Bizarre name, great board
You can always tell when a company accustomed to selling to OEMs enters the consumer space: It forgets to give its product a name you can pick out on a store shelf. Take Foxconn’s 925XE7AA-8EKRS2: Is this motherboard the love-child of TK-421 and THX-1138, or what?
Foxconn isn’t a new company, of course; in fact, it’s one of the leading suppliers of motherboards to OEMs. It’s only just now wetting its big toe in the consumer-motherboard Jacuzzi, and it shows.
At first glance, the 925XE7AA-8EKRS2—oh, hell, let’s just call it the ‘7AA—is pretty impressive. In the features break-dance challenge, the ‘7AA is among the best motherboards we’ve ever seen. The Asus P5AD2-E Premium was the only board that managed to out-feature it: The ‘7AA has dual Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire A and B, and three RAID controllers. Looking for more? How about a super-fast boot process and a nifty means of backing-up the CMOS data, partition table, or entire partitions to a hidden partition from inside the BIOS.
Of the three boards reviewed here, the ‘7AA also has the best expansion-slot arrangement. Even with a chunky two-slot graphics card installed, the ‘7AA still gives you access to two 1x PCI Express slots and three PCI slots. The Asus board gives you two 1x PCI-E slots, but just two PCI slots while hosting a two-slot graphics card; the Abit board provides just a single 1x PCI-E slot and two PCI slots in the same situation.
In terms of performance, the ‘7AA is top notch, giving some and getting some from the Abit board’s scores. Neither board matches the Asus, but all things being equal, you generally shouldn’t expect much variation from Intel chipset-based boards.
Despite an overall good impression, we do have some issues with the design. First, the board’s CMOS reset jumper is placed right next to a jumper that helps you recover from aborted BIOS updates. Neither jumper is clearly labeled, so you’ll need to know what JP4 does and what JP5 does. The BIOS is pretty good, but the overclocking and RAM-timing screens felt a little too “OEM” for us. Finally, the ‘7AA is the only board of the three that doesn’t come with drivers for real-time Dolby Digital encoding. And that’s a shame.
Foxconn hasn’t stumbled in its first steps in the consumer pool, but it’s not making any waves, either. The ‘7AA delivers top-notch performance, but it’s out-featured by Asus and out-blinged by Abit. The other two boards are more appealing to overclockers, too. So who is the ‘7AA for? We think it’s best-suited to the system builder who wants a board with OEM-like reliability, but that delivers more features than any Intel-branded board. --Gordon Mah Ung
+ Formula 409: Tons of SATA and PATA ports, FireWire B, and a good expansion-slot arrangement.
- Formula 51: CMOS jumper is poorly labeled, RAM arms are too close to the graphics slot, and where’s Dolby Digital Live?