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The first thing that struck us about the GTI version of Foxconn’s upper-mainstream Inferno Katana was the sheer number of features the company left out. For a savings of around $30, buyers lose eSATA, FireWire, the overclock-friendly “Force Reset” button, DTS Connect, Dolby Digital Live audio functions, and even the “Fuzzy Equalizer” voltage-regulator status indicator.
Then again, remaining features such as automatic-mode switching from x16/x1 to x8/x8 lane when adding a second graphics card, dual BIOS, and a two-digit diagnostics display seem almost a bargain for a low $154 price. Bench testers will also appreciate power and reset buttons at the bottom edge; end users who overclock will value the CLR_CMOS button on the back panel; hardcore overclockers will prize the convenient front-edge voltage reading points.
Some Windows XP users will be sad to lose the “freebie” floppy header that’s handy for adding AHCI or RAID drivers during OS installation, while many new system builders will be upset to pay for the rarely-used Ultra ATA header. Yet neither of these design decisions excite us.
Instead, we were troubled by a CPU socket that sits just a little too close to the memory slots to allow our CPU cooler to fit in “normal” orientation with four modules installed. Performing our four-module stability tests required removing the fan from our slim 120mm tower cooler and putting it on the other side of the sink, blowing back-to-front rather than the correct direction.
Another thing that surprised us was the x16-length slot spacing, with only two spaces between the top-two slots, but three between the second and third. Because the third x16-length slot suffers x4 lane width, high-end CrossFire and SLI users will pick the top-two slots, where the narrower spacing will reduce airflow to the top graphics card.
Yet, the layout of the Inferno Katana GTI screams “overclocking,” and any superiority there could allow us to put other concerns aside as we seek “bang-for-the-buck” performance gains.
The “Quantum BIOS” menu unfortunately doesn’t reveal much of the Inferno Katana GTI’s overclocking potential, having only BCLK and PCIe clocks, plus CPU and DRAM ratios.
The voltage-control sub-menu isn’t much more detailed, though it does add reference voltage settings to the bare essentials. We further found the VDroop control problematic in that enabling it allowed the voltage to drop by over 80mV and caused a similar voltage increase under full load. The settings above resulted in the voltage output climbing to 1.45V under full CPU load at CPU frequencies over 4.1 GHz.
Memory timings must all be set manually unless all are left to automatic configuration, since the Inferno Katana GTI does not offer automatic mode for individual timings.
The Inferno Katana can store up to eight custom-BIOS configurations onboard.
The Inferno Katana GTI installation kit is even more basic than the board itself, though Foxconn is at least kind enough to include an SLI bridge.