Foxconn Destroyer nForce 780a Review

ajmatson - 2008-09-13 18:50:04 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: November 11, 2008
Price: $204.99

Introduction:

With the boom of chipsets for the AMD processor platform many features are available for you unlike before. In the past you were limited on what you could run but now you have many options that will get you the most powerful system you desire. NVIDIA keeping up with the times launched a new SLI chipset for the AMD processors aimed taking the user base by storm. This new chipset is the GeForce 780a which also brings the new Hybrid SLI technology to the table with integrated video and the ability to run a Multi-GPU system.

Enter the Foxconn Destroyer. The Destroyer is built around the NVIDIA GeForce 780a SLI chipset for maximum gaming speed. Foxconn takes everything gamers could want or need and packs it into a great package that will get anyone with an AMD AM2/AM2+ processor drooling for one.

 

Closer Look:

The Foxconn Destroyer comes enclosed in a very large box. This is probably the largest motherboard package I have ever received which gets me drooling to see what is inside. The front side of the box has the logo that Foxconn has designated for the motherboard which is a "Destroyer" ship with the logo. On the back side Foxconn has highlighted some of the features such as the Hybrid SLI. If you take the front of the package and flip it up there is an inner section also. Inside here you have a picture of the motherboard and has cutouts so that you can get a glimpse of special parts of the Destroyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling out the inner case you can see that this board is packed with a lot of goodies. This has to be the most extensive bundle I have received with a motherboard and the accessories are a great variety. Foxconn includes everything you could possibly need when building your system and then some. The accessories are included in two boxes seated under the motherboard. Inside are six SATA cables, an IDE cable, a Floppy cable, the IO shield plate, an optical audio bracket, a USB/Firewire bracket, three different SLI bridges which depend on setup, motherboard standoffs, six Foxconn case badges, a set of dogtags with the board series number, a 120mm fan and graphics card adapter, the Northbridge heatsink pipe, the driver CD, and the manuals.

 

 

 

One accessory I would like to show you is the motherboard tray that is included with the Destroyer. This allows you to set up your system without putting it in a case for benchmarking or testing. Just screw in the standoffs and place the motherboard on top to secure it into place. This accessory is a plus because if there is a problem it is easy to get to and fix.

 

 

Now that everything is out of the box let's take a closer look at the board itself.

Closer Look:

As with the majority of motherboards Foxconn produces, this board looks very good with its color scheme and layout. Perfect for anyone with a window on their case wanting to show off their hard work. The front of the board is very spacious and laid out so that you can find everything very easily. The back of the board has an aluminum heat sink support bracket which supports the board from cracking when a heatsink is installed. There are also copper support brackets which attach to the heat sinks on the boards chipsets and voltage regulators to support them and also transfer more heat away from the critical parts of the motherboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back panel of the Foxconn Destroyer is well featured just like the board itself. There are enough connections for any system users' needs. Starting from the top there is a lone PS/2 port for legacy devices, six USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, a DVI port, a Firewire port, two eSATA ports, two Gigabit LAN port, and the analog audio ports. There is no HDMI or adapters included unfortunately.

 

 

The expansion slots on the Foxconn Destroyer allow you to add multiple video cards for a true multi-GPU system. The top red slot is the default slot for a single card configuration and will operate at x16 speeds with one card inserted. To enable two-way SLI the cards must be inserted into both of the red slots and each one will run at x16 speeds. In a three-way SLI combination both red slots and one of the blue slots will be populated. The speeds will be x16/x8/x8 respectively. For those true hardcore gamers four cards can be added for a four-way SLI system and each slot will run at x8 speeds. Remember these slots are PCI Express Gen 2.0 so the bandwidth is almost doubled from Gen 1.0 slots so the cut in bus lines will not make much of a difference. There is also one PCI Express x1 and one Legacy PCI slots included for expansion cards other that graphics.

 

Moving on down to the bottom of the board we get to the headers on the Destroyer motherboard. Foxconn has included everything from new device support to old school legacy device support for any of your needs. Starting from the bottom left there is the front panel audio header, a CD-IN header, a SPDIF header used for the optical bracket, a COM header, one Firewire header, three USB 2.0 headers supporting up to six more ports, the Front Panel headers, six SATA ports with two running in ACHI mode only, a speaker header, a floppy port and one IDE port. If you look closer by the front panel headers you will notice three different colored buttons. These are the power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons for easier operation when working inside the case and overclocking.

