Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres on June 2, 2010


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Silver Award

The new AMD 880G chipset is based on Radeon HD 4250 graphics engine, which is a slower version of the graphics engine used on AMD 890GX (Radeon HD 4290). This way 880G-based motherboards are cheaper than 890GX-based ones. AMD 880G chipset is normally paired with AMD SB710 south bridge chip, but on A88GM Deluxe the manufacturer decided to use SB850, which is the south bridge chip from AMD 890GX, providing native support for SATA-600 ports. This way A88GM Deluxe is one step above other motherboards based on the same chipset.

In the table below we provide a comparison between AMD 880G and other chipsets with integrated graphics from AMD. As explained, Foxconn A88GM Deluxe uses SB850 south bridge chip and not SB710 as default and therefore it supports six SATA-600 ports, 14 USB 2.0 ports and RAID 5.

Chipset

AMD 890GX

AMD 880G

AMD 785G

AMD 780G

AMD 760G

AMD 790GX

GPU Clock

700 MHz

560 MHz

500 MHz

500 MHz

350 MHz

700 MHz

Graphics Processors

40

40

40

40

40

40

Engine

HD 4290

HD 4250

HD 4200

HD 3200

3000

HD 3300

DirectX

10.1

10.1

10.1

10

10

10

PCI Express

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

South Bridge Chip

SB850

SB710

SB710

SB700

SB710

SB750

USB 2.0 Ports

14

12

12

12

12

12

SATA-300 Ports

None

6

6

6

6

6

SATA-600 Ports

6

None

None

None

None

None

RAID

0, 1, 5, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 10

0, 1, 5, 10

ATA-133 Ports

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

1 (2 devices)

Other chipsets with on-board video from AMD include AMD 690V, AMD 690G, AMD 740G and AMD 780V. AMD 690V, AMD 690G and AMD 740G are based on a DirectX 9 graphics engine, while AMD 780V is based on a DirectX 10 one. AMD 780V is based on Radeon HD 3100 engine, which runs at 400 MHz – clock is the main difference between HD 3100, HD 3200 and HD 3300 engines.

Like SB750, SB850 south bridge chip supports an overclocking feature called “Advanced Clock Calibration” or simply ACC. How exactly this new feature works is completely obscure, as AMD does not explain how it works in details. All we know is that SB850 provides a feedback loop to Phenom/Phenom II processors using some unused CPU pins, allowing you to unlock hidden features from the CPU – most commonly unlocking an extra CPU core on triple-core CPUs. You can read more about this feature here and here.

As you may know by now, on systems with integrated video the video memory is achieved by stealing part of the main RAM. Chipsets from AMD have a feature called SidePort, which is an optional memory chip soldered on the motherboard in order to increase video memory. The reviewed motherboard doesn’t have this feature.

Before going to our tests, let’s take an in-depth look at Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard.

The Motherboard

Foxconn has two motherboard models based on AMD 880G chipset, A88GMX and A88GM Deluxe. The difference between them is the south bridge chip that is used (SB710 or SB850, respectively), meaning that the first model supports only SATA-300 ports and has no support for RAID 5. All other specs are the same. It is important to note that on A88GM Deluxe’s manual the manufacturer mentions another model, A88GM, which differs from A88GM Deluxe by the use of SB810 south bridge chip. This chip wasn’t released yet and therefore this other model doesn’t exist yet.

In Figure 1 you have an overall look at Foxconn A88GM Deluxe. It uses the microATX form factor. Notice how all capacitors from this motherboard are solid.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard.

AMD 880G north bridge chip has 22 PCI Express x1 lanes (the same number used on AMD 870 and AMD 890GX chipsets), with seven internal engines to control them (AMD 890GX has eight engines). Foxconn A88GM Deluxe comes with one PCI Express x16 slot, one PCI Express x1 slot and two standard PCI slots.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Slots.

Memory Support

AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

At the moment, the integrated memory controller of socket AM3 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, however Foxconn says A88GM Deluxe supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz through overclocking. The reviewed motherboard has four DDR3 sockets and since, at the moment, each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard.

