Foxconn A7DA-S 790GX Reviewajmatson -
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As I mentioned before, the AMD 790GX platform uses an integrated graphics processing unit based off of the HD 3300 core and a new SB 750 Southbridge. It also incorporates new onboard memory to increase the integrated GPU's performance. The Foxconn A&DA-S takes all of this on a full ATX size board, giving you all of the technology that you need in a performance board. For the design, Foxconn used a dark blue PC board with a contrasting color scheme that says it is more than an ordinary off-the-shelf board but easy on the eyes as well. Perfect for showing off the innards of your system without screaming overkill. The back of the A7DA-S has a small copper retention bracket that attaches to the back of the Northbridge heatsink. This supports the heatsink as well as add more cooling surface area. Above that is the CPU heatsink retention bracket backplate used on AMD motherboards to distribute the weight of the CPU heatsink and prevent damage to the board.
Turning the A7DA-S to the back panel you can see the connections that Foxconn has made available to its users. Right off the bat I noticed that Foxconn has opted to keep the legacy PS/2 ports for users with older keyboards and mice. This also helps those of us who use KVM switches with the legacy ports from being forced to upgrade. Down from there are the DVI, VGA, and HDMI connections for any type of monitor or TV you might want to hook your system up to. It is nice to have the ports onboard without having to find or purchase additional adapters. There are also a Firewire port, four USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit LAN port, and the audio input/outputs which support 7.1 channel HD audio via the Realtek ALC888GR codec. There is no eSATA and only four USB 2.0 ports on the back panel, but these are supplied via headers on the board for more expansion which we will see below.
The CPU area, although having a lot of components surrounding it, is very well laid out and you should have no problem with any parts interfering with each other. The A7DA-S uses a 4+1 phase power design which is enough to keep the system stable while limiting power consumption overkill. It might post a problem for overclocking, which we will see in the testing section. There are four DIMM slots which support up to 8GB maximum of memory at up to 1066MHz. The color slots are the different channels.
Foxconn provides the right number of expansion slots for your needs. There are two PCI Express x16 slots, which run at x16 in single mode and x8/x8 in CrossFire mode, two PCI Express x1 slots for future expansion, and two legacy PCI slots for older expansion cards. This board also supports Hybrid CrossFireX, which runs the onboard video in conjunction with certain supported discrete cards for increased performance.
The Foxconn A7DA-S is not shy on the headers supplied for your needs. This board has everything you may want and then some. Starting from the left side of the board there is the CD-IN header, the front panel audio headers, an SPDIF out header, a Firewire header, a system fan header, four USB 2.0 headers, a power and reset button, and the case front panel headers. Sliding up the right spine of the board are six SATA 3.0Gbs ports, a COM port, and the IDE and floppy ports.
The Foxconn A7DA-S uses an all copper cooling design for the heatsinks. There is one fin style heatsink on the Northbridge that is connected by copper heatpipes to another fin type heatsink that covers the voltage regulators to keep both of the critical areas as cool as possible. There is also a small pin-fin style copper heatsink on the Southbridge for added cooling.
Now for the components that makes this board stand out from the rest. The AMD 790GX chipset has a big secret up its sleeve. This secret is Sideport Memory. Sideport Memory is a dedicated memory chip on the motherboard that acts as a buffer for the integrated graphics. This allows you to use this faster buffer for graphics before having to take away system memory, which is slower. The Sideport Memory on the Foxconn A7DA-S is a 128MB chip that runs at DDR3 1333MHz.
Now let's get everything plugged in and boot her up.