Board Layout and Features
The first glance at the Foxconn MARS yields a positive impression. The copper cooling setup is very well designed, blowing air off of the Northbridge and away from the board. The CPU socket area is devoid of any obstructions. Unless your heatsink is extremely wide, it shouldn’t come in contact with the rather tall Northbridge cooler. The 8-pin power connector is at the extreme top edge of the board, which wouldn’t be a favorable situation for cases with bottom PSU mounting. Foxconn decided not to cool the 6 PWM, but that can be done by the user if needed. The expansion slot area is well laid out with two slots in between each PCI Express Graphics (PEG) slots for the AMD’s large two slot video cards. You can see that the entire board is composed entirely of solid capacitors. This one of the Foxconn’s most stressed points. Value-priced boards that Foxconn is accustomed to making usually are made with solid capacitors solely around the CPU socket area. This is why many boards in OEM machines fail within a few years. Solid capacitors have much improved reliability, and efficiency (read: stability, overclockability) over standard capacitors.
The Foxconn MARS motherboard doesn’t have too many controllers onboard; however it has some of everything. The Texas Instruments Firewire (1394a) controller handles two ports, one on the motherboard in the form of a 9 pin header, and one 6 pin port on the rear panel. The Realtek ALC888 controller provides 8-channel HD Azalia audio. The Realtek 8111B controller provides the single Gigabit Ethernet port on the rear panel. The JMicro SATA controller controls the rear panel eSATA port. Finally, the Foxconn MARS’ Phoenix BIOS is located just below the first PEG slot. We’ll go into detail with that later on.
The Foxconn MARS’ bottom corner has every imaginable feature, yet is surprisingly clean. There are six SATA2 ports, and three USB 2.0 headers in addition to the six ports on the rear panel. Foxconn color coded the front panel button connectors and included 3 onboard buttons: power, reset, and clear CMOS. This is a great asset for testing the setup on an open test bench like we did. Usually, if a board doesn’t have those connectors, we are forced to short the two pins with a screwdriver, which is more of a nuisance than anything. We always recommend trying a new build outside of a case anyway, so in case some parts don’t work, you won’t waste valuable time installing and managing your cards and cables.
The area around the memory slots is nothing special; there are four 240pin DDR2 slots divided and color coded into two channels. There is a single IDE connector, a floppy connector, and a 24-pin power connector surrounded by an array of all solid capacitors.
The Foxconn MARS’ rear panel leaves a bit to be desired. There are six USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire port, an Ethernet port, jacks for 8 channel audio, one eSATA port, digital outs, and finally PS/2 ports. There is still a lot of space for extra ports. Foxconn could have easily added another Gigabit Ethernet jack, like the rest of the high end motherboards. There is also room to stack an extra eSATA port, or even a serial port. There’s room, so why not maximize the possibilities? This is a very minor issue, and most users will have no issues with the number of ports that the MARS board currently provides.