Foxconn Mars Mainboard on Intel P35 Express Chipset

We would like to discuss a great overclocking friendly solution on Intel P35 Express chipset from Foxconn aka Mars boasting excellent design, superb Gladiator BIOS, comparable performance and hopefully affordable price. Read more in our article!

by Doors4ever , Ilya Gavrichenkov
11/12/2007 | 06:24 PM

Our focus keeps rapidly moving from one chipset for Intel processors on Core micro-architecture to another. Not so long ago Intel P965 Express was considered the best solution out there. The summer launch of the new Intel P35 Express that was very similar to the P965 seemed hardy that necessary at the time. However, our practical experiments showed that the performance drop during FSB Strap switching is barely noticeable on P35 Express based mainboards, unlike the predecessor that actually introduced this phenomenon to us. So, Intel P965 Express based mainboards were quickly forgotten.

 

 Today we know almost everything about the Intel P35 Express chipset, but the Intel X38 Express titles are also already taking the front pages of many web-sites. It suddenly became known that it suffers from some problems and its life cycle is intended to be very short with X48 Express core logic already breathing down its neck. I have to admit that I am very anxious and at the same time concerned to see the new mainboards start selling. The interest to new solution is absolutely natural while the concern arises from scary-looking mainboard designs featuring sophisticated cooling systems and equipped with a variety of onboard controllers.

Those who do a lot of testing of the latest and greatest have the right to “forget” about existing products and express special interest to newcomers. But of course, common users will still find Intel P35 Express based products more acute at this time. It is always interesting to read about elite mainboards selling for $300-$400 as well as about high-end graphics cards priced at $600-$800, but there are very few wealthy computer enthusiasts who will actually go and buy them. There are much more modest workhorses that do their daily job in mainstream users and reasonable overclocking fans’ systems. So, you may think that we have studied all the ins and outs of the new Intel P35 Express based mainboards over those few months that have already passed since launch and all we can do now is try to fin tiny differences between xxx-B mainboard and its previous xxx-A modification. But, things are not so tragic yet and there are quite a few interesting mainboards we didn’t have a chance to discuss yet.

You are all familiar with Foxconn brand not only from the connectors and sockets installed on numerous mainboards, but also from the actual mainboards that start little by little conquering the market. Although there is no overwhelming expansion in the market yet, I should say. Foxconn mainboards are still pretty rare in stores and you do not come across them very often in overclocking statistics. Now it looks like the situation has every chance to change drastically: the company announced their intention to launch the whole lineup of Quantum Force products aimed at overclockers. At first we were very pleased with the news about extensive BIOS features of the new mainboards and the peculiarities of their first overclocker friendly mainboard aka Mars. Today we have a great opportunity to meet this solution in person.

Name, Package and Accessories

The first Foxconn mainboards we tested in our lab were called Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS2 and Foxconn 915A01-8EKRS2. These are part numbers but not model names – the legacy of outsourcing past that cannot be pronounced out loud. The Mars name sounds absolutely brilliant compared to them, but I believe that it is not the best choice: it is a too widely spread popular word. When I heard that Foxconn was going to provide us their Mars mainboard for review I was very surprised, because at first I confused it with the Cooler Master Mars cooler that we tested last year. Some of you may associate this word with the Mars chocolate bar, for instance. Try Googling “Mars” or use any other search engine and see how soon you get to the first Foxconn reference. So, I guess it would be really hard to agree that their marketing made a good choice on the name.

I can completely understand the desire to call their mainboard something meaningful and well-sounding. Mars is the ancient Roman god of war and this name alongside with stylish black-and-red design stressed the aggressive character of this overclocking friendly product. However, this is where I noticed another marketing slip. The black and red painting style belongs to the ancient Greek culture, where they painted red clay amphorae with black paint, not Roman. And in Greek mythology the god of war was Ares. This name didn’t arouse associations like Mars that’s why they probably decided not to go with it, even though it is not so overused these days as Mars.

  

Like any other top product, Foxconn Mars is shipped in a larger box. The top of the exterior box opens like a book revealing the original heatpipe cooling system though transparent plastic windows. Besides the ancient warriors of unknown Greco-Roman ancestry the package is also decorated with a photo of the actual mainboard and a list of its distinguishing features.

We expected to find tons of different accessories inside the box, however, there were very few, which is unusual for a flagship product. The board comes with black FDD and IDE cabled with Foxconn logos, six Serial ATA cables with power adapters, and additional bracket with a small IEEE1394 and two USB connectors, a small fan and I/O Shield. Besides, there is the whole set of informational materials with it including a CD-disk with drivers and utilities, a floppy disk with drivers for RAID array building, user’s manual, a poster with brief installation instructions in different languages and a leaflet with a reminder to register on Quantum Force web-site.

