During CES 2008 Foxconn showed us a prototype of a motherboard based on a non-revealed Intel chipset (probably Intel’s forthcoming P45 chipset) that will have four PCI Express x16 slots, allowing four video cards under CrossFireX using an Intel solution. It is not only that, this prototype – internally known as F1 – will come with a water-cooling solution to cool down the chipset and the transistors from the voltage regulator circuit, and below the north bridge block it has a thermoelectric cooler (TEC, a.k.a. “Peltier”).
If you pay close attention in Figure 1 you will see two big chips installed between the PCI Express slots; these are probably PCI Expess switches.
Foxconn didn’t want reveal us the chipset this motherboard was using, but we guess that the motherboard we saw was using Intel P45, the next mainstream chipset from Intel, especially because last month we heard rumors that Intel P45 would support CrossFireX from AMD/ATI. If this is correct, other motherboard manufacturers will also release similar products – i.e., socket LGA775 motherboards with four PCI Express x16 slots supporting CrossFireX.
This motherboard, however, will come with water-cooling blocks and pipes made of copper to cool down the chipset and the MOSFET transistors from the voltage regulator circuit.
It is interesting to see Foxconn trying to enter the very high-end market with very different products (they showed us another prototype based on Intel X48 chipset targeted to extreme overclockers also featuring a water-cooling solution that we will discuss on another article). But it is important to keep in mind that both products are just prototypes and Foxconn is just testing waters to see the market response for their final decision on whether they are going to actually release these products or not.
This motherboard is very big, using the Ultra ATX form factor. Also because of its size you will need to have a full tower case with 10 slots – keep in mind that the majority of cases found on the market have only seven slots. Besides the four x16 PCI Express slots, this prototype also featured four x1 PCI Express slots and two regular PCI slots.
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This motherboard has two 24-pin power supply connectors (see in Figure 4), allowing you to install two power supplies to increase the current delivered to the motherboard – to the video cards, in particular. This product will also require an EPS12V connector and a standard peripheral connector to be installed on the board.
On this prototype all electrolytic capacitors are solid, as expected on a high-end product, and all coils from the voltage regulator are ferrite coils, which provides a lower power loss compared to the traditional iron coils.
It also has a POST diagnostics display, which allows you to see what is wrong with your computer if it doesn’t turn on through a two-digit code, and on-board reset, power and clear CMOS switches, which is very convenient to overclockers.
In Figure 6, you can see the rear panel from this prototype: PS/2 keyboard connector, PS/2 mouse connector, six USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports (controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip), one FireWire port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports (using Broadcom chips) and, of course, the two connectors for the water-cooling system.
If you paid close attention to Figure 6 you have noticed that this motherboard has no on-board audio solution. The audio will probably be available through an add-on card that will come with the motherboard, containing the audio codec and the various audio connectors.
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Foxconn F1 motherboard prototype main features are:
- Socket: 775.
- Chipset: Intel P45 (our guess, not confirmed)
- Super I/O: ITE IT8720F
- Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 port controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip.
- Serial IDE: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the south bridge chip and two eSATA ports controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip.
- USB: 12 USB 2.0 ports (six soldered on the motherboard and six available through I/O brackets).
- FireWire (IEEE 1394a): Two ports controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, one soldered on the motherboard and one available through an I/O bracket.
- On-board audio: No.
- On-board video: No.
- On-board LAN: Two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by the chipset together with a Broadcom chips to make the physical layer interface and the other controlled by a Broadcom BCM5788 chip (connected to the PCI bus).
- Buzzer: Yes.
- Power supply required: EPS12V.
- Slots: Four PCI Express x16 slots, Four PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots, supporting CrossFire and CrossFireX.
- Memory: Four DDR-DIMM sockets.
- Extra features: Aluminum solid capacitors, ferrite coils, POST diagnostics display, water-cooling system (which cools down the north bridge chip, the south bridge chip and the voltage regulator transistors), thermoelectric cooler (“Peltier”) on the north bridge chip and on-board switches for power, reset and clear CMOS.