A few things first stand out when looking at the Foxconn P45 ELA motherboard. The rotation of the CPU socket and northbridge by 90 degrees caused me to do a double-take. The color scheme also leaped out at me. It’s quite bright and almost garish. The use of a simple heatsink solution was a huge plus — no rollercoasters here.
The CPU socket is rather clean due to the use of an 8-phase digital PWM. Digital PWM hasn’t been too big of a hit with most manufacturers but Foxconn has launched a few boards with it such as the x48 BlackOps. The north-bridge heatsink could be a bit close for some large tower heatsinks. A test fit with my Scythe Ninja and the QX9650 heatsink both fit but the Ninja’s heatpipes were very close to the northbridge. For those of you interested, the PLL for the CPU is an ICS 9LPRS919HKL.
The DIMM slots are powered by a single-phase analog PWM circuit which is more than sufficient for DDR2. Since this board isn’t actively targeting the overclocking demographic this is more than sufficient. In this area they’ve placed the 24 pin ATX connector, the 8 pin 12v connector, and the CMOS battery. This location for the battery beats most other designs where the battery is often underneath a video card or other expansion card.
The area around the southbridge is quite busy. The ICH10R southbridge has a small finned heatsink. However, it’s covered with a large plastic logo, which is not the best design for adequate airflow. A JMicron JMB363 controller provides the PATA port and 2 eSATA ports on the board. The Fox One IC provides advanced software based overclocking support and information. The CMOS clear switch is located just above the area used by the 2nd PCIe card, with a full-length card in there it’s still possible to remove the jumper. There’s a POST diagnostic LED located in the bottom corner next to the power, reset, and clear cmos buttons. There are three internal USB connectors and a FireWire connector with the necessary cables to connect them.
The expansion slots have a PCIe switch that provides 8x connectivity to all three PCIe slots for adequate bandwidth in Tri-Fire. The slot spacing makes it possible to enable Tri-Fire with two-slot cards; however, you’d be limited to one PCIe 1x expansion slot for extra cards. For most normal configurations, though, there are plenty of slots available for expansion. A VIA VT6306 IC provides the three available FireWire ports. One of the important ICs on the board, the RealTek ALC888SDD, provides both DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live and drives the 6 audio jacks and the optical/coaxial audio connectors. One of the features of this board is the ability to output two sound sources so you can playback a movie in one room and listen to music in another room on the same PC.
The backplate has a slew of connectivity options available to you. The legacy PS/2 mouse port is still hanging in there with six USB 2.0 ports. The two eSATA ports and the FireWire port provide plenty of high-speed access while the coaxial, optical and 6 audio jacks enable many different audio outputs. A single gigabit Ethernet port is powered by a RealTek RTL8111C controller.