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X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards

Foxconn Renaissance

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)
NorthbridgeIntel X58 Express
SouthbridgeIntel ICH10R
Voltage RegulatorSix Phases
BIOS080015 (2/18/2009)
133.3 MHz Base Clock133.3 (+0.0%)
Clock GeneratorICS 9LPRS139AKLF
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard4 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 panel1 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 ICH10R6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)
JMicron JMB363 PCIe1 x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
 2 x External SATA (eSATA) 3.0 Gb/s
Marvell 88SE6320 PCIe2 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 TSB43AB22A2 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.

Image 1 of 2

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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.

Check prices for Foxconn's Renaissance

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • dragonsprayer
    hey guys good info - its 4am i should not be posting with one eye closed to see the screen!
    Warpedsystems has tested a least half of these, my Evga failed out of the box, i would normally let that slide but with all the 680i and 780i issues and failures over the years - beware. So i can not speak of the evga - i will say the 780i FTW is kick butt mobo!

    Asus is asus and 90% or so of my stuff i ship, i switched to the new P6t from the deluxe and have had some issues - i am sitll working on the P6T tonight as i type. Opps- my jr tech set the blk to 180 and over clocked the QPI to max - i think he smoked the mobo ran amd cpu = its first in 5 years if so?

    Some did not make it? no gigabyte? gigabyte is really pushing on asus for number one - really! Ya, all the evga fans are what? I can say how many evga mobos break and fail: pci-e slot fail, pressure around the cpu mounting failure, lock ups - evga lock ups are just accepted as part of life! We all know that evga error code!

    I have to say the gigabyte and the higher end asus deluxe version sure seem a lot more reliable for 4ghz systems - again - we only took 1 evga and it locked up and i said "that is it the last time" - the FTW 780i gives me faith evga will come around on x58.

    what ever you do - do not oc the blk and QPI - poof!

    nice stuff THG!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    dragonsprayerhey guys good info - its 4am i should not be posting with one eye closed to see the screen!Warpedsystems has tested a least half of these, my Evga failed out of the box, i would normally let that slide but with all the 680i and 780i issues and failures over the years - beware. So i can not speak of the evga - i will say the 780i FTW is kick butt mobo!Asus is asus and 90% or so of my stuff i ship, i switched to the new P6t from the deluxe and have had some issues - i am sitll working on the P6T tonight as i type. Opps- my jr tech set the blk to 180 and over clocked the QPI to max - i think he smoked the mobo ran amd cpu = its first in 5 years if so?Some did not make it? no gigabyte? gigabyte is really pushing on asus for number one - really! Ya, all the evga fans are what? I can say how many evga mobos break and fail: pci-e slot fail, pressure around the cpu mounting failure, lock ups - evga lock ups are just accepted as part of life! We all know that evga error code!I have to say the gigabyte and the higher end asus deluxe version sure seem a lot more reliable for 4ghz systems - again - we only took 1 evga and it locked up and i said "that is it the last time" - the FTW 780i gives me faith evga will come around on x58.what ever you do - do not oc the blk and QPI - poof!nice stuff THG!
    One of the companies forgot to send a board and didn't respond in time to the reminder...see the introduction of the article. What makes you think that company wasn't Gigabyte?
    Reply
  • Which ASUS board was actually tested - the plain "P6T" or "P6T SE?" There are subtle differences, like JMB322 in P6T but not in P6T SE. Also, some difference in e.g. back panel IO and advertised overclocking capabilities.
    Judging from the feature list, the board was plain P6T, but all pictures seem to be of P6T SE.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    RipaWhich ASUS board was actually tested - the plain "P6T" or "P6T SE?" There are subtle differences, like JMB322 in P6T but not in P6T SE. Also, some difference in e.g. back panel IO and advertised overclocking capabilities.Judging from the feature list, the board was plain P6T, but all pictures seem to be of P6T SE.
    http://media.bestofmicro.com/7/3/192063/original/asus_p6t_kit.jpg
    Reply
  • wicko
    Sadly, none of the good mobos in this review are sub 300$ in Canada.. what a damn ripoff.
    Reply
  • hardwarekid9756
    Could you expound on "Catastrophic Failure?" I'd be interested to know what all went wrong in the fray. I've been using an ASRock Mobo recently, and noticed it full-out sucked at Overclocking when compared to my MSI board, so I'd like to know what exactly caused the thing to bomb out.
    Reply
  • salavat23
    No Gigabyte.

    Sorry, but you can't make a good review without including one of the top manufacturers of X58 motherboards.
    Reply
  • salavat23
    No Gigabyte.

    Sorry, but you can't make a good review without including one of the top manufacturers of X58 motherboards.
    Reply
  • msdx_bizkit
    Gigabyte EX58-UD3R and MSI X58 Pro are the cheapest X58 motherboards out there at the moment. (~250$ CAD - NCIX) Could you guys give me your input on those two particuliar boards?

    I am not the extreme overclocking kinda guy. In fact, I still am running on default settings on my Core 2 Duo E6750. I don't plan to overclock over 3,2Ghz on my new 920, if I ever do overclock.

    Neither boards support SLI, but I'd be interrested in a dual Radeon 4870 1GB Crossfire config.

    Thanks in advance
    Reply
  • daft
    i was just wondering if the "more on this topic" could be omitted in future articles, i like to skip to the conclusion in the mornings and its annoying to hit more on this topic and get a little window than to go to the conclusion
    Reply