As you see, there are very few really useful accessories and way too many marketing materials on Quantum Force. Besides the already mentioned leaflet there are five (!) small black-and-white Quantum Force stickers (for four sides of the system case and the top panel?) and a metal Quantum Force chain tag like the US army tags.

At first we were really puzzled with the insistent requests to register that were everywhere: in the leaflets, on the box, in the manual. If you register, they promised you a lot of goodies including video materials, personal technical support and exclusive BIOS updates. Frankly speaking, we were afraid we won’t see any BIOS updates at all, because when we were working on this article, the Quantum Force site was still “under construction”. Luckily, we could get everything we needed on regular Foxconn web-sites. So, as you may have already figured, we cannot explain to you at this time, what’s the difference between exclusive and regular BIOS updates.

PCB Design and Functionality

Foxconn Mars mainboard sits in a protective transparent plastic casing inside the main box of thick carton. After removing all the packaging we could finally see the board in all its beauty:

When I was younger, the most important thing on a mainboard was the jumpers, while the small and unremarkable chipset heatsinks remained out of our focus. Sometimes there were none at all. We started our discussion of the new mainboard features from the jumpers, because setting the sophisticated combinations properly meant the system would actually boot up right. Now things have changed dramatically: there are almost no jumpers on contemporary mainboards, while the chipset cooling systems really stand out and distinguish the board from the whole bunch of other similar products. Original and sophisticatedly shaped chipset heatsinks serve not only their primary purpose of chipset cooling, but are also regarded as decorating and distinguishing elements.

The chipset cooling system on Foxconn Mars mainboard doesn’t boast anything too sophisticated about its design. It uses two heatpipes and is called Cool Pipe.

The first heatpipe transfers the heat from a small heatsink on top of the chipset South Bridge going through the original semi-spherical heatsink on top of the chipset North Bridge.

The second heatpipe starts from the base of a pretty massive North Bridge heatsink and then both heatpipes end in a thin-ribbed MOSFET heatsink.

Six-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry, just like the entire Foxconn Mars mainboard uses extremely popular solid-state capacitors.

There are no electronic components on the bottom of the mainboard PCB in the area below the processor socket that could prevent you from installing any cooling solutions. There is a small plate that helps hold the massive North Bridge cooler in place.

Besides color coded front panel connectors there are three buttons in the area surrounding the chipset South Bridge: Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS. As usual there are also SATA and USB connectors there alongside with IEEE1394 and COM connectors right below the last PCI slot.

The PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse are laid out on the mainboard rear panel together with the optical and coaxial S/PDIF, one e-SATA, one IEEE1394 (the second one as well as the two USB ports are implemented on an additional bracket for the case rear panel that comes with the board), six USB ports, network RJ45 out and six audio jacks.

I don’t know if you managed to picture the Foxconn Mars mainboard now that we have briefly described its major functional spots, so I suggest that you take another look at its circuitry layout before we go any further:

Don’t you notice anything? Yes, the usual things normally do not catch our eye, but Foxconn mars is designed almost ideally, and it is a very rare thing these days. All the components of the board are in their best places. The eight-pin power supply connector is next to the processor socket in the upper left corner of the PCB, the 24-pin connector is on the mainboard’s right side with the floppy and Parallel ATA connectors right next to it. Serial ATA and additional USB connectors together with IEEE1394 and COM port are at the very bottom. There are enough PCI and PCI-E slots and they are placed very conveniently, so that the installed graphics card will never block the DIMM slots clips. The five fan connectors laid out on the PCB will be more than enough in most cases and even the mainboard rear panel carries everything you might ever need.

If there were a mainboard museum anywhere, then Foxconn Mars should definitely take the primary spot there as a perfect example of ideal PCB layout. We were greatly impressed with the convenient and at the same time classical design of Foxconn Mars mainboard. Unfortunately, we come across such thorough approach pretty rarely these days.

In conclusion to our design and functionality discussion I would like to list all the official specifications of the Foxconn Mars mainboard:

BIOS

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.

Memory Timing Config page allows adjusting numerous memory timings. Note how convenient it is, when you can change just a few selected parameters and leave all other settings at defaults.

All voltages that can be adjusted on Foxconn Mars mainboard are brought together in All Voltage Control page. I don’t really understand why we need two parameters for processor voltage adjustment, but anyway, if you set the Vcore to 1.375V with 1.036 multiplier you will not need to use a calculator to find out the final voltage value. Target CPU Voltage will show you the final voltage sent to the processor, while the Current CPU Voltage will report the current Vcore value and the Default CPU Voltage – the nominal value.

