Foxconn C51XEM2AA- 8EKRS2H AM2 Top-Dog

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Product: Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H nForce 590SLI
Provided By: Foxconn USA
Price: ~$230CDN Pricegrabber

Introduction:

We were fortunate to have some of our sponsors send us some new gear to upgrade our aging P4 Wyoming test rig.  I’d like to welcome Foxconn as one of our new sponsors and thank them for providing us with the center piece for our new rig, the C51XEM2AA – AM2 motherboard.

Packaging:

The C51XEM2AA is Foxconn’s current flagship AM2 motherboard.  The motherboard is nicely packaged with a sleeved box.  The front of the box has simple yet attractive graphics and is not littered with logo’s, stickers, and technical jargon.  The back of the box highlights the main features of the board and is again, not overly busy.

Board Box
Board Box

Included in the package:

·         User Manual

·         Quickstart guide with board map

·         I/O Shield

·         SLI Bridge

·         The motherboard itself

·         6 SATA Cables

·         3 SATA Power Adapters

·         USB bracket with 4 additional USB ports

·         Serial port bracket

·         Firewire bracket

Bundle Of Cables
 Bundle Of Cables

RearIO
 RearIO

Foxconn chose to include the serial port as an add-on bracket and leave room on the back of the board for a firewire 800 port as well as additional USB ports.


 

Features:

Processor: Supports compatible AMD Socket AM2 processors
Please see our "CPU Compatibility" listing
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI
Front Side Bus: 2000 MT/s HyperTransport™
Memory: Dual channel, unbuffered, 1.8V DDR2-800/667/533 with or without ECC, (4) 240-pin DIMM sockets, max 8GB
VGA on Die: N/A - use expansion card
Expansion Slots: 2 x PCIe x16 (functions as 2 x16 under NVIDIA SLI), 1 x PCIe x4, 1 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI
IDE: 1 x ATA/133
Serial ATA(SATA)/RAID: 6 x SATA II/300, support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, and JBOD
Audio: 7.1 + 2 channel, high definition (Realtek ALC882D)
LAN: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) controllers, dual rear ports, PCIe (Marvell)
IEEE1394: 2 x 1394a + 1 x 1394b (TI)
Back Panel I/O Ports: 1 x PS/2 keyboard
1 x PS/2 mouse
1 x 1394a
1 x 1394b
6 x USB 2.0
2 x RJ45 (LAN)
1 set 7.1 + 2 channel audio jacks (5 jacks)
1 x S/PDIF out (optical)
Internal I/O Connectors: 1 x floppy disk drive
Front audio header
2 x USB 2-port headers, ver. 2.0
1 x IEEE-1394a/b header
BIOS Features: 4Mb, ACPI 2.0b, APM 1.2, PnP 1.0a, SMBIOS 2.3, USB 2.0, WfM 2.0
Support CD: NVIDIA chipset, RAID, and network drivers; audio drivers; DirectX; Adobe Acrobat Reader; Norton Internet Security; manual & RAID manual; NVIDIA nTune; Foxconn LiveUpdate
Standards/Manageability: USB 2.0, WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, LPC 1.1 Interface
Special Features: NVIDIA®LinkBoost™ and MediaShield technologies, SLI™-Ready, NVIDIA nTune, NCQ, AMD® Cool “n” Quiet™ technology, Fox LiveUpdate, QuadSLI support, RoHS compliant
Form Factor: ATX (12" x 9.6")
 


Layout:

Board Full
Board Full

The C51X is manufactured on a black PCB and has a mild color scheme for the rest of the components.  The basic layout is fairly clean.  There’s a black capacitor fairly close to the main 24-pin ATX connector that could be removed if some aggression is used to unplug the power connector.  The DIMM slots do have some spacing between them, but personally I’d like to see a little more space to fit some of the high performance modules with overly big heatsinks.  The 8-pin power connector is in a good location.  You can see from the picture, the northbridge is passively cooled, and the southbridge actively cooled.  The southbridge heatsink and fan is almost too high to clear the first PCIe graphics slot.  I had no trouble installing a 7950GT, but should the fan ever fail I might have a hard time finding a replacement fan that will clear that first PCIe slot.

Board Full
 Board Full

DDR2 Slots
 DDR2 Slots

PCIe LED
 PCIe LED

The aux 4-pin molex power connector for SLI is located at the bottom of the board and can be a reach for some power supplies with shorter leads.  The CPU is powered with 4-phase power.  The CPU retention bracket comes with a steel backing plate where most manufacturers use plastic.  Some of the overclocking features include onboard diagnostic code LEDs, and onboard power and reset buttons.  One feature I’ve never seen on a motherboard before is a location grid much like a map.

