Four MicroATX Mobos for Core 2

Foxconn G9657MA-8KS2H

Motherboard Revision: 1.2
BIOS Version: 631F1P29 (Sept 26, 2006)

Foxconn's G9657MA certainly is the most beautiful motherboard in this shootout, as it comes in a nice blue PCB color. It is available for less than $100, but it also does not come with a feature set that is as rich as that of the Asus motherboard. Handling is better, though: the front panel connector pins are color-coded and almost all headers are surrounded by plastic frames. This which works well as a fail-safe way to plugin all these connectors, as you cannot bend pins any more.

The board has only a single x1 PCI Express slot and two 32 bit PCI slots for expansion cards. Asus offers an x4 PCIe slot, but for most uses you probably don't need a high-bandwidth expansion slot on a MicroATXmotherboard. However, you will not be able to use the x1 PCIe slot if you install a huge graphics card with a dual-slot cooling solution - but you may still use both 32-bit PCI slots in such a scenario. The voltage regulator on the G9657MA is based on a three-phase circuit design, which supports all Core 2 Duo processors up to the Core 2 Extreme edition X6800. We recommend, however, against deploying the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 into this board due to this processor's heightened power requirements.

TheG9657MA will also be available with an on-board Firewire controller, which was not available on the test motherboard. But there is an additional J-Micron SATA controller. It powers the eSATA port on the backpanel, where you will also find audio connectors, four USB 2.0 ports, the Gigabit Ethernet network jack, a parallel port, the D-SUB connector for your display and two digital audio outputs; a coaxial and an optical one.

The Foxconn has an integrated piezo speaker, which replaces your PC case's speaker that still today is used for status beeps codes. Apart from the CPU fan header there are two more fan connectors, all of which use Intel's four-pin design for system-wide fan speed control. The board is RoHS compliant.