 

 

 

Moving on to the top of the board is the CPU area. There is a lot of room to work in and their should be no problems installing larger heatsinks for better cooling. This board supports AMD AM2 and AM2+ processors from the Sempron to the latest Phenom's. The board supports HyperTransport 3.0 with up to 5.2 GT/s. The Destroyer has four memory slots and can run up to 8GB of DDR2 memory with a max speed of 1066MHz.

 

 

The Destroyer uses a combination of heatsinks and heatpipes to provide the cooling and are all made from copper for better thermal transfer. The heatsink of the Northbridge is where the optional cooling extension gets installed to aid in airflow. The heatsinks are a fin design which allows air to pass over them and carry away heat efficiently.

 

 

Foxconn also added another item to aid in the cooling. There is an additional heatsink that can be attatched to the Northbridge heatsink to keep that chip cooler during intense operation. To install you remove the top of the stock heatsink and secure the optional heatsink with the four included screws. A thermal interface is included to achieve optimal conductivity. The downfall to using this heatsink is it interfere with IDE and floppy cables if you use them and airflow can be blocked making this attachment useless in a cramped case.

 

 

 

Now let's boot her up and take a look at the BIOS.

Closer Look:

The BIOS I feel is the most important part of any computer system. Here you can change the computers hardware and even fix problems that might arise if you know how to use it. I am going to take you through the BIOS of the Foxconn Destroyer motherboard so you get a view of the options available to you and where they are. I am going to be breaking them down in sections according to the BIOS home screen so it will be easy to navigate on your system if needed.

 

Main Screen & System Information:

When you first enter the BIOS you are presented with a main menu screen. This is where you will navigate to all of the other options as you go deeper in the BIOS menus and also where you will save and exit your changes to the BIOS. The System Information tab allows you to view the current system settings and change options like: the date and time, and drive configurations for the IDE, SATA, and optical drives.

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced BIOS & Advanced Chipset Features:

In the Advanced BIOS section you can change boot options such as drive boot priority, numlock status and disabling the full screen logo. In the Advanced Chipset Features section there are options to enable the Onboard GPU and Hybrid SLI. You can also set the Onboard video frame buffer from 64MB to 512MB in preset increments and whether or not it is always active or not.

 

 

 

Integrated Peripherals:

This section is where all of the options for the integrated peripherals are contained. Some of the options available are how the IDE and SATA devices are handled such as the SATA using ACHI mode for hot-swap abilities or in RAID configurations. This is also the first board I have seen that has a built in Linux ACHI option for better kernel support with Linux operating systems. You can also change Controller modes and turn on or off devices like the onboard firewire (1394) controller or onboard audio.

 

 

 

 

Power Management & PC Health Status:

These two sections give you the ability to control how the computer handles the power to it and the suspend and wake features as well as allow you to monitor the health of the system during operation. Some of the items you can monitor are the voltages, system speeds, temperatures and fan speeds. You can also set smart fan controls and maximum temperature settings incase things might fail.

 

 

 

Closer Look:

 

Quantum BIOS:

The overclocking section of the BIOS on the Foxconn Destroyer is called the Quantum BIOS. This is where all of the overclocking functions will be performed when not using the Windows based Aegis Panel. The Quantum BIOS is separated into small sections to make it easier to find what you need. I will not cover all of the options but I will go over ones of note for you. At the top of the menu is the CPU Feature option. In this sub menu you can turn on or off CPU features such as C1E support, AMD Cool & Quiet, and the CPU stepping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath the CPU Features are the Memory Timing Settings. I have seen some board with very limited memory timing options however Foxconn wants you to get the best out of your system so you have many options Since this in an NVIDIA based board there is an option to enable SLI-Ready memory as well as change everything from the base memory timings like the tCAS to more complete memory options for finer tuned control.

 

 

One thing that really pleased me about the Destroyer's Quantum BIOS is that all of the voltages are placed in one sub menu so you do not have to go searching all over the overclocking menu for each one. In this sub section you can change everything from the CPU voltage, memory voltage, HT voltage, and chipset voltages.

 

To store those overclocking settings without having to enter them each time or for different needs Foxconn has included a menu option called OC Gear. In the OC Gear there are several slots for you to store and recall settings for your different overclocked profiles.

