Eight P35-DDR2 Motherboards Compared

Foxconn P35A

Foxconn constantly challenges rivals with enhanced value at nearly every market level, but has shifted its entire P35 chipset focus towards mid-priced motherboards. Two versions of its DDR2-supporting P35A make up the new product line; we tested the lower-cost model.

Features Overview

Foxconn's P35A stands out from a few other boards in its price segment by providing a second graphics card slot, but like all other dual-slot P35 boards, its second x16 physical slot is connected to only four PCI Express lanes. Other expansion needs are addressed by one PCI Express x1 and three legacy PCI slots, for a total of six slots in a form factor that supports seven at most. The uppermost slot position is instead filled with a serial communications port breakout header.

Nearly any PCI Express graphics card should be able to fit into either x16 slot because Foxconn moved Serial ATA and USB connectors to the very bottom for added card clearance. On the other hand, Foxconn kept its Ultra ATA and floppy connectors at the traditional front edge location of the board's upper half, which is ideal for routing cables to middle-bay and upper-bay drives, and a distinct advantage compared to many competing designs.

Traditional power and front-panel audio connector placements are typically ideal for cases that have the power supply at the top and front-panel ports at the bottom. The 24-pin ATX and 8-pin ATX12V connectors can be easily reached with relatively short power supply cables in such case designs, because the front-edge ATX connector and top edge ATX12V connector lie just a couple inches below and behind the point where power cables exit a power supply, respectively.

Unfortunately, the CPU socket has been moved so close to the P35A's top edge that its formerly-ideal ATX12V connector placement will be crowded by the CPU cooler - users of oversized sinks might need to connect this cable before adding the cooler. As for the audio connector, many cases now have the front panel audio connectors near the top, and stretching the front panel audio cable to the opposite (bottom rear) corner of the board is terribly cumbersome.

Unlike upscale boards that support dual graphics cards, the P35 uses three small passive component sinks appropriate to its middle-market price. The four-phase VRM is also typical of mid-priced parts, and should be adequate for all but the most highly-overclocked Core 2 series processors. One of the three sinks cools the transistors of three power regulators, but the short space between the CPU socket and the voltage regulator's fourth phase left no room for another sink. Downdraft CPU coolers will help keep these unprotected parts cool.

Foxconn stands apart from several competitively-priced products by using solid capacitors in all locations. Normally reserved for the VRM on inexpensive motherboards, these enhanced-durability parts are far more valuable than their low-ESR electrolytic counterparts.

Foxconn P35A (Revision 1.0)
Northbridge Intel P35 GMCH
Southbridge Intel ICH9
Voltage Regulator Four Phases
BIOS P19 (05/22/2007)
266.7 MHz (FSB1066) 266.9 MHz (+0.1%)
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 2x PCIe x16 (1x x16, 1x x4 pathways)
1x PCIe x1
3x PCI
4x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x Serial Port Header
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
4x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x CD-Audio In
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU/System)
3x Fan 3 pins (System)
1x Internal Power Switch
1x Internal Reset Switch
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
1x Parallel Port
1x Serial Communications Port
1x RJ-45 Network
4x USB 2.0
6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
1x Digital Audio (S/P-DIF Coaxial)
1x eSATA (External Serial ATA) interface
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH9 4x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
JMicron JMB361 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
1x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Network
Realtek RTL8111B PCI-E 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
Audio
HDA (Azalia) Controller Interface Realtek ALC888 8-Channel Codec

The Foxconn P35A includes all of the basic interface controllers, plus power and reset buttons on the board's top side to assist with bench testing. Buyers who want a few more features in a board with the same layout will want to consider the P35A-S.

The rear panel features all of the classic ports such as PS/2 keyboard and mouse, serial and parallel. Six analog audio ports allow full 8-channel output without sacrificing microphone or line inputs, while a single digital coaxial audio connector will pass through pre-encoded multi-channel digital audio streams such as movie soundtracks.

External data connections are highlighted by a single External SATA port, and also include one Gigabit network and four USB 2.0 ports.

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