The complete list of options available on the All Voltage Control page is listed in a table below taken from the official company web-site. Note that the board allows not only increasing the processor voltage above the nominal value, but also reducing it, which may be necessary at times, although not all the mainboards allow it.

OverClocks Gear page allows to save and restore when necessary one of the four BIOS Setup profiles.

The only problem here is that you can’t give the profiles an adequate name or description, so that you could remember what it is about later on. However, for your convenience the active profiles are highlighted with a different color.

Over Clock Phase Select parameter is set to O.C. Disabled by default, i.e. allows no overclocking. You may set it to Instant O.C. – overclocking by a certain value. Not very experienced users may find this option useful. Especially since it may overclock the processor by 75% above the nominal, while most other boards allow only 20%-30% at most thus making these options completely useless.

In case of this overclocking technique, the FSB frequency is increased by the corresponding value, while the memory frequency is reduced by the same value. You can clearly see it from the photo below:

In fact, the processor Vcore automatically increases in this case, although the memory and North Bridge voltages remain at their nominal rates. Of course, there is no perfection in this world, but you shouldn’t demand too much from automatic overclocking: you will need to manually adjust the values for your current configuration anyway.

We set the Over Clock Phase Select to Manual O.C. thus gaining full access to frequencies, multipliers and coefficients.

FSB frequency can be adjusted in the interval between 100 and 999MHz and the value can be typed in using the keyboard.

You use the coefficients determining the FSB and memory frequency ratio to set the memory frequency. Again, no calculations are necessary, because you will see the final frequency in the System Memory Speed line.

I assume, you will agree with me that Gladiator BIOS of the Foxconn Mars mainboard looks almost ideal. It offers the most extensive set of options all in one place and in a very convenient form. Although this is Foxconn’s first experience in overclocking-friendly mainboard building, Gladiator BIOS has every chance not only to compete but even to outperform the BIOS’s from the leading mainboard makers.

Software

When the CD disk that comes with Foxconn Mars mainboard autoruns, you will get a window designed in the same red and black colors and Greco-Roman style as the mainboard packaging:

The disk contains a set of drivers and utilities for the chipset, integrated sound and network cards and RAID controller for both Windows XP and Windows Vista. I am sure that you know the meaning of the “Create RAID Driver Floppy” or “Browse CD”, so we will move on to the most interesting Software section. The board comes with Adobe Reader 7.0.7, Microsoft DirectX 9.0c, Norton Internet Security 2006, and two brand name utilities: LiveUpdate ver. 1.0.5.1 and AEGIS Panel.

Foxconn Mars mainboard has no integrated BIOS reflashing tool, so you can hit the standard Alt+F2 combination to reflash the BIOS from a floppy disk. If there is no FDD drive in your computer, which happens more and more often these days, you can always use FOX LiveUpdate utility for BIOS reflashing from Windows.

The utility is very simple to set up and use. It allows you to same the current BIOS version, reflash the new BIOS from any of the available storage devices or look for updates online. I was very pleased to discover that the utility not only searches for new BIOS versions for your mainboard, but also checks if new software or driver revisions also became available.

However, the most interesting thing is the AEGIS Panel program that is defined as “advanced Windows-based overclocking and system control utility” on the mainboard package. Once launched, it displays a large window with gigantic digits for the current processor frequency, multiplier and FSB speed.

Don’t even try clicking on the “L PANEL” and “R PANEL” buttons: they are even highlighted red. I didn’t get it at first and clicked. Nothing interesting happened: the panels opened on the left and right sides, but they were empty.

What I had to do first was to click the “Control panel” button that was highlighted with welcoming green color. In this case the relatively big program window turns simply humongous because of the three additional panels opening on three sides. Now, however, it also reports temperatures, voltages and fan rotation speeds.

If you click on one of the three animated icons with rotating fans, we will get access to fan rotation speed adjustment for the processor, system or North Bridge chipset fans respectively.

Each of the fans can be adjusted automatically (By SmartFan), can rotate at a preset constant speed (By Duty-Cycle), can rotate at maximum speed (By Full Speed) – all this is exactly the same as in the mainboard BIOS. However, here you also get an option for four-stage rotation speed control depending on the temperature. You can select the temperature intervals and the corresponding fan rotation speeds manually, but you will need to have the bulky AEGIS Panel utility in the background all the time in order to take advantage of this useful option.

Other features of this utility are quite common. Alarm button allows setting safe thermal intervals, voltage intervals and fan rotation speeds, so that the warning signals will sound once you get beyond the set boundaries.

