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Digital-Daily : Motherboard Reviews : fox_abit_p35_high

Foxconn MARS, and abit IP35 Pro (Intel P35)

Foxconn MARS, and abit IP35 Pro (Intel P35)
Author: Aleksandr Mitrofanov
Date: 08.10.2007

abit IP35 Pro
Chipset Intel P35
CPU LGA775 Pentium 4 FSB 1066/800/533 MHz
Celeron Conroe-L/Prescott FSB 800/533 MHz
Dual-Core Pentium4
Yorkfield, Wolfdale FSB 1333/1066/800 MHz
Quad-Core Kentsfield, Dual-Core Conroe/Allendale
HyperThreading
Memory DDR2 533/667/800/1066
HDD 1x UltraDMA/133
8x SerialATA(2xRAID)
Extras 2 IEEE-1394a
Audio Intel HDA
12 USB 2.0
2x Gigabit Ethernet
Price: n/a

Foxconn MARS
Chipset Intel P35
CPU LGA775 Pentium 4 FSB 1066/800/533 MHz
Celeron Conroe-L/Prescott FSB 800/533 MHz
Dual-Core Pentium4
Yorkfield, Wolfdale FSB 1333/1066/800 MHz
Quad-Core Kentsfield, Dual-Core Conroe/Allendale
HyperThreading
Memory DDR2 533/667/800/1066
HDD 1x UltraDMA/133
7x SerialATA(RAID)
Extras 2 IEEE-1394a
Audio Intel HDA
12 USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
Price: n/a

A few weeks ago, Foxconn announced a release of the ultimate MARS motherboard based on the P35 chipset. According to the company's statements, this product is aimed at overclockers and computer enthusiasts, and provides the best results at overclocking. Merely a year ago, such statements would have been taken with distrust, because the number of high-end products by this company is not great. The number of motherboards made by Foxconn which are aimed at overclocking amateurs is even fewer than that. However, these days there has appeared the new trend: Foxconn motherboards have been increasingly demonstrating decent results at overclocking. Evidently, at Foxconn they decided it's high time for the company to show itself at overclocking, so they released the first motherboard with guaranteed high performance.

In the IT industry, overclocking is a really interesting phenomenon. Merely as many as 5% of users are into overclocking, with much fewer than that doing hardcore overclocking. So why are manufacturers investing substantial resources (quality components, extra load upon engineers and programmers, massive cooling systems etc.) into respective functions? The thing is, the most important indicator of a motherboard is its stability. And, from a certain viewpoint, the result of overclocking is a direct indicator of stability and longevity of the motherboard (and any other product) while running at the nominal frequency. Another highly important factor: the opinion of computer enthusiasts directly affects the choice of regular users. Besides, in the users' mindset there is some sort of a stereotype on the purpose and quality of produce by a specific manufacturer. For instance, take the produce by ECS. For a long time, motherboards by this company have not had any overclocking tools; they have been aimed at the value and middle-end sectors of the market. In the end, the users have acquired such a strong mindset that no motherboards of the Extreme series (which offer overclocking tools and quite a rich package bundle) are able to overcome it: the vast majority of computer enthusiasts are simply ignoring these motherboards. At the same time, they are absolutely safely recommending cheap ECS motherboards to those users who are short for funds.

As regards Foxconn motherboards, their release under the company's own brand has started relatively recently. So as not to become similar to ECS, Foxconn is continuously trying to find a path to the high-end. Frankly, there has been a couple of times the company managed to create quite worthy products, but we can't yet talk of consistency (which is a class attribute). However, these days there has appeared a positive trend. In particular, we tested the reasonably priced Foxconn P35A which easily started up at FSB=500 MHz. And today we'll see how the mentioned trend will be supported by the MARS board.

As is known, Mars is not only a small red planet but a ferocious ancient Roman god of war. Therefore, to promote a product with this name a military theme was taken, and Foxconn has announced an autumn conscription to the combat QuantumForce unit.

Is that a war? Against whom? The enemy of the MARS board has proved to be an absolute surprise. For a long time, abit did not show any signs of life and then suddenly released a number of products, including a series of IP35 motherboards based on the P35 chipset. Are the rivals on par? On the Foxconn side, there are huge financial potentials, tremendous production capacities and thousands of engineers. All as it should be for the tier one manufacturer whose future is unclouded. But abit is the last representative of the tier two who is struggling for survival. Other companies have already laid off or reoriented their activities: the legendary EPoX and the no less legendary DFI have left the market. And we are not talking about Albatron, Biostar. The latter, albeit did not please overclockers, kept the prices for motherboards low enough. After the death of almost the whole tier two, the prices are not at all going down.

