If you want to judge nVidia’s vision for the new AM2 nForce 590 SLI chipset, look no further than Foxconn’s C51XEM2AA. This motherboard is the closest you’ll get to nVidia’s concept design. In fact, nVidia even wrote the BIOS for this board.
Given this cozy relationship, it’s no surprise that the C51XEM2AA supports every new feature of the nForce 590 SLI chipset, including nTune 5, which lets you tweak the system from the OS.
The board’s overall layout is accommodating except for three gaffes. One mistake is admittedly minor: The LED for POST codes is partially obscured if you run SLI. Far more annoying is the fact that Foxconn placed key components too close together. The RAM slots are so near to the CPU that the heat spreaders on Corsair’s SLI-Ready RAM almost touch a standard AVC heatsink. Not good. Also, the green south-bridge fan is dangerously close to the PCI-E retention clip—unless you have carnival-freakshow fingers, you won’t be able to remove the graphics card without pulling the whole board out of your PC. Or you can just break off the retention clip completely.
There’s plenty of hardware goodness to make up for bloopers, however. We like the four additional LEDs, which indicate which of the PSU’s power rails are hot. Inclusion of FireWire B is also a nice touch. Furthermore, Foxconn includes an onboard speaker as well as onboard power-on and reset buttons—all desirable features. And we like that the C51XEM2AA SATA ports are intelligently laid out so you can use all of them easily.
The most exciting aspect of the C51XEM2AA is the highly tweakable BIOS, which is sure to have people scouring the Internet trying to figure out what all the features do. Even if you’re not into manually adjusting every option for your overclock, the C51XEM2AA supports Corsair’s SLI-Ready RAM, which is intended to provide automatic overclocking of the CPU and RAM. We had so-so luck with the automatic-overclocking feature, though. With a pair of extremely low-latency DIMMs from Corsair, the board was a touch unstable, so we swapped out the modules for a pair of less aggressive modules and experienced no hiccups.
Sporting the same hardware and identically configured BIOSes, the C51XEM2AA and the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe Wireless were virtually neck-and-neck in performance. So read that review to see where the differences lie.
Month Reviewed: September 2006
+ THE FORCE: Well-placed SATA ports and PCI-E slots; full support of all nForce 5 features.
- MITACLORIANS: Poorly designed graphics-card retention clip.