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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Foxconn A690GM2MA (its full name is A690GM2MA-8KRS2H; we are always amazed by the creativity of motherboard manufacturers) is a socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video based on the latest chipset from AMD/ATI, AMD 690G, also known by its codename RS690. This is the first chipset coming from the collaboration between AMD and ATI, after AMD bought ATI. We were very curious to compare its performance to the previous on-board video solution from ATI, Radeon Xpress 1100, to its main competitors, GeForce 6100 and GeForce 7025 from NVIDIA, and also to cheap add-in video cards, like GeForce 6200. Let’s take a look at the performance and features of Foxconn A690GM2MA.

Foxconn A690GM2MAFigure 1: Foxconn A690GM2MA motherboard.

Two chipsets were released based on the RS690 core, AMD 690G and AMD 690V. The first is based on Radeon X1250 graphics engine supporting HDMI, while the second is based on Radeon X1200 graphics engine with no HDMI support. Even though the name of these engines are in the “1000” range, they are still Shader 2.0 engines (DirectX 9.0), not Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c).

AMD 690G graphics core runs at 400 MHz and has four pixel shader processors and four vertex shader processors. Competing products from NVIDIA (i.e., GeForce 6100 and GeForce 7025/7050 families) have only two pixel shader processors and two vertex shader processors, but they run at a higher clock rate (425 MHz on GeForce 6100, 7025 and 7050 and 475 MHz on GeForce 6150 – except LE and SE models) and are Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c). The previous integrated graphics solution from ATI, Radeon X1100, runs at 300 MHz.

Even though in theory AMD 690G brings HDMI support (HDMI is a new digital audio and video connection type used by HDTV sets, click here to learn more about it), you need to have an add-on card installed on the x16 PCI Express slot to have the HDMI connector available, plus S-Video, Component Video, RGB and Composite video outputs and also SPDIF coaxial connectors. This card does not come with the motherboard and it seems that Foxconn does not manufacture it.

On the other hand, this motherboard has a TV Out header (S-Video output), but the adapter needed does not come with the product.

The good thing about AMD 690G is that it has two independent video controllers inside, providing two video outputs on-board. Foxconn A690GM2MA comes with two video outputs: one standard VGA output and one DVI output, allowing you to connect two video monitors to your computer at the same time without needing to install an add-on video card. This is simply great, especially if you think that the primary target of this motherboard is digital home PCs.

Of Figure 2 you can see the connectors present on the motherboard rear panel: PS/2 mouse, PS/2 keyboard, VGA, DVI, parallel port, four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port and analog audio inputs and outputs. A serial port is available through an I/O bracket, which doesn’t come with the board.

Foxconn A690GM2MAFigure 2: Rear panel connectors, notice the two video outputs.

Also, AMD 690G is the first chipset with on-board video from AMD/ATI to support Avivo, which is the name given by ATI to their set of 2D-enhancement technologies, like de-interlacing. Click here for a detailed explanation about Avivo. The equivalent technology on NVIDIA world, PureVideo, is available on all current NVIDIA chipsets with integrated graphics but on GeForce 7025.

As you can see in Figure 1, this motherboard provides one x16 PCI Express slot for you to install a “real” video card in the future. It also has one x1 PCI Express slot and two regular PCI slots.

This motherboard has four SATA-300 ports and one ATA-133 port, all controlled by the chipset. The SATA ports support RAID 0, 1 and 10.

It has 10 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard) and two optional FireWire ports, not present on the model we reviewed.

It also has Gigabit Ethernet, controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC chip. This chip is a complete controller, so this motherboard does not use the chipset south bridge chip to control its network interface. This chip is connected to the PCI bus (and not to PCI Express) and since it has a maximum transfer rate of 132 MB/s – which translates to 1 Gbps – achieving 1 Gbps on the Gigabit Ethernet port of this motherboard is very unlikely, as it would be working at the PCI maximum transfer rate.