Does it look like abit is another one among the candidates to leave the market of motherboards? Not at all - abit is demonstrating enviable survival strength under the continuous crisis. Opening a review of ABIT SA6R (i815E) for as of May 2001 and reading the first paragraph: "So, it is spring outdoors, and crisis is going on the high-tech computer market. Only the strongest and largest companies will survive it. Abit with its 5% of the market is among them".

So we can assume that whatever cataclysms burst out the computer industry, abit will get out of it somehow. It's now time we moved on straight to the motherboards. Today, we are reviewing motherboards built on the Intel P35 chipset: abit IP35 Pro, and Foxconn MARS.

Specifications

abit IP35 Pro

Foxconn MARS


abit IP35 Pro Foxconn MARS
CPU - Intel Pentium 4 (Prescott (2M) / Gallatin / CedarMill) with the bus speeds 1066/800/533 MHz;
- Dual-core Intel Pentium D / EE (Smithfield/Presler) with the bus speed 800/1066 MHz;
- Intel Celeron-D (Conroe-L/Prescott) with the bus speeds 800/533 MHz;
- Support for Intel Core 2 Duo (Kentsfield (4 cores), Conroe/Allendale (2 cores)) with the bus speed 1066/800 MHz;
- Support for Intel Yorkfield, Wolfdale with the bus speeds 1333/1066/800 MHz;
- Socket LGA775;
- Support for HyperThreading processors;
Chipset - North bridge Intel 82P35 Memory Controller Hub (MCH);
- South bridge Intel ICH9R
- Interbridge communication: DMI
System Memory - Four 240-pin slots for DDR2 SDRAM DIMM;
- Maximum memory capacity 8GB;
- Supported memory DDR2 533/667/800/1066;
- Dual-channel memory access;
- Power indicator;
Graphics - Two PCI Express x16 slots
Expansion options - Three 32-bit PCI Bus Master slots
- One PCI Express x1 slot;
- Twelve USB 2.0 ports (4 integrated + 8 additional)
- Two IEEE1394 ports (Firewire, 2 additional)
- Integrated High Definition Audio 7.1
- Two Gigabit Ethernet LAN controllers
- Three 32-bit PCI Bus Master slots;
- Two PCI Express x1 slots;
- Twelve USB 2.0 ports (6 integrated + 6 additional);
- Two IEEE1394 ports (Firewire; one integrated + 1 additional)
- Integrated High Definition Audio 7.1
- Gigabit Ethernet LAN controller
Overclocking options - FSB adjustable within 133 to 600 MHz in 1 MHz increments, multiplier adjustable
- Adjustable voltage on the CPU, memory, FSB, and the chipset (MCH+ICH);
- Abit OC Guru (support for uGuru)
- FSB adjustable within 100 to 999 MHz in 1 MHz increments; multiplier adjustable;
- Adjustable voltage on the CPU, memory, FSB, and the chipset (MCH+ICH).
Disk subsystem - 1 UltraDMA133/100/66/33 Bus Master IDE link (JMB363; with support for up to 2 ATAPI devices);
- Support for SerialATA II (6 links - ICH9R, with support for RAID)
- Support for SerialATA II (2 links - JMB363, with support for RAID 0,1, JBOD) ;
- Support for LS-120 / ZIP / ATAPI CD-ROM
- 1 link for UltraDMA133/100/66/33 Bus Master IDE (JMB361; with support for up to 2 ATAPI devices);
- Support for Serial ATA II (6 links - ICH9R, with support for RAID)
- Support for Serial ATA II (1 link - JMB361)
- Support for LS-120 / ZIP / ATAPI CD-ROM
BIOS - 8 Mbit Flash ROM;
- Award BIOS Phoenix with support for Enhanced ACPI, DMI, Green, PnP Features, and Trend Chip Away Virus;
- abit FlashMenu;
- 8 Mbit Flash ROM
- Award BIOS Phoenix with support for Enhanced ACPI, DMI, Green, PnP Features, and Trend Chip Away Virus
- Fox LiveUpdate
Misc - One port for FDD, ports for PS/2 mouse and keyboard
- STR (Suspend to RAM)
- SPDIF In/Out
- Buttons to power-on and reset, clear CMOS
- 7-stage POST indicator
- Additional uGuru chip
- One port for FDD, one serial port, ports for PS/2 mouse and keyboard
- STR (Suspend to RAM)
- SPDIF Out
- Buttons to power-on and reset, clear CMOS
- Additional FoxOne chip
Power management - Wake-up on modem, mouse, keyboard, LAN, timer, and USB;
- Main 24-pin ATX power connector;
- Additional 8-pin power connector;
- Additional 4-pin Molex power connector;
Monitoring - Monitoring the temperatures of the CPU, system, power supply module, voltages, rotational speeds of the six fans
- abit FanEQ + utility of the same name;
- Monitoring the temperature of the CPU, system, north bridge, voltages, rotational speeds of the three fans
- Smart Fan
- AEGIS Panel
Dimensions - ATX form factor, 245 mm x 305 mm (9.63" x 12")

