Foxconn G31MXP-K review
Foxconn likes to keep its boards small and simple, and they’re often attractively cheap too. Its AMD board persuasively undercut its rivals this month, but it’s the Socket 775-based G31MXP-K that really turned our heads, swooping in at just £32 exc VAT.
Of course, on that sort of budget compromises have to be made. Even by microATX standards, the Foxconn’s expansion options are pretty rudimentary. Its two DIMM sockets can handle no more than 2GB of RAM each, at a maximum speed of DDR2-800. And there are only four USB ports at the rear, so you may need to invest in a hub or a bracket to connect all your peripherals – and, as usual with cheaper boards, you can forget about eSATA or FireWire. Oddly, though, in the face of this port shortage Foxconn finds space on the backplate for parallel and serial ports.
It’s a similar story with internal storage. The G31MXP-K offers only four SATA channels and there’s no sort of RAID support, although an IDE controller lets you keep older drives in use.
Yet to focus on the negatives is to miss the point. At this price, what matters isn’t what’s missing, but what you get: not only does the G31-MXP-K support almost the full range of Socket 775 processors (only Core 2 Extremes are excluded), it also boasts integrated graphics in the shape of Intel’s GMA 3100.
Sure, that isn’t a powerful chip, and it isn’t really up to 3D games or HD video; its VGA-only output hints that it isn’t intended to drive a high-definition display.
But it will support the Aero effects in Vista and Windows 7 happily. So, if you don’t need flashy video capabilities you can leave out the graphics card altogether, saving money and reducing energy consumption. Running with integrated graphics, we measured idle power drain at 72W, making the G31MXP-K this month’s second most efficient board, behind only the MSI G41M-FIDP.
The G31MXP-K is unapologetically a budget motherboard, and if you’re looking for luxuries look elsewhere. But if you’re putting together a lightweight, no-frills PC – maybe a second system, a home server or a network station – this low-power board will do everything you need for a fantastic price.