On the audio section, this motherboard has eight channels provided by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC883 codec. While this codec provides a good output quality (95 dB signal-to-noise ratio and 192 kHz sampling rate), it does not provide a good input quality for today’s standards (85 dB signal-to-noise ratio and 96 kHz sampling rate). Thus this motherboard isn’t recommended for professionally capturing and editing analog audio. For this kind of application look for a motherboard with at least 95 dB SNR on its input. This is really a pitty, since this motherboard is targeted to digital home PCs, where the user may want to capture and edit his (or her) own audio and video files.

On the other hand, this motherboard provides full 7.1 analog audio jacks on the rear panel, feature not found on all AMD 690G motherboards around. So you can easily hook an analog 5.1 or 7.1 set of speakers to this motherboard. But this motherboard does not have any on-board SPDIF connector, which is also a shame. As it is targeted to digital home PCs, it should have at least one coaxial SPDIF out to enable users to connect the motherboard directly to a home theater receiver using digital connection. The motherboard has a SPDIF out header, but the board doesn’t come with any SPDIF bracket to use it.

This motherboard has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 8 GB of DDR2-400/667/800 memory. Two sockets are yellow and the other two are black. To use dual channel feature you need to install the memory modules on sockets with the same color.

This is also another advantage over competing products, as some motherboards based on AMD 690G have only two memory sockets. So you won’t have any problems adding more memory on your PC in the future if you chose this model.

The electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are from several different vendors. On the voltage regulator circuitry two brands are used, RLX series from OST (a Taiwanese company) and Rubycon (a Japanese company). On the audio section capacitors from Teapo (Taiwanese) are used, and around the board the majority are from Chemicon (Japanese), with three solid aluminum capacitors and two smaller caps from Evercon (the new name for GSC, a Taiwanese company). What a salad!

In Figure 3, you can see everything that comes with the motherboard.

Foxconn A690GM2MAFigure 3: Motherboard accessories.

Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

Foxconn A690GM2MA main features are:

  • Socket: AM2.
  • Chipset: AMD 690G.
  • Super I/O: Fintek F71882FG
  • Clock Generator: ICS 951464
  • Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 port.
  • Serial IDE: Four SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset supporting RAID 0, 1 and 10.
  • USB: Ten USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and six available through I/O brackets that don’t come with the motherboard).
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394a): Optional (two ports controlled by VIA VT6308P chip), not available on the model we reviewed.
  • On-board audio: Controlled by the chipset together with Realtek ALC883 codec (eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 96 kHz sampling rate for the inputs and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for the outputs, 85 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 95 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs).
  • On-board video: Yes, produced by AMD 690G (Radeon X1250 engine).
  • On-board LAN: Yes, Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps) controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC chip, which is connected to the PCI bus.
  • Buzzer: Yes.
  • Power supply: ATX12V v2.x (24-pin).
  • Slots: One x16 PCI Express, one x1 PCI Express and two PCI slots.
  • Memory: Four DDR-DIMM sockets (up to 8 GB up to DDR2-800/PC2-6400).
  • Number of CDs that come with this motherboard: 1 CD.
  • Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities and Norton Internet Security.
  • Extra features: None.
  • More Information: https://www.foxconnchannel.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 91.00.

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows XP Professional installed using NTFS
  • Service Pack 2
  • DirectX 9.0c

Driver Versions

  • ATI video and chipset driver version: 7.2 IGP
  • Nvidia video driver version: 93.71 (on GeForce 6100 and 6200)
  • Nvidia video driver version: 101.17 (on GeForce 7025)
  • Nvidia video driver version: 158.22 (on GeForce 8800 GTS)
  • Nvidia nForce chipset driver version: 8.26 (on ECS GeForce6100SM)
  • Nvidia nForce chipset driver version: 14.10 (on Abit AN-M2)
  • Nvidia nForce chipset driver version: 9.35 (on ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe)
  • Audio driver version: Realtek R1.60
  • Audio driver version: Realtek A3.86 (on ECS RS485M-M)

