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Foxconn Renaissance

X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
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Features and Layout

The Renaissance motherboard is packed with advanced features with which Foxconn hopes to build value for its customers. For example, it’s the only board in its price class to use an audio riser card for reduced noise, the only board in today’s comparison to provide Serial Attached SCSI, and one of only two in this price class to support up to four PCI Express graphics cards.

Electronic pathway switches cost money, but that didn’t prevent Foxconn from using them on two slots to provide graphics cards with either x16/x16 or x8/x8/x8/x8 transfer modes. For multi-graphics users, Foxconn really stands out.

On the other hand, slot spacing prevents the Renaissance from being taken seriously as a quad-CrossFire or 3-way SLI product, since high-performance cards normally require two slots of space. Instead, this might be an ideal low-end workstation board, or the perfect solution for a high-end multitasking system. It still supports 2-way SLI using double-slot cards of course, but a builder might feel somewhat silly for covering the up the extra graphics card slots.

With so much attention paid to the features list, we can’t quite figure out why Foxconn didn’t use an open-ended x4 slot in the middle. Using the left-over PCIe 2.0 pathways of the X58 northbridge, the slot would have made an ideal place to put a fifth graphics card in a wild multi-display configuration. It still supports hot performance cards, but the closed end also prevents PCIe x8 RAID controllers from fitting.

Windows Vista users who don’t have a problem with the slightly odd slot placement will find the remaining connectors almost perfectly placed. Our only caveat for them is to choose a case that can accept forward-facing SATA ports, since a few have drive cages in the way.

The reason we limited our last comment to a specific OS is that XP users will find no floppy header for loading AHCI or RAID drivers. This can still be accomplished by slipstreaming drivers onto the OS CD or by purchasing a USB floppy drive.

The Port 80 diagnostics display is surrounded by a CLR_CMOS, Power and Reset buttons, two SATA-compatible SAS ports, and the PCIe x1 SAS controller. As with any x1 device, total bandwidth is limited by the interface to 2.5 Gb/s.

Foxconn Renaissance (Initial Revision)

Northbridge

Intel X58 Express

Southbridge

Intel ICH10R

Voltage Regulator

Six Phases

BIOS

080015 (2/18/2009)

133.3 MHz Base Clock

133.3 (+0.0%)

Clock Generator

ICS 9LPRS139AKLF

Connectors and Interfaces

Onboard

4 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Pathways Shared in Pairs)

 

1 x PCIe 2.0 x4

 

1 x PCI

 

1 x Foxconn Audio Riser (Proprietary)

 

2 x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector).

 

1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

 

1 x Ultra ATA (2 drives)

 

6 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s

 

2 x SAS 3.0Gb/s

 

1 x Fan 4-pin (CPU)

 

3 x Fan 3-pins (Chassis, Power)

 

1 x Power button

 

1 x Reset button

 

1 x Clear CMOS button

 

1 x Port-80 Diagnostics Display

IO panel

1 x PS2 (keyboard)

 

8 x USB 2.0

 

2 x Digital Audio Out (Optical, Coaxial)

 

1 x RJ45 Ethernet

 

1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

 

2 x External SATA (eSATA) 3.0Gb/s

Mass Storage Controllers

Intel ICH10R

6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)

JMicron JMB363 PCIe

1 x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)

 

2 x External SATA (eSATA) 3.0 Gb/s

Marvell 88SE6320 PCIe

2 x SAS 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1)

Network

Broadcom BCM5706 PCIe

Dual Gigabit LAN with Teaming

Audio

Foxconn Harp Riser Card
(Realtek ALC889 HD Audio Codec)

Eight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output
Supports DTS Connect, Dolby Digital Live

IEEE-1394 FireWire

Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A

2 x FireWire 400 (1x Internal, 1x I/O Panel)


Limited by its PCIe x1 interface to a combined bandwidth of 2.5 Gb/s, the JMicron JMB363 provides the Renaissance with two eSATA ports and an internal Ultra ATA-133 connector.

A PCIe x1 chipset link doesn’t impose such limits on Broadcom’s BCM5706 controller, simply because it has only one Gigabit network port.

One of the more interesting Renaissance features is its Harp riser card.  Using the same hardware as the Sonar X-Fi of Foxconn’s pricier BloodRage motherboard, the Harp doesn’t include Creative’s audio software.  Its ALC889 codec does support other advanced features such as 8+2 channel multi-streaming. Two competing technologies, DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live, allow on-the-fly compression of live multi-channel audio to a single digital output.

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