 

 

All of the other overclocking functions are done from the main Quantum BIOS section. To enable these features (they are grayed out by default) you have to select the option for Manual O.C. in the Over Clock Phase Select menu. This will make the hidden options active and you can change them. BUS speeds are just keyed in to change them.

 

Now that we have the BIOS set up let's move on to installing the drivers.

Closer Look:

Foxconn always makes it very simple to install all of the software and drivers that they include with their motherboards. When the CD is inserted into the computer a menu system will pop up giving you access to what you need in groups. There are several tabs that lead you to what you need to install. The first tab is where you can select the drivers to install for the motherboard and the chipset drivers including the driver for Hybrid SLI. The second tab is the software tab and has programs such as Foxconn's Aegis panel for overclocking, Fox Live Update, Fox DMI, Fox Logo, and Norton Internet Security. The third tab is to Create RAID driver floppy disks for the JMICRON chip and are available for 32 and 64-bit systems. The fourth tab will bring you to Foxconn's website for any support issues you might have. The last tab lets you browse the CD to manually install any drivers or software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foxconn Aegis Panel:

The Aegis panel is designed to allow you to overclock your system and control your clock speeds and voltages all from within Windows for easy overclocking management on the go. There are three pop out windows on the Aegis panel where you make changes. The left panel is where you alter the system voltages for stability, the right panel shows the current voltages and the power output from the power supplie's rails, and the bottom panel is where you can adjust the CPU speed and the PCI Express bus speed. While playing with the Aegis panel I was able to successfully overclock the system to 2750MHz by upping the CPU voltage to 1.45v and adjusting the CPU Speed to 220MHz. Unfortunately the Aegis program does not allow you to adjust the multiplier on a processor for higher overclocks and anything over 220MHz the system would crash.

 

 

Fox DMI, Live Update, & Logo:

These programs allows you to change and update items on your system. The Fox DMI is an easy to use DMI viewer to view your system and hardware information. The Fox Live Update program makes it easy to find, download, and install the latest BIOS available for your board from the Foxconn servers, and finally the Fox Logo program allows you to make and use a custom boot up screen for your computer.

 

 

Now that everything is installed and configured let's get on to the testing phase.

Specifications:

 

CPU:
AMD Phenom™FX, Phenom™, Athlon™ 64x2, Athlon™ 64, Sempron™ processors, Socket AM2 and AM2+.
Chipset:
NVIDIA® nForce 780a SLI
Front Side Bus:
5.2 GT/s HyperTransport™
Memory:
Dual channel DDR2 1066/800/667/533 x 4 DIMMs, Max. 8GB
VGA on DIE:
Integrated
Expansion Slots:
4* PCIe2.0 x16, 1* PCIe2.0 x1, 1* PCI
IDE:
1* ATA133
Serial ATA(SATA)/RAID:
6* SATAII + 2* eSATA w / RAID 0, 1, 10, 5, JBOD
Audio:
7.1 channel HDA by Realtek® ALC885, rated at an impressive 100dB SNR
LANl:
Dual Gigabit LAN by Broadcom® BCM5786 and BCM5788
IEEE 1394:
IEEE1394
Back Panel I/O Ports:
1 x PS/2 keyboard port
1 x PS/2 mouse port
2 x eSATA ports
1 x IEEE1394a port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x Audio jack supports 6 jacks
6 x USB 2.0 ports
2 x RJ45 LAN ports
1 x VGA port
Internal I/O Connectors:
1 x ATX 24-Pin power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x 4-pin Smart CPU FAN connector
2 x 3-pin Smart System FAN connectors
2 x 3-pin Smart FAN connectors
3 x Onboard On/Off/CMOS reset buttons
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x CD-in connector
1 x Front Audio header
3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 ports
6 x Serial ATAII connector
1 x ATA133 IDE connector
1 x Onboard power_LED
1 x IEEE1394a header
1 x S/PDIF out header
1 x COM1 header
1 x IrDA header
1 x Speaker
BIOS Features:
8Mb flash EEPROM w/ LAN boot PnP, ACPI, WfM,
Support CD:
Drivers, Direct X Adobe Reader, SuperUtilities, Norton Internet Security
Standards/Manageability:
PCI 2.3, USB2.0, DMI 2.5
Special Features:
* Dual Channel DDR2 1066MHz support with AM2+ socket Phenom™ processors
* 3-way SLI™ capability
* 4* PCIe x16 Gen2.0 slots with 4-way graphics option
* Hybrid SLI™ technology with GeForce® Boost and HybridPower™
* Quantum BIOS for unrivalled fine-tuning and OC operation
* 7.1 channel HD audio with Low ESR capacitors for improved audio performance
* Twin BIOS enables easy re-flashing and guards against BIOS loss
Quantum Flow and Quantum Lap unique accessories
* 100% SOLID Capacitor design and Ferrite Choke power delivery ensure a stable basis for overclocking and increased reliability
Form Factor:
ATX (12" x 9.6")

