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Foxconn Cinema Premium: Features And Hardware

Seven AMD 785G-Based Motherboards Rounded Up
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This is the first board that I've tested in a long time that has a proper name. Indeed, Cinema Premium is a lot easier to remember than a string of letters and numbers, which really speaks to home theater owners.

This board is also one of the two in this roundup that uses DDR2 system memory instead of DDR3, and like the other DDR2 board, CPU support is capped at 125W. While this limits owners to the Phenom II X4 955, I can't imagine that users in the target segment will have a problem with that, as home theater CPUs are more likely chosen for low power usage and heat output rather than high clocks. A power-sipping Athlon II X2 250 would be a suitable companion for this board, which uses far less than 125W.

The real differentiator here is that Foxconn's Cinema Premium offers both DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live. This means that you can use a digital output to connect the motherboard directly to a surround-sound audio system that features a Dolby Digital decoder, DTS decoder, or both. The benefit is that games and audio files with surround sound can be played with these technologies, even if the source doesn't have a DD or DTS soundtrack.

The irony is that Foxconn chose Realtek's ALC888 codec to drive the Cinema Premium instead of the ALC889, which has a better signal-to-noise ratio and can be found in the Gigabyte and MSI 785G boards in this roundup. We will also mention that the Foxconn Cinema Premium doesn't have SidePort memory on-board. Since SidePort is a feature that would be useful for 3D acceleration, it makes sense that this theater-centric board would not incur the price premium of this addition.

The Spartan bundle includes excellent documentation, but little else. Accompanying the manual and quick setup guide are the driver CD, I/O shield, and two SATA cables. There are no IDE cables because the Foxconn Cinema Premium doesn't offer an IDE interface. This is a bit puzzling from an upgrader's perspective, since the board utilizes older DDR2 memory instead of newer DDR3 modules.

The Cinema Premium is a smart-looking product, with black-on-black heat sinks emblazoned with gold lettering proclaiming “Cinema HD,” in addition to the Dolby Digital Live and DTS connect logos. The orange highlights on a selected few pieces really work from an aesthetic point of view.

As far as usability goes, the 24-pin ATX and eight-pin 12V power connectors are placed as well as any others in the roundup. Four of the five SATA ports face to the left instead of upward off the board, which isn't how I like them, but the fifth lone SATA port faces the user. Oddly, there is no sixth SATA port.

The Cinema Premium ties ECS' offering as the microATX board with the most expansion slots. There is one 16x PCIe 2.0 slot, two x1 PCIe slots, and one legacy PCI slot. Conversely, there is no IDE, floppy, or FireWire connectivity offered.

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  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , October 27, 2009 2:04 PM
    Very informative article. Nice to see there are motherboards with different features for different users/tasks.
  • 5 Hide
    LATTEH , October 27, 2009 3:24 PM
    Just what i needed to see thanks toms!
  • 6 Hide
    bpdski , October 27, 2009 3:41 PM
    Great article, I think this shows pretty conclusively that there is no benefit to upgrading to an AM3 based system. If you already have an AM2+ system, you can easily just drop in a new CPU and you system will be every bit as good as a brand new system with DDR3. You just need to make sure your motherboard supports the power requirements of whatever you want to drop in.
  • 7 Hide
    jonpaul37 , October 27, 2009 4:13 PM
    Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!

    Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , October 27, 2009 4:33 PM
    jonpaul37Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!

    +1
    Girl has more money for clothes!
  • 5 Hide
    ominous prime , October 27, 2009 4:37 PM
    Well bpdski there is no point upgrading if you're AM2, but if you're building a new PC AM3 is the way to go in terms of your computers longevity. Very informative article.
  • 1 Hide
    sonofliberty08 , October 27, 2009 5:30 PM
    thanks alot for the info , my first choice was allways asus , but now i now what i need when im going to unlock core , and now i saw the benefits of sideport memory .
  • 1 Hide
    duzcizgi , October 27, 2009 5:33 PM
    Quote:
    We were successful in achieving a 900 MHz stable overclock with the integrated graphics chipset by setting the BIOS to increase northbridge voltage by +.210mV.

