It’s no secret that Nvidia had a heavy hand in designing Foxconn’s excellent AM2 Athlon 64/nForce 590 SLI board, but Foxconn’s Intel-powered 975X7AB-8EKRS2H board suffers for a lack of Nvidia-applied polish.
Beyond the PCB-mounted power-on switch, the 975X7AB is surprisingly pedestrian for a company that’s pushing to make inroads into the enthusiast market. In fact, Intel’s own 975X board looks like a party animal next to the 975X7AB. The BIOS in our 975X7AB board doesn’t even support DDR2/800 speeds without forcing you to overclock. Granted, Intel hasn’t blessed DDR2/800 on the 975X, but even Intel’s own board includes it as a wink, wink, nod, nod feature.
The lack of support for DDR2/800 is probably what holds the 975X7AB back in performance. Although it comes close to the Asus 590 SLI board in some benchmarks, and even bests it in a couple, the nForce boards are the overall performance leaders. The saving grace for the 975X7AB is that while it lost, it didn’t lose by that much. Of course, when you factor in the 975X’s inability to run SLI (or rather, SLI won’t run with 975X), this board just isn’t that appetizing.
Also a negative is the Realtek ALC882M codec, which we busted for cheating on EAX audio rendering (see In the Lab, December 2006). To see if the problem still exists, we installed the latest drivers from Foxconn and listened in earnest to see if Realtek had corrected the problems we discerned last month. The latest drivers seem to add a degree of audio positioning that was lacking in our earlier tests, but it still doesn’t seem very precise to our ears. We recommend using a soundcard with Realtek mobos. It’s a shame, really, as the broken EAX support mars this board’s otherwise full-featured audio package. The 975X7AB supports Dolby Digital Live as well as a couple other virtual speaker configurations.
We’ve been impressed by Foxconn boards in the past, but this one doesn’t wow us. There are simply better boards to be had.
+ PURELL: PCB-mounted power button and normal-size chipset heatsink.
- PURE EVIL: Feels like a budget board without the budget price.