duration. We encoded with 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.

All three tested motherboards, have similar performance with Nero Recode. The Intel DX975XBX2 seems to be slightly faster in AVC encoding time.


8. CINEBENCH -SuperPI

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 each subtest is displayed in the following chart, except for OpenGL Software & Hardware Lighting tests, since both depend on the installed graphics card.

The Foxconn Q9657MC was awarded the highest CineBench R9.5 index score.

SuperPI has become an 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 all CPUs we tested up to 8M calculations and sum them up for a total score.

This is a more memory intensive benchmark, an the Asus P5B Deluxe with its better memory handling, has the lowest sum of 8M+4M+2M+1M SuperPI times.


9. F.E.A.R - Prey

- F.E.A.R

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which was used in all our tests. We maxed all details for CPU and graphics card, except for AA/AF and Soft Shadows which are enabled as shown in each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

The Asus P5B Deluxe managed 33FPS, 3 better than both the Foxconn and Intel motherboards.

- Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

For all tests, we used hocbench that offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

Prey is based on the Quake3 engine, making it CPU dependent. Very little between the 3 motherboards with the Asus P5B Deluxe offering highest framerate of 31FPS.


10. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory - Half Life

- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged. Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.

As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR, along with other new effects. We used hocbench that offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:

Minimal difference in performance between the 3 motherboards.

- Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the console to run each card with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we enabled 1280x1024 with HDR shadows fully enabled.

Again, nothing between the 3 boards.


11. Overclocking

Unfortunately, the Foxconn Q9657MC is based on Intel's vPro platform, and therefore doesn't offer any overclocking options.


12. Intel GMA3000 chipset information

This is the first motherboard we have tested with Intel's GMA3000 IGP on board. According to Intel, the new GMA3000 series deliver much better performance than previous GMA 9xx series. Below is a table illustrating the major differences between the two chipsets, taken from macrumors.com:

GMA 950 GMA X3000
Clock Speed 400 MHz 667 MHz
Pipelines 4 pixel + 1 vertex 8 unified pipelines
Shader Model 2.0 (Pixel Shader 2.0, Vertex Shader 3.0) 3.0 (Pixel + Vertex Shader 3.0)*
VRAM 224MB maximum 384MB maximum
T & L Support CPU Based Hardware T&L
DirectX Support 9.0 9.0c**
OpenGL Support 1.4 w/ enhanced lighting 1.5
* The GMA X3000 has fully programmable pipelines so there is always the possibility of a Shader Model 4.0 driver update in the future.
** Could eventually be changed to DX 10 with a driver update thanks to programmable pipelines.

The graphics engine of the Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3000 family consists of a scalable array of symmetric processing components known as execution units (EUs) which can be programmed to dynamically process graphics or media data alike. Programmability of the EUs adds flexibility and enables support for future graphics and media usages by upgrading the driver. Execution units support dynamic load balancing, multi-threading, and multi-functional data processing, resulting in increased performance to enable a more compelling gaming and visual experience for main stream users. Intel’s next generation architecture shows Intel’s continued innovation by delivering greater flexibility and performance to meet the needs for the current and future consumer and corporate applications.

The new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator architecture with its greater performance and flexibility will be the basis for many new consumer and corporate applications. For consumers, the Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3000 engine supported on Intel® G965 Express chipset has been optimized for enhanced 3D to allow for greater game compatibility and realism with new video and display features to deliver a theater-like
entertainment experience through Intel® Clear Video Technology. For corporate users, Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3000 engine incorporated in Intel® Q965/Q963 Express chipsets continues to offer stability, ease of use, and lower power consumption, in a cost effective solution. The Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3000 family engine is eligible for the Microsoft Windows Vista*Premium logo.

