RSS Feed

HCW Tech Blog

For the latest info on computer hardware, tech, news, video games, software tips, and Linux, check out our new improved front page: HCW Tech Blog

Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.16.06]
Manufactured by: Foxconn


Back At It Again

Another week, another motherboard review for the red hot Core 2 Duo processor. This time we're looking at Foxconn's P965-based entry. As we mentioned in our last review involving this chipset, it's intended to be situated somewhere in between the 945P and 975X chipsets in terms of features and performance. However it has a newer southbridge than either of them, which adds up to 6 native SATA-II ports. Intel has finally done away with the PATA interface though, so motherboard makers are left with using a third-party chip to allow the installation of an optical drive (I'm sure most would agree that this is an essential part to a system). Like most, Foxconn has gone with the JMicron JMB363, which also adds some extra SATA-II ports, e-SATA, and even basic software RAID functions.

A Name You'll Likely Forget

Like all other Foxconn products, the (get ready) P9657AA-8EKRS2H is a name you'll likely forget immediately after reading this review. Each letter and number does represent the features of the board, but I've never seen an explanation of this.

The P9657AA isn't quite as stacked as the last Foxconn board we looked at (which was an NFORCE 590 SLI board for socket AM2), but it does carry quite a few features, and even boasts some overclocking functions (which is good, because as it turns out, the lower model Core 2 Duos are amazing overclockers).

  Foxconn P9657AA-8EKRS2H
CPU Support Intel Core 2 Duo/Extreme, Pentium D, Pentium 4 (LGA 775) - FSB 1066/800/533
Northbridge Intel P965
Southbridge Intel ICH8R
Memory Support 4 x DIMM - 8GB Max. DDR2 533/667/800
Storage Support Floppy x 1
DMA/ATA-133 (Ultra) x 1 (JMicron JMB363)
SATA 300 x 6 (ICH8-R)
eSATA 300 x 1 (JMicron JMB363)
RAID Support RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 (ICH8-R)
RAID 0, 1, 0+1 (JMicron JMB363)
Expansion Ports USB2.0 x 10 (4 on rear panel)
Gigabit Ethernet Port x 1
PS/2 Mouse x 1
PS/2 Keyboard x 1
Serial Port x 1
LPT Port x 1
FireWire x 2 (1 on rear panel) (VIA VT6308P)
Expansion Slots PCI-E x16 x 1
PCI-E x1 x 1
PCI-E x4 x 1
PCI x 3
Audio 8 channel Intel HD audio w/ Realtek ALC883
Digital Output: Optical S/PDIF
Analog Output: 8 Channel (4 ports)
Digital Input: NONE
Analog Input: Mic, Line In (shared ports)
Networking Marvell 88E8056 Gigabit (PCI-E)

With both the ICH8-R and JMicron JMB363 controller being used, the P9657AA supports an impressive 7 SATA drives; 6 directly from the ICH-8R and 1 e-SATA port on the rear panel. Note that to make use of the hot-swapping function, RAID drivers need to be installed. In legacy mode, both controllers are detected for a proper Windows XP installation. FireWire IEEE1394a is handled by the VIA VT6308P controller, which does not have the Windows XP SP2 driver issue, so it will work properly without need for hotfixes or special drivers that cost money.

Some flaws I can point out here; only 4 USB ports are on the rear panel (although having an e-SATA port kind of makes up for it, they could have done away with the COM port and added a bracket adapter for the very few who will ever use it). I like to see 6 ports on motherboards by now.

There is no digital audio input on the rear panel (there is an internal connector for a digital input adapter, but one is not included in the box), and output is handled by Optical S/PDIF instead of Coaxial. Coax is much more robust, and standard 75 Ω RCA cable can be used, so I prefer it.

In the box you get ONE SATA data cable and ONE power adapter, even though there are 6 ports on the board. An IDE and Floppy cable are also included. There are ZERO USB brackets, so you are on your own if you want to make use of all 10 ports supported by the board (there are only 4 ports on the rear panel, so it's very likely you'll need to find some brackets). My sample did not include a manual; only a huge 'quick install' poster was included. I tried downloading a PDF version of the manual, but the file hosted on Foxconn's site seems to be corrupt.

  Foxconn P9657AA-8EKRS2H
FSB Speeds FSB 266-600 in 1 MHz increments
PCI-E Speeds Auto Only
CPU Multiplier Locked
Memory Multiplier Auto, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0
DIMM Voltage Normal, -0.15V to +0.6 in 0.05V increments (2.4V max)
PCI-E Voltage Locked
MCH Voltage Normal, -0.12V to +0.24V in 0.04V increments
CPU Voltage Normal to +0.3V in 0.0125V increments
FSB Termination Voltage Normal, -0.09V to +0.18V in 0.03V increments
Voltage Monitoring VCC 3.3V, VCore, VCC 1.8V, VCC 1.25V, 5V, 12V, 3.3V, VSB, Battery
Temperature Monitoring CPU, System
Fan Monitoring CPU Fan, System Fan, Aux Fan

The overclocking features of this board are hit and miss; plenty of voltage options are given, with DIMM voltage going all the way up to 2.4V, and some nice CPU voltages, etc. However, even though Foxconn's site says its there, I could not find the option to change the CPU multiplier anywhere in the BIOS. Even with an Intel Engineer Sample CPU, it did not show up, and this is using the latest BIOS revision (version 638F1P28, dated Sept 4, 2006). Also, it would have been nice to see more memory multiplier selections, like what we saw with Gigabyte's P965 board.

Next Page: (Board Layout)