The first and the second sockets are yellow, while the third and the fourth are black. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules to enable the dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used, install them in sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Memory modules. Install two or four modules for the best performance.

On-Board Peripherals

AMD 880G chipset is a dual-chip solution and we’ve already published all the main specs from this chipset on the first page of this review.

As already explained, on Foxconn A88GM Deluxe the chipset is paired with an SB850 south bridge chip instead of an SB710 model, providing native support for six SATA-600 ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. One of the SATA-600 ports was placed on the rear panel of the motherboard as an eSATA-600 port, leaving five SATA-600 internal ports. From these five ports four are placed on the motherboard edge rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. The other SATA port is placed in a position that expansion cards won’t block it as well.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Five SATA-600 ports.

No ATA-133 nor floppy disk drive controller are present.

From the 14 USB 2.0 ports supported by the chipset, Foxconn A88GM Deluxe offers 12 of them, six soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard.

Audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC888S-VC2-GR codec, which presents eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both the inputs the outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs. These specs are very good for the mainstream user, but if you want to professionally work capturing, editing and converting audio from an analog source (e.g., converting LP’s and VHS tapes into digital format) you should look for a motherboard with a codec with higher input signal-to-noise ratio (also called ADC SNR). This component is an upgraded of ALC888, presenting two independent SPDIF outputs (on this motherboard one is connected to the HDMI output and the other is connected to the SPDIF header).

Even  though this motherboard doesn’t come with an on-board SPDIF output, you can easily add one by connecting an adapter to the SPDIF_OUT header available on the motherboard. Since this motherboard has an HDMI output supporting digital audio, the lack of an SPDIF output should be of no problem as long as your home theater setup is capable of extracting digital audio from the HDMI output.

The reviewed motherboard provides independent 7.1 analog outputs, meaning that you don’t need to “kill” your mic in or line in jack if you install an analog 7.1 speaker set.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111DL chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 keyboard connector, six USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, eSATA-600 port, Gigabit Ethernet port and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel.

As you can see, this motherboard comes with three video connectors, but only two of them can be used at the same time.

There is no mouse PS/2 connector so you have to use a USB mouse (or a wireless mouse with a USB receptor).

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe also has a legacy serial port available through a header labeled “COM” near the last PCI slot. In order to use it you will need an I/O bracket that doesn’t come with the product.

Voltage Regulator

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe comes with a five-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the five available phases, four are used to generate the CPU main voltage (VDD, a.k.a. Vcore) while the other one is used to generate the VDDNB voltage (which feeds the integrated memory controller, the integrated HyperTransport bus controller and the integrated L3 memory cache). Thus this motherboard has a “4+1” configuration.

This motherboard comes with a passive heatsink installed on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit. This motherboard uses only solid capacitors and ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Voltage regulator circuit.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit.

Overclocking Options

Below we list the overclocking options present on Foxconn A88GM Deluxe (9C3F1P01 BIOS).

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard
click to enlarge
Figure 8: Overclocking menu.

Main Specifications

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe motherboard main features are:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

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 and the addition or removal of a “real” video card (Sapphire Radeon HD 3450, 64-bit memory interface).

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
  • NTFS
  • Video resolution: 1440x900 75 Hz

Driver Versions

  • Chipset driver: 9.12
  • Video driver: 8.710.0.0
  • Audio driver: 5.10.0.5992
  • Network driver: 7.11.1127.2009

Software Used

Error Margin

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.

3DMark06 Professional

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We ran this software under its default configuration. For this test we included the result achieved by a 64-bit Sapphire HD 3450 card installed in the motherboard PCI Express x16 slot while disabling the motherboard’s on-board video, so we can have an idea of the performance of a very low-end video card compared to the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard

The integrated video provided by AMD 880G was 7% faster than the one provided by AMD 785G, which is certainly a good news. A low-end Radeon HD 3450 was, however, 12% faster than the integrated video of AMD 880G. AMD 890GX was 25% faster here.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We ran this software under its default configuration. For this test we included the result achieved by a 64-bit Sapphire HD 3450 card installed in the motherboard PCI Express x16 slot while disabling the motherboard’s on-board video, so we can have an idea of the performance of a very low-end video card compared to the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard

The integrated video provided by AMD 880G was 7% faster than the one provided by AMD 785G, which is certainly a good news. A low-end Radeon HD 3450 was, however, 12% faster than the integrated video of AMD 880G. AMD 890GX was 25% faster here.