Intel’s next generation Graphics Media Accelerator that provides new levels of graphics and video responsiveness in a cost effective solution. The Intel graphics engine is integrated into the Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH) and enables a low power, reduced form factor solution compared to power-hungry discrete graphics cards:

Intel currently ships two versions of GMA3000 series, the G965 and Q965 chipsets:

Their main differences is that the Intel G965 chipset is clocked at 667MHz (vs 400MHz), supports up to 384MB shared memory, SM3.0, Vertex Shader 3.0, Pixel Shader 3.0, Hardware Geometry Processing (Transform and Lighting (T&L), High Dynamic Range (HDR), Advanced De-interlacing, MPEG-2 Hardware Acceleration, WMV9 HD decode and Advanced Display Connectivity (HDMI) output.


13. Intel GMA3000 chipset Tests

We got the latest available driver pack (14.25) for all tests:

and after rebooting, we checked the display properties:

Both core and memory are clocked at 400MHz:

Intel's control panel has several tabs available:

Next, we tried to run several benchmarks to see how the Intel GMA3000 would perform:

.

All game results show improvements over the GMA950 series. A more interesting test would be playback of Mpeg2, Mpeg4 and HD content. We can say from the test results that the CPU % usage as low during most tests:

Player
Mpeg2
Mpeg4
WMV 720p
Windows Media Player Classic 6.4
5%
6%
20%

The Intel GMA3000 chipset seems to be capable of handling even demanding HD content (WMV 720p). With Media Player Classic, we had very low CPU % usage, indicating that even though it's a IGP, users can view Videos at top speed and quality.


14. Conclusion

Foxconn, released the Q9657MC-8KS2H, a motherboard based on Intel's vPro platform. Using Intel's Q965Express chipset, we expected to see very good performance, paired with an Intel Core2Duo processor.

First of all, this motherboard supports all currently sold Intel processors for the 775 socket - Intel® Core™ 2 Duo/ Intel® Pentium® D/Intel® Pentium® 4/ Intel® Celeron® D processor. Another special feature is the integrated graphics processor, again from Intel, the GMA3000 series.

Throughout all our tests, the Q9657MC-8KS2H was in most cases slower than the Asus P5B Deluxe, although in some tests, we saw the Q9657MC-8KS2H outperforming both the Intel DX975XBX2 and Asus P5B Deluxe. It depends on each benchmark and memory configuration. All three motherboards have a totally different "audience" and retail price :-)

We were very curious to see how Intel's GMA3000 IGP would perform. Intel currently ships two series, the G965 and Q965 chipsets with different features and performance. After having tested the Q965 chipset, we can say it's an improvement over the previous GMA950 series. In 3D games, you can have acceptable performance, even with the very popular 3D person shooters (like F.E.A.R and NFS Carbon), depending of course the resolution and visual improvements. Some games refused to work, due to the lack of SM2.0/3.0 (software emulation only). We imagine that G965 that supports SM3.0/HDR effects in hardware would be the ideal solution for corporate users who want, once in a while, to test their skills with 3D Games.

On the other hand, Video playback performance was very good, with very low CPU % usage. Even with WMV 720p files, CPU Usage never passed 20%. You can also install a PCI-E card and get even better performance.

Passing to the board itself, the overall design is good. There is no IDE channel, nor floppy drive support! Curiously, Foxconn bulks IDE and Floppy cables with the retail package. Of course, that is what Intel "demands", in order to be vPro platform compliant. There are 6x SATAII connections available for HDD and optical storage devices. Extra connections are also available, but the required cables are not included in the retail package, so you'll need to buy them if want to use them. Something to be aware of is the lack of any overclocking/tuning options in the BIOS. There are no voltage/D-RAM configuration tabs, and CPU-Z couldn't recognize the exact memory timings of our test PC!

Ending our presentation, we can say that for a retail price of US$115, we were satisfied with this motherboard. The performance was good, even compared with the very popular Asus P5B Deluxe. The built-in VGA card (GMA3000), seems to work quite well and we didn't face any major problems.

If you are looking for a low cost motherboard supporting Core2Duo with 965Express chipset, this is definitely a product you should take a look at.



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