Foxconn Cinema Premium: Features And Hardware
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.