Long a supplier of sockets and connectors to its current competition, we're not exactly certain how Foxconn's corporate customers reacted when the company decided to launch its own retail brand a few years ago. One thing has become clear, however: Foxconn means serious business.
Size is the first thing that sets Foxconn's P9657AA-8KS2H apart from other low cost boards. Based on the same printed circuit board (PCB) as its upscale 8EKRS2H sibling, the increased area gave Foxconn more room to prioritize component placement.
The first board in this comparison to use Intel's most basic ICH8 chipset, two Serial ATA ports are clearly missing from the lower-priced part, yielding a total of four rather than six. Foxconn also eschews lackadaisical IDE and floppy connector placement, putting both on the top half of the board for easy cable management.
Rather than crowd the DIMM slots with a PCI Express x16 graphics card as Biostar did, Foxconn put its x1 slot there. (PCI Express x1 cards are usually short enough to avoid reaching the DIMM slots.) But rather than offer the best of both worlds, Foxconn moved the x1 and x16 slots down one board position, eliminating the advantage found in Biostar's design. Builders with hot or thick graphics cards still get one useable x4 and two usable PCI slots in this configuration, which is adequate for most applications.
While the board is exceptionally well-arranged for its target market, there are three things that still bother us. First is an 8-pin ATX12V connector that's uncomfortably close to the CPU socket when used with large CPU coolers. Second, the Front Panel Audio header might be hard to reach because of its rear corner location. Finally, the PCI Express slot latch is nearly always impossible to grasp from under the graphics card's cooler.
|Southbridge||Intel ICH8 (82801HB)|
|Voltage Regulator||3 Phases|
|266.6 MHz (FSB1066)||266.2MHz (-0.17%)|
|Connectors and Interfaces|
|onboard||1x PCIe x16
1x PCIe x4
1x PCIe x1
6x USB 2.0
4x SATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU)
1x Fan 3 pins (System)
|IO panel||2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
1x Serial Port
1x Parallel Port
4x USB 2.0
1x Digital Audio Out (optical)
1x 7.1 Channel Audio, Mic/Line-In (5 jacks)
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|JMicron JMB361||1x IDE (ATA133/100/66)
|Marvell 88E8056 PCIe||1x 1 Gbit/s LAN|
|Realtek ALC883 7.1||AC97 or High Definition Audio|
The rear panel ports offer the best of both old and new, including an eSATA port and a digital optical S/P-DIF connection. One analogue port is lost, but enough remain to service a 7.1-channel audio system and either a line-in device or microphone.
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