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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.20.06]
Manufactured by: Foxconn

 

Foxconn Does NVIDIA

As I noted in my review of the SiS 755 based Foxconn 755A01-6EKRS back in 2004, there is no way you have not used a Foxconn product if you've been using computers at all in the past 30 or so years. That review in 2004 marked a new era for Foxconn; retail motherboards.

It was no secret that they have been making motherboards for quite some time, mostly in prebuilt systems for Apple, Dell, HP, etc. They started making reference boards for chipset manufacturers such as Intel. But until 2004, when the "Channel" division of Foxconn was launched, there was no way to buy a Foxconn branded motherboard.

And what a splash they've made. They've gone from obscurity in the retail market to reportedly catching up with (and bypassing) the likes of MSI, Gigabyte, ECS, and even Asus. In 2005, Foxconn reportedly shipped 40 million motherboards (32 million being OEM). That puts them right between the #1 and #2 manufacturers; Asus with 60 million shipments in 2005, and ECS with 30 million. This is most likely what caused Asus and Gigabyte to get together with a join venture, moving ALL of Gigabyte's motherboard sales (which was under 20 million in 2005) to create a new company shared almost equally between Gigabyte and Asus. Other rumours circulating were that Foxconn was gearing up to buy one of the other Big Four motherboard companies, the most likely candidate being Gigabyte.

So there's no question that Foxconn is making a huge splash in the motherboard market, thanks to the addition of their retail channel division. But let's not forget that the vast majority of Foxconn's success is due to their OEM and ODM divisions. In terms of motherboards, one of their top customers has to be Intel. We've been using Intel branded motherboards for years; every time Intel launches a new product, there is always a new motherboard to go with it. These boards have always been the most stable and reliable motherboards we use in our reviews.

NVIDIA has taken notice of this, and have started working with Foxconn in designing reference boards starting with their current flagship desktop chipset: NFORCE 590 SLI. The result of which is sold in retail as (get ready for this) the Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H.

C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H-WTF?

Obviously, completely awkward names don't seem to phase Foxconn's sales, so I guess they are sticking with it. Upon hearing that name, you might picture a green motherboard with white PCI slots and black heatsinks glued to the chipset. Perhaps with the ATX header in the middle of the board, and the IDE adapter right above the RAM slots...

That is definitely not the case here. Despite having a name you will NEVER be able to remember, the motherboard itself definitely stands out. With a sharp black PCB and reasonable component colours, the bright green chipset cooler and silk-screened SLI logo seemingly jump out at you, yelling "YO WTF THIS IS AN NVIDIA BOARD YO!"

The Specs

Being based on a reference design for NVIDIA, the C51 (that's what I'll be calling it from now on) doesn't have a lot of extra goodies. Almost everything is powered by the NVIDIA 590 SLI chipset; you won't find an extra HDD controller for more SATA ports, and although you do get FireWire 1394b and 1394a, there are no extra ethernet or WiFi connectors to be found (although the 590 SLI comes with two ethernet ports already). Here are how the specs look:

CPU Support AMD Socket AM2; Athlon64, Athlon64 X2, Athlon64 FX, Sempr0n
Chipset NFORCE 590 SLI
Memory Support 4 x 240-pin DIMM - 8GB Max. DDR2 400/533/667/800
Storage Support Floppy x 1
DMA/ATA-133 (Ultra) x 1
SATA 300 x 6 - Supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5
Expansion Ports USB2.0 x 10 (6 on rear panel)
Gigabit Ethernet Port x 2
FireWire (IEEE1394a) x 1
FireWire (IEEE1394b) x 1
PS/2 Mouse x 1
PS/2 Keyboard x 1
Expansion Slots PCI-E x16 x 2
PCI-E x1 x 1
PCI-E x4 x 1
PCI x 2
Audio 8 channel NFORCE 590 audio w/ Realtek ALC882D codec
Digital Output: Optical SPDIF
Analog Output: 8 Channel (4 ports)
Digital Input: NONE
Analog Input: Mic Input, Line In
Networking 2 x NFORCE 590 1000 Mbps Ethernet Controller (Marvell 88E1121 PHY)

Nothing really stands out in a negative way, besides perhaps the lack of a digital input. One major advantage I see is that it has a full 6 USB ports on the rear panel, and a single bracket to add 4 more. We'll get to that later though, when we take a closer look at the board itself...

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