AM2 Socket
 AM2 Socket

 


PCIe Profile
 PCIe Profile

On the border of the board is a letter grid on one edge and a number grid on the other edge.  For example, the location of the diagnostic LEDs are G3.  Unless you’re trying to help your buddy locate a certain component on a board over the phone, I’m not sure what purpose this serves…but it’s still cool.  The 590SLI chipset includes native support for one IDE channel, which is very handy for those of us that still use IDE drives.

The rear of the board has 2 PS/2 ports, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, 6 USB ports, and dual GB Ethernet.

Rear IO
Rear IO

Close Up:

Non Socket BIOS
 Non Socket BIOS

NorthBridge
 NorthBridge

SouthBridge
 SouthBridge


Installation and BIOS:

The C51X was installed with the following components to complete our new test rig:

·         Foxconn C51XEM2AA Motherboard Provided By Foxconn

·         Athlon X2 4800+ Windsor Core 1MB L2 Per Core @ 2.4 Ghz

·         2GB PC2-8000 EPP SLI Ready RAM Provided By Crucial

·         BFG 7950GTOC

·         2 WD Raptor 36 GB RAID 0

·         120 GB Samsung

·         250 GB WD

·         Plextor 755-SA Provided By Plextor

·         Audigy ZS2

The C51X installed into our Coolermaster Stacker just like any other ATX motherboard.  First boot was painless and into the BIOS I went to start initial setup.  The BIOS is provided by Phoenix / Award and looks and navigates like any other BIOS.  Foxconn separates themselves in the BIOS area by unlocking dozens of overclocking tweaks normally hidden by most manufacturers.  Below are some standard BIOS screens as well as some of the more advanced features.

BIOS Main
 BIOS Main

Standard CMOS
 Standard CMOS

System Monitor
 System Monitor

     

RAID Configuration
 RAID Configuration

System Clocks
 System Clocks

System Voltage
 System Voltage

     

CPU Voltage
 CPU Voltage

Memory Voltage
 Memory Voltage

SLI Memory
 SLI Memory

     

Memory Timings
 Memory Timings

Memory Timings
 Memory Timings

Drive Strength Settings
 Drive Strength Settings


Overclocking:

For those who are just starting out overclocking or would like to learn more about the 590 SLI chipset, nVidia has published a 590 SLI overclocking guide that features this exact same board.  You can view and download the PDF guide here.  The guide published by nVidia recommends initial setup in the BIOS and additional tweaking with nTune in windows.  While the nTune utility does work, by personal preference I chose to perform all of my adjustments from the BIOS itself.  Maximum CPU speed achieved was 2.8 GHz @ 1.4 volts.  Maximum FSB achieved was 300 FSB.  Maximum memory speed achieved was 1120 MHz.   The best mix was a CPU multiplier of 10x, FSB of 280, and RAM divider of DDR800.  This gave an overall overclock of 2.8 Ghz with 1120 MHz memory speed.

During the trial and error phases of overclocking to find the fastest speeds, I found the C51X to be a dream if I re-booted with an incompatible combination.  After re-booting if there was a POST error, simply wait and the system will continue to re-boot itself back to stock speeds and allow you to make your next adjustment.  I did not have to clear the CMOS once after discovering this feature.  If SLI is detected in the BIOS, LinkBoost is enabled and automatically overclocks the PCIe bus for each of the 16X PCIe slots from 100 MHz to 125 MHz.

The Windsor X2 4800+ tops out at about 2.8 GHz and multipliers below 10x do not calculate with memory dividers properly, so 280 FSB gave us our best all around performance.  OC’d the temperatures were handled easily by our Reserator II.  Under full load both cores reached 52°C.  Throughout testing, benchmarking, and stability testing, (running two instances of Folding @ Home for 24 hrs) I did not have a single stability issue with this board either at stock speeds or overclocked.

Memory:

Crucial provided us with some smoking PC2-8000 EPP SLI Ready memory that has proven to be an excellent overclocker with this Foxconn C51X board.  At stock speeds at 800 MHz these modules run at 4-4-4-12-1T at “Auto” voltage.  Overclocked to 1120 MHz these modules run at 5-5-5-15-2T at 2.225 volts.  An 11% overclock on PC2-8000 memory modules is quite an achievement.

