Articles: Mainboards

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Even the best mainboard with excellent PCB layout and numerous supported interfaces will be destined to spend its days in an office system instead of the exciting adventures in an overclocker’s computer if it cannot offer rich options for BIOS configuring and efficient tools for successful CPU and memory overclocking. What’s the situation with Foxconn Mars mainboard from this standpoint and what is so special about the Gladiator BIOS that we have never come across before?

The BIOS of Foxconn Mars mainboard is based on Phoenix-Award code and looks pretty traditional at first glance:

Most BIOS sections offer pretty standard features that you should be familiar with already if you have ever pressed Del on system Boot-up before. I was concerned to see no options for enabling USB keyboard and mouse support in the BIOS, but later on I discovered that it is enabled by default. This is a definite advantage, as only Asus used to do something like that. However, what I failed to find was a way to disable the annoying speaker that kept beeping loudly on every boot-up and in case of detected errors.

Let’s take a look at the first section that is far from being standard – PC Health Status.

Foxconn Mars mainboard can shut down your system automatically if the maximum processor temperature exceeds the threshold set within 60ºC to 115ºC interval with 5ºC increment. This is a pretty common feature for contemporary mainboards, however, in our case the mainboard monitors not only the CPU and system temperatures but also the chipset North Bridge temperature. I wonder if they implemented it with an additional thermal diode located nearby or if Foxconn engineers managed to get he readings off the thermal diode built directly into the Intel P35 Express North Bridge?

Besides, the mainboard can control and adjust the rotation speeds of three fans out of five that can be connected to it. By default the Smart FAN option is selected, i.e. the board controls the fan rotation speeds according to its own rules implemented by Foxconn’s engineers. Moreover, you can set the constant fan rotation speed as a percentage of the nominal setting. The available interval is unusually big: from 0 to 99% with 1% increment. And finally, you can give up the fan rotation speed managements completely setting the fan to run at its maximum speed.

I believe that it would be nice to be able to set the maximum temperatures and appropriate fan rotation speeds for each of them, i.e. to add a user controlled version of Smart FAN. By the way, Foxconn Mars knows to do that, although these options are only implemented on the software level for some reason. You will have to resort to AGEIS Panel utility from a CD disk in order to fully control the temperatures and fan rotation speeds and we are going to talk more about it later in this article. Besides, Foxconn Mars, like many other contemporary mainboards, can adjust the processor cooler fan rotation speed only if it is equipped with a four-pin connector, although it copes perfectly fine with the rotation speed control of a three-pin connector fan plugged into a system fan of North Bridge fan socket.

As for the voltages control, Foxconn Mars does it all very well. PC Health Status reports the processor Vcore, Vmem, North Bridge voltage, the +5V, +12V and +3.3V from the system power supply and battery charge.

I have every reason to believe that most users will be very happy with what this BIOS section has to offer. Of course, Foxconn is still pretty far behind uGuru functionality from abit, but I have to say that there is no one out there who could compete with abit mainboards at this time, so we can’t really consider it a drawback. At the same time, we don’t see the scarce options of the Gigabyte PC Health Status section here, so we have every right to pronounce it a definite advantage of Foxconn Mars.

However, the most interesting thing is the Gladiator BIOS section. We have already heard a lot about it, but haven’t yet seen it in action. I have to stress that this section deserves all the good words you may have heard about it already. Foxconn developers put together all – not the majority, but all – settings and options that you may ever need for overclocking into Gladiator BIOS.

As you may have guessed from the name, CPU Feature page contains all processor related settings. Here you can enable or disable power-saving and virtualization technologies.

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