Retail boxes

The package of Foxconn motherboards is much larger and looks more impressive.

Opening the "book jacket" of the box, the user can see the most interesting traits of the board. By the way, the board is within a transparent plastic box:

Package bundle:
abit IP35 Pro
  • motherboard;
  • User's Manual in English + uGuru quick usage guide;
  • 1x software & drivers CD;
  • one ATA133 cable, one FDD cable;
  • six SerialATA cables;
  • a cap for the rear panel of the housing;
  • a bracket for 2 additional USB 2.0 and one Firewire ports;
  • a sticker with the jumpers layout diagram.
Foxconn MARS
  • motherboard;
  • User's Manual in English + brief usage guide;
  • registration card;
  • Software & drivers CD;
  • 3" floppy with drivers for the ICH9 RAID controller;
  • one ATA133 cable, one FDD cable;
  • six SerialATA cables + six power adapters;
  • a cap for the rear panel of the housing;
  • a bracket for 2 additional USB 2.0 and one Firewire ports;
  • an additional fan;
  • three stickers with a Foxconn logo;
  • a souvenir item: a chain with Quantum Force numbered tokens (the idea was born at the company's Moscow office).

Both the boards are aimed at computer enthusiasts. But the approaches to the package bundles for their products practiced by abit and Foxconn are somehow different. Foxconn not only offers a wide selection of standard components but interesting add-ons as well. But abit has nothing interesting - the company has saved on even the needed components. But let's hope the saving will be to the benefit of the user, that is, will be invested into the salaries of engineers at abit working at the improvement of the board's performance.

So let's keep to the point: each of the motherboards offers a kit of PATA and FDD cables, a mandatory cap, and 6 SerialATA cables. However, the Foxconn board has the required power supply adapters, whereas the abit product doesn't.

Now, regarding the user's manual and the software. We had nothing to complain about the main documentation of both motherboards, nor about the CDs with drivers, utilities and third-party software (antivirus software). The abit motherboard has a brief guide on the major features of uGuru, and the Foxconn product a brief description of the board. The Foxconn board comes bundled with a 3" floppy with RAID drivers for the south bridge ICH9R.

Besides, the abit board has a sticker depicting a jumpers layout diagram, and the Foxconn product - as many as 3 stickers with the Quantum-Force logo. There is also a special hardcopy reminder of advantages in passing a registration on the www.quantum-force.net web site. This implies getting exclusive BIOS versions (I presume, it is an email notification on the release of a new version), additional description of the board and its features (what was not included into the hardcopy version), access to the video interviews, etc. Besides, it informs that the registration allows receiving a customized individual technical support (i.e., there is a 100% guarantee that you will receive a response to the problem description).

Normally, no reply to the query addressed to the technical support arrives. And this applies to not only Foxconn, but all other companies. A couple of years ago, we ran an experiment - we wrote letters to the technical support services of all the motherboard manufacturers with a description of moderate difficulty problem. I remember it very well that we received no more than two verbose and cliche replies, but a real help came from Epox only. Evidently, the letters we addressed directly to engineers involved in the tests. But a year afterwards, when we repeated our experiment, replies stopped coming even from Epox. I don't think the situation has changed to the better, but this year we're conducting the same experiment.

Then, each of the motherboards offers a bracket for additional USB 2.0 and Firewire connectors.

This all what abit could offer in terms of components, but the Foxconn product has a couple more add-ons. These are a small fan fitted on the north bridge of the board, and a souvenir - an "army" numbered token with the QuantumForce logo. Actually, we don't feel like dreaming up about the death of the board or the overclocker - the more interesting is this question: "Is the number on the token the same or different for all the boards?" It is of course cheaper to make the number the same, but more attractive if the number is individual.

Content:

  • Page 1 - Specifications, package bundle
  • Page 2 - Layout and Features; Expansion options
  • Page 3 - BIOS, monitoring, overclocking tools
  • Page 4 - Performance and conclusions




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