Foxconn P35A review

£75
Price when reviewed

Intel’s Core 2 Duo desktop platform stormed into the PC world a year ago, ushering in a new era of cool-running, low-heat and high-performance chips for all. Since then, it’s largely been the steady introduction of new processor models that’s driven growth, but this month sees the next step in Intel’s roadmap: the launch of the P35 chipset, part of the Bearlake family.

Foxconn P35A review

The chipset is compatible with existing LGA 775 processors from the Pentium D upwards, and is ready to accommodate the new Core 2 Duos and Quads when they arrive. It supports 45nm CPUs and a 1,333MHz FSB (front side bus) out of the box, so models such as the forthcoming E6750 and E6850 will be able to take full advantage of this.

To aid the transition to DDR3 memory, Intel has included both a DDR2 and DDR3 controller, so manufacturers have the option of going with either four dedicated slots of one type or two of each (as many did when originally moving to DDR2). In either case, the memory itself is officially limited to a maximum speed of 1,066MHz.

Lastly, the P35 includes support for one full PCI Express 16x graphics slot, but manufacturers also have the option of adding a second physical 16x slot operating electronically at 2x or 4x. We expect to see support for dual-16x graphics with the arrival of the high-end X38 chipset later this year, making the P35 a stopgap for hard-core gamers.

We tested the DDR2 boards with a Core 2 Duo E6700 and found they performed pretty much as you’d expect, garnering a score of around 1.50 in our benchmarks when fitted with 1GB 800MHz DDR2 RAM. Check next month’s issue for DDR3 scores.

Reviews

The Foxconn P35A is very much the budget route to a P35-based PC at £75 exc VAT, with just the bare essentials to get you going. It’s a DDR2 board that plants itself further in the old-school camp by opting for three PCI slots to just one PCI Express 1x, plus parallel and serial ports. There’s an eSATA port on the rear, as well as four each of USB and SATA; FireWire is omitted entirely (opt for the P35A-S, at £80, if you want this).

It may not have the same extravagant chipset cooling as the other two boards, but the Foxconn BIOS offers some neat fan control options. You can set five spin speeds for the front chassis fan, each with its own progressively higher trigger temperature, and the space around the CPU socket leaves it open to larger third-party passive cooling solutions.

At the other end of the price scale, the Asus P5K3 Deluxe WiFi-AP is the first board we’ve seen to support DDR3 memory, and at £123 you certainly pay for the privilege. While great in theory, we won’t see affordable memory modules for several months. Anyone willing to pay such a premium would be better off waiting for the enthusiast X38 chipset.

But the Asus board offers more than that, as it’s the only model to come with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and an integrated 802.11b/g wireless card and aerial. For audio, you can choose between optical and coaxial S/PDIF, and there are six SATA connections, two eSATA and a further six USB ports.

As with most Asus motherboards, the BIOS offers an impressive array of overclocking and fan control options, and the elaborate heatpipe cooling helps to keep noise to a minimum.

But it’s positively tame next to the figure-of-eight winding radiators of the MSI P35 Platinum, which deserves an award of its own for sheer novelty. It isn’t convenient for fitting the CPU cooler, but the network of heatpipes gives it overclocking potential that’s matched by the extensive CPU BIOS options.

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