 

 

Features:

 

Testing:

To put the Foxconn Destroyer to the wall I will be running a series of scientific and video benchmarks which will push this motherboard to its limits. I will then compare the Destroyer against other boards in its class including the Foxconn A7DA-S which is another 790GX based motherboard and the ASUS M3N78 Pro which is based on the latest GeForce 8300 chipset. To keep any variables from interfering with the scores and comparisons all of the boards will be run with the same hardware setup and everything will be set at their stock speeds, timings, and voltages unless noted as in the overclocking section.

 

Test Setup: 

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Although Foxconn provides the Aegis Panel overclocking utility the options with the utility are limited. For true overclocking you have to get down to the nitty gritty in the BIOS and make the changes you need. I have found in my trials when testing AMD hardware that you can either push the CPU speed or push the multiplier but when you push both you run into problems. For overclocking the Foxconn Destroyer I pushed the multiplier first in half increments until I became unstable. Then I backed off until I could boot and run with no problems. Next I pushed the CPU speed by one megahertz at a time until I hit a wall at 203MHz. This gave me a total speed of 3.250GHz (203x16) which is what the overclocking tests will be run at.

 

 

 

  

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SPECviewperf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. SiSoft Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. CineBench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

Testing:

First up are the system specific benchmarks that will test overall scientific performance.

 

To get things stated, I will begin with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files, as well as test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

 

RAR:

 

 

The 780a chipset started off the competition in the front of the pace with Winrar and Apophysis.

Testing:

SPECviewperf 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

Here the scores were very close for all boards.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

 

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

 

 

Memory Latency

 

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

 

File System

 

 

 

Physical Disks

 

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

While most of the scores were almost the same, some of the 780a's were better.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

 

Sciencemark the Destroyer fell behind but made it up in the Cinebench and HD Tune benchmarks.

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

The scores were pretty much the same all the way across.

 

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Here in the PT Boats test the 780a chipset just dominated.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out on the market, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The 780 performed quite well tying for top spot half of the time.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The scores were slightly behind but within negligible margins.

Testing:

World in Conflict is a  DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The 780a Destroyer was one of the top boards.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Again all of the boards are pretty close.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Destroyer started ahead but evened out as the resolutions grew.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 3dMark06 test the Foxconn Destroyer just took the top spot with no problems.

Conclusion:

The Foxconn Destroyer is one great board with a lot of features and a wealth of accessories that will make any system happy. Foxconn has included everything that a user would want for a top notch system and with the ability to run SLI in Hybrid or multi card modes makes for some long frag fest filled nights. Overall this is a very good and stable board with a good amount of headroom for overclocking. I was able to push the system to 3.250GHz which ran continuously for over 72 hours while benchmarking and idle. Not once did the system get too hot or crash during that time. Overclocking through the Quantum BIOS was a breeze and even a beginner overclocker should have no problem figuring out where everything is. The Aegis Panel while a great tool is limited for true overclocking but will serve a novice who is afraid of starting greatly with an easy to understand interface.

While the overclocked speeds were impressive the stock performance while still good was average when compared to the other boards in the lineup like the 790GX chipset which is priced at almost half of the 780a chipset. Unless you have a need for an NVIDIA based SLI chipset the price might discourage most mainstream users and cater more to the hardcore benchmarking enthusiast looking to run multiple GTX200 series cards for some ground breaking scores. Don't get me wrong this is a very solid board but the price seems too high for comparable performance. If you are wanting to run multiple NVIDIA based cards or want the benefits of Hybrid SLI I would seriously consider the Foxconn Destroyer motherboard for you will not be disappointed.
 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: