Let’s take a look on G31MV-K, a low cost motherboard from Foxconn targeted to Intel socket LGA775 processors and based on Intel G31 chipset. Let’s see this motherboard features.
This board has on-board video produced by Intel G31 chipset, which uses exactly the same graphics engine of Intel G33 chipset, called Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3100. This graphics engine runs at 400 MHz and is DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0), has only two pixel shader units and no vertex shader units (this task is performed by the CPU). As you can see, the graphics engine from both G31 and G33 is outdated, using a technology from two generations ago. But that does not really make much difference, because even chipsets with updated on-board video (supporting DirectX 10) are not powerful enough to run most current games.
G31 and G33 chipsets have exactly the same video performance. The difference between them is on the additional features arena. G31 supports up to 4 GB of memory and, thus, most of the motherboard based on this chipset have only two memory sockets. G33, on the other hand, supports up to 8 GB of memory, and motherboards based on this chipset usually have four sockets. Another important difference between them is the south bridge chip. G31 chipset uses ICH7 southbridge, while G33 uses either ICH9 or ICH9R south bridge. ICH7 has eight USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Mbps network port and four SATA-300 ports, while ICH9 has 12 USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port and six SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID on ICH9R model.
G31MV-K supports Celeron, Pentium Dual Core, Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors, including 45 nm models, with front side bus (FSB) up to 1,333 MHz. It is clearly an ultra-basic board, aimed to users who are looking for the lowest budget computer possible and not worried about expansion capabilities or extra features.
The number of slots is one of the main drawbacks of G31MV-K. It has only one PCI slot and no PCI Express x1 slots at all. However, the presence of a PCI Express x16 slot is amazing, because it allows you to install a "real" video card and run recent games.
[nextpage title=”Memory”]In contrast to some low-end boards based on VIA chipsets, G31MV-K is able to access memory in dual channel, thus allowing you to achieve the full perfromance your system can deliver. It can work with up to 4 GB of DDR2 memory, up to 800 MHz. As almost all value motherboards, it has only two memory modules sockets.
[nextpage title=”On-board Peripherals”]Foxconn G31MV-K uses ICH7 south bridge, providing only two SATA-300 ports with no RAID support, although the south bridge chip supports up to four ports. There is an ATA-100 port supporting up to two optical or hard disk drives. Near the south bridge chip, we can see a header for installing a parallel port (Figure 4), as this port is absent from the rear panel (Figure 5).
The audio system from this motherboard is 5.1, provided by south bridge chip with the aid of a Realtek ALC662-GR codec, which offers a signal/noise ratio (SNR) of 98 dB for the analog outputs, which is above the average for a value motherboard. The SNR for the analog inputs is of 90 dB, which is compatible with a low cost motherboard: to work professionally with analog audio recording (converting LPs and VHS tapes to digital format, for example) you will need a better signal/noise ratio. The analog audio connectors are shared, meaning that if you want to use the six channels you can’t use the "line in" and the microphone inputs. There is no SPDIF output on this motherboard.
This motherboard offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and four available through internal headers. There is an on-board Gigabit Ethernet port, which is controlled by a Realtek RTL8111B-VC-GR chip. This chip is connected to the system through a x1 PCI Express lane, and therefore the network port can achieve its full 1 Gbps bandwidth. The use of an external controller chip is interesting, since the network interface embedded in the south bridge chip supports only connections up to 100 Mbps.
The rear panel is spartan: PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, one serial port, VGA video output, four USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port with LED indicators and three connectors for analog audio inputs and outputs.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The voltage regulator circuit from Foxconn G31MV-K shows where the manufacturer saved money: only two phases, with regular iron chokes. The capacitors used on the voltage regulator circuit are aluminum-made, but most others on the motherboard are not.
With a two-phase circuit, it is expected that it will make a good job with basic processors (such as Celeron), but there can be problems with "hungrier" models. But, let’s agree, hardly anyone will buy this motherboard to install a Core 2 Quad or Core 2 Extreme processor on it, right? For a better understanding of the importance of such design, read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator Circuit tutorial.
As was expected, the accessory set that comes with this board is quite simple, consisting only of a user manual, a driver CD, case back plate and disk drive cables.[nextpage title=”Main features”]
Foxconn G31MV-K main features are:
- Socket: 775.
- Chipset: Intel G31 Express and ICH7 south bridge chip.
- Parallel IDE: One ATA-100 port, controlled by the south bridge chip.
- Serial IDE: Two SATA-300 ports, controlled by the south bridge chip.
- USB: Eight USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on rear panel and four available as internal headers).
- FireWire (IEEE 1394a): No.
- Onboard audio: Produced by the chipset with the aid of a Realtek ALC662-GR codec (six channels, 20 bit resolution for the inputs and 24 bits for the outputs, up to 96 kHz sampling rate on both inputs and outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio on inputs and 98 dB on outputs).
- Onboard video: Yes, GMA3100 (DirectX 9.0c, Shader 3.0), produced by the north bridge chip.
- Onboard LAN: Yes, one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111B-VC-GR chip, which is connected to the system through a x1 PCI Express lane.
- Memory: Two DDR2-DIMM sockets (up to 4 GB of DDR2-800).
- Buzzer: No.
- Power Supply: ATX12V 2.x.
- Slots: One PCI Express x16 and one standard PCI slot.
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one drivers/utilities CD.
- Extra features: None.
- More information: https://www.foxconnchannel.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 39.99
* Researched at Shopper.com on the day we published this First Look article.
Foxconn G31MV-K is a real basic motherboard. Its main drawbacks are the low number of expansion slots, voltage regulator circuit with only two phases and limited audio outputs. Also, there are no overclocking options at all.
However, for the average user who is building a computer to run only basic applications, such as internet access and text editing, based on a Celeron processor, with only one memory module, no expansion cards, using cheap speakers, what is the point on spending two or three times more on a mid-range motherboard, full of features that will not be used? If is this your case, Foxconn G31MV-K is an honest product: it offers a platform for a basic computer, being
one the most inexpensives motherboards available today.