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”Overall Performance”]

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

  • Internet Content Creation: Simulates the authoring of a website containing text, images, videos and animations. The following programs are used: Adobe After Effects 5.5, Adobe Photoshop 7.01, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Discreet 3ds Max 5.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Flash MX, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.
  • Office Productivity: Simulates the use of an office suite, i.e., simulates sending e-mails, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. The following programs are used: Adobe Acrobat 5.05, Microsoft Office XP SP2, Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1, NaturallySpeaking 6, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We ran this software in two scenarios. First using the motherboard on-board video, comparing its performance to other motherboards with on-board video we had available: MSI K9AGM2 (AMD 690G), ECS AMD690GM-M2 (AMD 690G), ECS RS485M-M (Radeon Xpress X1100), ECS GeForce6100SM (GeForce 6100-405) and Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025-630a).

Then we disabled the board on-board video and installed a GeForce 8800 GTS from MSI to compare it with an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, which is a high-end socket AM2 motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce MCP 590 SLI chipset. Our idea was to see if this motherboard would achieve the same performance level of a high-end motherboard when we installed a high-end video card on it.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

With its on-board video enabled Foxconn A690GM2MA achieved the same performance level of all other motherboards with on-board video that we included in our comparison. The only significant difference was under Office Productivity batch, where the reviewed board was 5.35% faster than Abit AN-M2, which is based on GeForce 7025-630a.

When we installed our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS on the reviewed board we saw no performance increase on SYSmark2004 and amazingly the board became 4.15% faster than ASUS M2N32-SLI De luxe on Office Productivity.

These results means that at least with regular programs this motherboard will achieve the same performance level of high-end motherboards even using its on-board video.

[nextpage title=”Processing Performance”]

Using the same methodology of the previous test, we measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. This program gives the results in a specific unit and since it includes video performance on its score, the motherboard with the best video will achieve the best results.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

On PCMark05 Foxconn A690GM2MA achieved the same performance level of MSI K9AGM2, which is also based on AMD 690G. Here the reviewed board was 8.33% faster than ECS RS485M-M, which is based on the previous ATI chipset, Radeon Xpress 1100.

However the other motherboards with on-board video were faster: ECS AMD690GM-M2 (AMD 690G) was 4.58% faster, Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025) was 6.03% faster and ECS GeForce6100SM-M was 9.00% faster than the reviewed motherboard.

ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS installed was 3.35% faster than Foxconn A690GM2MA with the same video card installed.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE”]

To evaluate AMD 690G 3D performance we installed two low-end video cards on Foxconn A690GM2MA: GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface (from XFX) and GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit interface (from Leadtek).

We also installed a high-end video card, an overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS from MSI, on it and compared its performance to a high-end motherboard with the same video card installed, ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe. The goal here was to see if by installing a high-end video card the reviewed board achieved the same performance level of a high-end motherboard.

We ran several programs, as you will see in the next pages. The amount of RAM memory the chipset “steals” from the main RAM memory to be used as video memory was left on the motherboard default value, which was 128 MB for the reviewed motherboard.

The first one, 3DMark2001 SE, measures 3D performance by making DirectX 8.1 simulations, and the results you can see below (we ran it using its default configuration). All the listed video cards were installed on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

On 3DMark2001 SE Foxconn A690GM2MA was 3.99% faster than ECS GeForce6100SM-M, but other motherboards with on-board video were faster: Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025) was 5.52% faster, MSI K9AGM2 (AMD 690G) was 6.78% faster, ECS AMD690GM-M2 (AMD 690G) was 7.29% faster and, funny enough, ECS RS485M-M (ATI Radeon Xpress 1100) was 9.00% faster.

The problem is that even the “worst” PCI Express video card is a lot faster than on-board video solutions: GeForce 6200 with 64-bit memory interface and TurboCache technology was 77% faster than Foxconn A690GM2MA. This is a huge difference. GeForce 6200 with 128-bit memory interface was 155.87% faster.