Crucial PC2-8000
Crucial PC2-8000

System Performance:

To benchmark this system combination we used a mix of synthetic and real world applications, real world games, and 3DMark ‘06.  Benchmarks were performed at stock speeds, then again overclocked.

 


Memory Bandwidth:

Memory was tested for bandwidth with Everest memory read test.

CPU-Z Memory
CPU-Z Memory

Everest Stock
 Everest Stock

Everest Overclocked
 Everest Overclocked


System Performance (continued):

DVD Shrink:

The movie Cars was shrinked from my 250 Gb WD to my RAID array to eliminate any hard drive I/O bottleneck.  DVD Shrink is the only multithreaded application in our benchmark selection.

DVDShrink Performance
DVDShrink Performance

WinRAR:

To benchmark WinRAR we compressed and decompressed a single 150 MB DivX video using RAR format and maximum compression.  Decompression is so low because there is only one file and the I/O bottleneck for multiple files has been eliminated.

WinRAR Performance
WinRAR Performance

SuperPI:

SuperPI is a pretty self explanatory program.  The benchmark calculated PI to 1 million decimal places.

SuperPi Performance
SuperPi Performance


 

Ultima Online Server:

Loading this server parses over 100 MB and 10,000 XML files and is very cpu intensive.

Ultima Online Server Load
Ultima Online Server Load

Photoshop:

DriverHeaven put together a benchmark package for photoshop that runs 12 different filter effects on a 60 MB (decompressed) jpeg file.  Performance is measured in seconds and lower is better.

PhotoShop CS2
PhotoShop CS2

Hard Drive:

For fun, I’ve included a benchmark of my RAID 0 array using ATTO.  These are first generation raptors that likely include bridge chips.

ATTO Benchmark
ATTO Benchmark


Gaming:

Oblivion was tested using FRAPS and averaged over three different one minute runs.  Resolution was set at 1280x1024x32 with HDR enabled and all settings set to maximum.  Draw distance was set to 80%.  Need For Speed: Carbon was set to the same resolution with all settings maxed out.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Need For Speed Carbon
 Need For Speed Carbon

You’ll notice the lack in performance increase in games when overclocked.  This is due to the fact that we only have one 7950 GTOC at our disposal.  When benchmarking graphics intensive programs it’s obvious that we’re GPU limited and not CPU limited.  It’s apparent that this system can easily feed one 7950 GTOC.  SLI is not too far on the horizon and some more benches could be posted with that addition.  It would have been more feasible to drop the resolution and max the settings in an attempt to unload the graphics card and load the rest of the system, but who games at 640x480 with all the settings maxed?

3DMark ’06:

3DMark was run with the default benchmark settings.  Again, no real increase in graphics performance, but the CPU score did increase approximately 15%.

3DMark Stock
 3DMark Stock

3DMark EPP
3DMark EPP

3DMark Overclocked
 3DMark Overclocked

Overall results show approximately 15% increase in CPU intensive programs.  (With the exception of gaming of course).

Other Chipset Features:

One of the biggest features with the 590 SLI chipset is the ability to use nVidia’s hardware firewall and software package to manage network settings.  Some of the advanced features allow you to use packet prioritization as well as link both gigabit ports together.  The same can be done in windows by bridging a connection, but nVidia has done it with hardware.  The chipset can also allow you to unload the CPU from controlling the network adapter onto a hardware chip.  We found a problem with nVidia’s driver package that would hang windows on start-up for at least 1.5 minutes while a networking service failed to load.  Keep in mind this is a driver problem, not a motherboard problem, but we still weren’t able to play with these features.


 

Conclusions:

Overall this is a very stable and overclockable board packed with so many features we don’t have enough hardware lying around to test them all.  Overclocking was a breeze, the board looks great, the layout is logical, and we had zero stability issues.  My only real grip with this board is the lack of driver support from nVidia and their problems with network drivers and other small software issues.

Pros:

  • Logical Layout
  • Stable overclocker
  • Loaded with features
  • Comes with ample supply of cables
  • Reboots on failed overclock

Cons:

  • Chipset driver issues especially with network adapters
  • Didn’t overclock as high as I thought it would

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
9/10
Software Pack:
7.5/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
10/10
Value:
9/10
Total Score 9.25

 

A big thanks to our new sponsor Foxconn and Crucial for sending us the gear to make our new test rig a reality. If you have any questions or comments, please drop them in the forum at the "Comments" link below!