Unigine Tropics

We ran this benchmarking tool at 1440x900 resolution configuring all image qualities set to their lowest values. Although this program supports DirectX 10 rendering, for some reason this option didn’t work with us, so we used this program to benchmark DirectX 9.0c performance. The results below are in frames per second (FPS).

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard

The integrated graphics engine from AMD 880G achieved a very low performance, as you can see. Here AMD 785G was 57% faster (but don’t get excited – at 13.7 frames per second you won’t be able to play your games) and AMD 890GX was 114% faster. A low-end Radeon HD 3450 was 6% faster.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmarked the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game under 1440x900 with no anti-aliasing and bilinear filtering, i.e., using the lowest image quality possible. The results, given in frames per second, you see below. This game was included to see how the on-board video from the selected motherboards would perform with an older game being run.

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard

Here AMD 880G was 10% faster than AMD 785G, but AMD 890GX was 25% faster. A low-end Radeon HD 3450 was 5% faster.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is based on the same engine used by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it is a DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0) game. We configured the game with “low” image quality settings at 1440x900. To measure performance, we used the FRAPS utility running an outdoor scene at God mode, running through enemy fire, triggering post processing effects, and ending with a big explosion in front of Dupont Circle. The results below are in frames per second (FPS).

Foxconn A88GM Deluxe Motherboard

On this game AMD 880G was 6% faster than AMD 785G, but AMD 890GX was 27% faster. A low-end Radeon HD 3450 was 24% faster.

Conclusions

Let’s first talk about the chipset. Although AMD 880G isn’t faster than low-end add-on video cards, it is a little bit faster than AMD 785G chipset. This is good.

Regarding Foxconn A88GM Deluxe, it has some advantages and some disadvantages over competing products. Its biggest advantage is the use of SB850 south bridge chip instead of the default SB710, making this motherboard to natively support SATA-600 ports (and you also get the possibility of using RAID 5). The use of only solid capacitors was also a very nice decision.

As disadvantages this motherboard doesn’t come with USB 3.0 ports, FireWire ports and core unlocking tool, a feature that is becoming almost standard on motherboards targeted to AMD CPUs.

The absence of these features is completely compensated by the price of this motherboard. At USD 85 it is one of the most inexpensive AMD 880G-based motherboards on the market today. Only ASROCK offers an 880G model that is cheaper than A88GM Deluxe (880GM-LE at USD 75), but this competitor comes with only two memory sockets and uses SB710 south bridge. AMD 880G-based motherboards at the same price range use the SB710 south bridge chip, putting Foxconn A88GM Deluxe as an excellent option if you are looking for a motherboard with integrated video for your AMD processor and has up to USD 85 to spend.

If you want to save, however, you can buy a AMD 785G-based motherboard for USD 20 less – in fact we don’t think USD 20 justifies the performance difference between AMD 785G- and AMD 880G-based motherboards. But in this case you won’t get SATA-600 ports (as you won’t get this feature if you pick an AMD 880G-based motherboard using the SB710 chip, of course).

If you want a USB 3.0 port then you will have to choose another product (ASRock 880GXH/USB3 costs the same and comes with one USB 3.0 port but no SATA-600 ports).

All options provided, the final decision is yours.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Foxconn-A88GM-Deluxe-Motherboard-Review/1014


© 2004-13, Hardware Secrets, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Total or partial reproduction of the contents of this site, as well as that of the texts available for downloading, be this in the electronic media, in print, or any other form of distribution, is expressly forbidden. Those who do not comply with these copyright laws will be indicted and punished according to the International Copyrights Law.

We do not take responsibility for material damage of any kind caused by the use of information contained in Hardware Secrets.