When we installed our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS on the reviewed board it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, what is great.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark03″]

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but now running 3DMark03. 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9.0 (i.e., Shader 2.0) games, which is fully supported by all four chipsets with integrated graphics we added to our comparison: Radeon Xpress 1100, AMD 690G, GeForce 6100-405 and GeForce 7025-630a.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

On 3DMark03 Foxconn A690GM2MA was 3.10% faster than ECS RS485M-M (ATI Radeon Xpress 1100) and 13.50% faster than ECS GeForce6100SM-M, but other motherboards with on-board video were faster: Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025) was 9.30% faster, ECS AMD690GM-M2 (AMD 690G) was 17.29% faster and MSI K9AGM2 (AMD 690G) was 19.07% faster.

We were really interested in learning why the other two motherboards based on the same chipset, AMD 690G, were faster. The only explanation we have is that the reviewed board was configured with its on-board video using 128 MB while on the other two boards the amount of memory that is stolen from RAM was set to “auto”; this option wasn’t available on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

The problem is that even the “worst” PCI Express video card is a lot faster than on-board video solutions: GeForce 6200 with 64-bit memory interface and TurboCache technology was 77% faster than Foxconn A690GM2MA. This is a huge difference. GeForce 6200 with 128-bit memory interface was 177% faster.

When we installed our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS on the reviewed board it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, what is great.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark05″]

We again followed the same methodology described previously, but now running 3DMark05. This program measures 3D performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0. This programming model is used by the latest games and supported by GeForce 6100-405 and GeForce 7025-630a, but it isn’t supported by Radeon Xpress 1100 nor by AMD 690G.

It isn’t fair to use this program to evaluate 3D performance of motherboards with on-board video, as they achieve a very low score on this program. We ran it anyway, basically to see the performance achieved by Foxconn A690GM2MA using a real video card installed and also to compare it to other motherboards with on-board video.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

This time Foxconn A690GM2MA was 6.37% faster than Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025), 21.73% faster than ECS GeForce6100SM-M and 61.66% faster than ECS RS485M-M (ATI Radeon Xpress 1100). The other two motherboards based on AMD 690G were 30% faster than this model from Foxconn, however.

We were really interested in learning why the other two motherboards based on the same chipset, AMD 690G, were faster. The only explanation we have is that the reviewed board was configured with its on-board video using 128 MB while on the other two boards the amount of memory that is stolen from RAM was set to “auto”; this option wasn’t available on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

The problem is that even the “worst” PCI Express video card is a lot faster than on-board video solutions: GeForce 6200 with 64-bit memory interface and TurboCache technology was 56% faster than Foxconn A690GM2MA. This is a huge difference. GeForce 6200 with 128-bit memory interface was 87% faster.

When we installed our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS on the reviewed board it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, what is great.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake III”]

We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default configuration and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values.

We didn’t use Quake 4 because with its latest patch installed (1.4.2 when this review was published) it complained that it couldn’t be run with the hardware we had – i.e., it couldn’t be run on AMD 690G.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on Foxconn A690GM2MA.

Foxconn A690GM2MA

Here Foxconn A690GM2MA achieved the worst performance among the motherboards with on-board video we included in our comparison: ECS AMD690GM-M2 (AMD 690G) was 8.26% faster, MSI K9AGM2 (AMD 690G) was 13.93% faster, ECS RS485M-M (ATI Radeon Xpress 1100) was 15.04% faster, ECS GeForce6100SM-M was 19.73% faster and Abit AN-M2 (GeForce 7025) was amazingly 44.88% faster.

The problem is that even the “worst” PCI Express video card is a lot faster than on-board video solutions: GeForce 6200 with 64-bit memory interface and TurboCache technology was 150% faster than Foxconn A690GM2MA. This is a brutal difference. GeForce 6200 with 128-bit memory interface was 253% faster.

ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe was 5.32% faster than the reviewed motherboard when we installed our overclocked GeForce 8800 GTS.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking”]

Foxconn A690GM2MA provides some overclocking options, but no memory timings settings. Here are the options you will find on Foxconn A690GM2MA (8.00.14 BIOS):

  • Base clock (HTT clock): From 200 MHz to 400 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • PCI Express clock: From 100 to 200 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • Memory voltage: +50 mV to +600 mV in 50 mV steps.
  • North bridge voltage: +50 mV to +600 mV in 50 mV steps.

The PCI Express clock configuration is very important, as you can lock the PCI Express clock at a given value (100 MHz, for example). Usually when you increase the FSB clock you will automatically increase the PCI Express clock as well, and sometimes your overclocking will be limited not by the CPU but by the devices connected to the PCI Express bus. Thus with this option you can increase the probability of setting a higher overclocking.

On this motherboard we could increase the CPU base clock from 200 MHz to 214 MHz, making our Athlon 64 X2 5000+ to run at 2,782 MHz, a 7% increase over its original clock of 2.6 GHz.

We didn’t play with the voltage configurations, so with time and patience you may achieve a better overclocking with this motherboard.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

It is always important to have in mind the audience a given product is targeted to. Foxconn A690GM2MA and AMD 690G are clearly targeted to digital home PCs, where gaming isn’t the most important factor. For this PC class, video quality, connectivity options and size are more relevant.
This motherboard has on its side the support for two video monitors, which is great. On motherboards with on-board video based on other chipsets you need to buy an add-on video card if you’d like to have more than one video display.

This motherboard has two advantages over competition, first full support to 7.1 analog speakers, providing six independent audio jacks on its rear panel. Some motherboards around (like ASUS M2A-VM) have only three jacks, making it impossible for you to hook up a 7.1 analog speaker system and also killing your mic in and line in inputs when using a 5.1 analog system. The second advantage is that it has four memory sockets, allowing you to add more memory to your PC in the future. Some motherboards based on AMD 690G like ECS AMD690GM-M2 and MSI K9AGM2 (AMD 690G) have only two memory sockets, so with these boards if you want to upgrade your memory in the future you need to remove your old modules and install new ones, not allowing you to keep your old memories.

On the other hand, we expected a lot more from this motherboard. This motherboard has some serious flaws for a motherboard targeted to be a digital audio and video editing workstation.

First, the audio input quality isn’t good enough for today’s standards. This board provides only 85 dB on its audio input and you need at least 95 dB there. For this reason, avoid this motherboard if you want to build a system to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting VHS tapes, cassette tapes, LPs, etc to digital format).

Secondly, this motherboard does not have on-board SPDIF connectors and even though the board provides a header for SPDIF, it doesn’t come with an SPDIF bracket, making it hard for users willing to connect their PCs to their home theater receivers. It should either have SPDIF connectors soldered on the motherboard or come with this bracket.

In third place, this motherboard provides a S-Video output, however you will need a bracket that does not come with the board to use it.

And finally, performance. Even though it achieved a good overall performance for regular programs – i.e., good performance for running daily office applications like Word and Excel – it achieved a gaming performance lower than other AMD 690G motherboards we included in our comparison.
In our methodology we always leave the amount of video memory that is “stolen” from the RAM memory on its default value, by clearing the CMOS memory. On this motherboard this value was 128 MB, while on the other AMD 690G motherboards this option was set to “auto”, option not available on the reviewed board.

The good news is that this motherboard will perform almost like a high-end motherboard if you disable its on-board video and install a “real” video card on it, making a good product for users thinking of installing an add-on video card later. Since this motherboard has two video outputs, you can even let its on-board video enabled in order to connect your PC to four independent displays, two connected on the motherboard and two on the add-on video card.

However, don’t expect a good 3D performance from any motherboard with on-board video: even the most low-end video card available on the market, like GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64-bit memory interface, is a lot faster.