    Well, .210 mV = 210 microvolt. I don't think it would make much of a change. Maybe it is 210 mV or, .210 V. :) 
  • 2 Hide
    doron , October 27, 2009 6:36 PM
    "Now we're seeing another benefit for the AM2+/DDR2 boards: both the Foxconn Cinema Premium and Biostar TA785GE 128M are drawing less power than their AM3/DDR3 counterparts."

    How comes? Didn't we all agree a long time ago that ddr3 supposed to be more energy efficient out of the two? (Lower voltage and stuff?)
  • 2 Hide
    DarkMantle , October 27, 2009 6:45 PM
    Great article, this will help a lot of people to make their AMD budget motherboard choice easier, thank you Don.
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , October 27, 2009 7:19 PM
    Ah nice line up and a good review. AMD has a better platform when factoring in cost and durability compared to Intel war I end up replacing the board after a few months to a year once the cpu power stage begins to degrade. Then there is performance on the I/O end and stable and steady stream to the cpu that is unaffected by other devices compared to FSB but on the cpu end need to be improved and same for INTEL.
  • 2 Hide
    haplo602 , October 27, 2009 7:32 PM
    before reading the article ... THANK GOD errr... TOM's ... I have been waiting for a 785G mobo test since release ... all I got was crap load of P55 ...
  • 0 Hide
    haplo602 , October 27, 2009 8:01 PM
    so after reading the article, nice work. I have the cheaper MSI 785GM-E51 in my build atm, but the E65 looks very solid and worth the cost.
  • 0 Hide
    Kohlhagen , October 27, 2009 11:09 PM
    Does the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO have x8/x8 support or x16/x4? on newegg it says x16/x4
  • 0 Hide
    msroadkill612 , October 27, 2009 11:34 PM
    Early adopters of usb 3.0 may wish to note that cards will probably be pcie x 4 (to cope with the bandwidth). Those extra slots may be good even w/o a neeed for crossfire.
  • -2 Hide
    msroadkill612 , October 27, 2009 11:35 PM
    Early adopters of usb 3.0 may wish to note that cards will probably be pcie x 4 (to cope with the bandwidth). Those extra pcie slots may be good even w/o a need for crossfire.
  • 1 Hide
    autoboy , October 28, 2009 12:00 AM
    "The irony is that Foxconn chose Realtek's ALC888 codec to drive the Cinema Premium instead of the ALC889, which has a better signal-to-noise ratio and can be found in the Gigabyte and MSI 785G boards in this roundup."

    Actually, it makes perfect sense to use a subpar codec when the intention of the board is to use digital audio which will never touch the Realtek codec. When you use analog outputs, the benefits of DD live and DTS connect are worthless because whatever audio format the content is in will be decoded in surround sound and output over the analog outputs.

    DD Live and DTS connect are simply transcoding AAC or game surround sound into Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound where it is passed as DD or DTS over the spdif or HDMI port, never touching the realtek codec making it's quality a non-issue. The purpose of the board is digital connections only and the codec was simply added because all boards need one.

    DD Live and DTS connect are simply transcoding schemes for PC digital audio into a format that receivers can understand. If you think of it that way it is easy.
  • 1 Hide
    dragoon190 , October 28, 2009 3:57 AM
    +1 to Kohlhagen's question. It does state that the board is x16/x4 on Ausu's website, though...
  • 1 Hide
    dark_lord69 , October 28, 2009 1:15 PM
    jonpaul37Hooray AMD for having cheap solutions in these hard-economic times!Boo @ Intel! i like the product, but my wallet & Girl do not like the cost!

    Dito.
  • 1 Hide
    nafhan , October 28, 2009 1:40 PM
    Just bought the ECS board from newegg... it's $70 (after rebate) right now.
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