Config button sets the signal source, temperature measuring units, data refresh rate, allows hiding the icon in the system tray and launching the utility on start up.

Unfortunately, I have to state that the bulky AEGIS Panel utility with non-intuitive interface and very inconvenient to work with doesn’t differ that much from the brand name utilities from other mainboard makers. It reports the CPU temperature pretty accurately, but Core Temp still copes better with the same task. This utility can only be useful for individual adjustment of fan rotation speeds and for chipset North Bridge temperature control.

Overclocking Experiments

We decided to check out the overclocking potential of Foxconn Mars mainboard in an open testbed assembled with the following components:

If we disable the startup logo we will see all sorts of info that Foxconn Mars displays during POST. I found it a little unusual that the Boot Menu for selecting the boot device can be accessed by pressing Print button.

Our Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 CPU can overclock to 490MHz FSB, however even though the mainboard could boot Windows at this frequency, it failed to pass the tests. The system remained more or less stable at 480MHz FSB.

I said “more or less” because the system passed the stability test with OCCT utility, passed the one and a half hour Prime95 test but once everything was completed and I just tried to change the window size to make a better screenshot, it displayed the blue screen of death.

There is one thing that concerned me: although we increased the chipset North Bridge voltage during our overclocking experiments, the heatsinks remained just a little warm, almost cold. However, AEGIS Panel utility reported North Bridge temperature of 55ºC in idle mode and 65ºC or even 75ºC during the tests depending on the type of workload.

I always keep an additional fan at hand for my processor overclocking experiments, namely for better chipset North Bridge cooling. However, Foxconn supplies a fan like that with their mainboard, although in this case we didn’t really need it; why use additional cooling for a cold heatsink?

We usually test mainboards without any modifications, the way the actual customer will get them. However, this time I decided to replace the chipset cooling system, because I suspected that the contact between the chips and the heatsinks is not proper. However, once I removed the Cool Pipe system, these suspicions didn’t confirm: the contact was perfectly fine. There is a thermal pad between the heatsink and the chipset Bridges that melts when the chip temperature rises. As for the MOSFET transistors, there is a thick layer of thermal interface on gauze base. They use the same thermal interface for the memory chips on graphics cards.

We managed to reduce the temperature by about 10ºC by simply replacing the North Bridge cooler with Cooler Master Blue Ice Pro, although the SmartFan technology automatically reduced its fan rotation speed. This heatsink was warm and the chipset cooling really worked in this case. Unfortunately, we still failed to improve our overclocking results in any way.

Performance Testbed

Now that we have covered practically all aspects of Foxconn Mars mainboard, it is time we analyzed its performance compared with the competing solutions from other mainboard makers. Since Foxconn board came a little late to the market, we will compare it against the Intel P35 based solutions with DDR2 support that have already won the dedicated overclockers’ hearts – Asus P5K Premium and Gigabyte P35-DQ6.

Our test platform was configured as follows:

Performance in Nominal Mode

The first series of tests were performed with the processor working at its default speed of 3.0GHz set as 9 x 333MHz. We tried to set the memory frequency in this case at 1066MHz with 4-4-4-12 timings. I would like to stress the word “tried”: although DDR2-1066 is the nominal work mode for the memory bus supported by Intel P35 Express chipset, Foxconn Mars failed to clock DDR2 SDRAM at this frequency. There was no 5:8 FSB:DRAM divider in the BIOS Setup list that’s why we couldn’t get DDR2-1066 supported at 333MHs bus frequency.

So, we had to use the closest divider of 2:3 and reduce the memory frequency to 1000MHz.

Memory Subsystem Synthetic Benchmarks

SuperPi, PCMark Vantage, 3DMark06

3D Games

Applications

All in all, the mainboards participating in this comparison demonstrated very similar results. There are no indisputable leaders as well as no outsiders here. Nevertheless, we still observe certain gap between Foxconn Mars and Asus and Gigabyte solutions. Although it is definitely explained by the missing support for DDR2-1066 SDRAM.

Performance during Overclocking

Besides the tests in nominal mode, we would also like to compare the mainboards’ performance in overclocked systems. The thing is that relative performance of overclocker platforms is very often different from what we see in nominal mode.

For the second round of tests we decided to set the FSB frequency at 450MHz. We used the same Core 2 Duo E6850 processor overclocked to 3.6GHz set as 8 x 450MHz. The processor Vcore was increased to 1.45V to ensure better stability. DDR2 memory was also sped up to 1125MHz and the timings were set at 5-5-5-15.

First let me share some good results. Our tests revealed that Gigabyte engineers managed to resolve the issues that we have previously observed during our overclocking experiments. Gigabyte P35-DQ6 mainboard with the BIOS F6 version (just like other GA-P35 mainboards with September BIOS versions) proved stable at higher memory speeds and doesn’t fall behind other mainboards during overclocking any more.

By the way, in this respect I would like to stress that Asus and Gigabyte mainboards are a priori more suitable for overclocker platforms than Foxconn Mars. While the Foxconn mainboard is just beginning to settle in the market, the solutions from other mainboard makers have been selling for a few months already. It means that they have already got rid of most their “early stage issues”, while Foxconn engineers will be just starting on the error correction path.

For example, they will need to do something about the not quite efficient cooling of the chipset North Bridge, which has a negative effect on CPU and memory overclocking on Foxconn Mars. In order to get our Foxconn Mars based system to run at 450MHz FSB and 1125MHz memory frequency, we had to spend a while before we finally found the North Bridge voltage when the mainboard remained stable and the North Bridge didn’t overheat. BY the way, this setting was 1.375V: even with an additional fan on top of Cool Pipe system you can’t push it to 1.5-1.7V like on other mainboards.

Memory Subsystem Synthetic Benchmarks

SuperPi, PCMark Vantage, 3DMark06

3D Games

Applications

Again our testing participants demonstrated very similar results in most applications. And it means that the new solution from Foxconn has no problems with performance in nominal mode as well as during overclocking.

Conclusion

I am afraid that now that you have read this whole article you may think that Foxconn Mars mainboard is not a good product after all and has a lot of drawbacks. However, I have to warn you against such conclusions, as they are simply not true. I personally loved this mainboard. We pointed out all those small things on purpose, so that the potential owner of this mainboard could know in advance what he may need to look out for. And in conclusion I would like to point out those things once again so that you could take another fresh look at them and realize that they are not crucial at all. These are not issues, but mostly our recommendations to the manufacturer. If corrected, they will make this excellent product even better.

See for yourself: can we actually call the not very successful name or package design a drawback? And as for the bundle, we would love to see something more useful than a dozen of stickers, but is it really an issue as well? As for the PCB layout, it is simply impeccable and it is evidently one of the biggest advantages of Foxconn Mars mainboard. Yes, the cooling system is a little puzzling and even the additional fan will be hard to replace when out of service because of its usual shape. The default Cool Pipe system is not efficient enough, IMHO. Unfortunately, from the pictures of the upcoming Foxconn mainboards, such as X38A “Digital Life”, for instance, we still see the same CoolPipe system that seems to have become Foxconn’s brand name feature.

Speaking of Gladiator BIOS we have to admit that the options it offers are excellent – it is the second great advantage of Foxconn Mars. However, there are a few things that can be improved. For example, it would be much easier to work with profiles if we could name them and add appropriate descriptions. It’s a pity that detailed fan rotation speed management is only possible on the software level. When Instant O.C. is set high, it would be nice to have an option to increase memory and North Bridge voltage as well. And finally, it would be very convenient to have a built-in BIOS reflashing tool. So, tell me, are these drawbacks or recommendations?

As for the software, EOX LiveUpdate utility is totally cool while AEGIS Panel is inconvenient to work with and definitely not a success. Maybe it will acquire the promised overclocking friendly options later on, but its interface is a way too bulky for constant use. I cannot complain about its monitoring skills, but it would be nice if the reports could be recorded into a log-file.

And finally a few words about not very successful processor overclocking. I wouldn’t use this mainboard as an overclocking testbed. However, I would love to have it in my home system. I am not discouraged with its inability to overclock beyond 470-480MHz FSB, because I am not going to purchase any CPUs with 7x clock frequency multiplier. As for everything else, the mainboard suits my needs perfectly. What do we actually need from a mainboard? The chipset doesn’t really affect the speed, so the board should be convenient to assemble a system, to set up and work with, should provide all the necessary interfaces, and Foxconn Mars has it all. So, if I ever decide to go with an Intel P35 Express based mainboard, Foxconn Mars will be one of the first ones on my list. Although a lot will definitely depend on its availability and pricing.

Since we mentioned the pricing, I have to point out that the competition in the mainboard segment has gone down lately, since a lot of so-called second-tier makers have vanished from the market. We haven’t seen solution from Acorp, Chaintech and EPoX for a while already. Although they used to offer pretty inexpensive but functional solutions before. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the prices have gone from $70-$80 up to $150-$200 over the past few years. From this standpoint, the arrival of a strong player like Foxconn will do the market only good. Especially if they are offering an impressive solution like Foxconn Mars.