Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction Foxconn logo

Leonardo da Vinci's perfectly proportioned manThe term Renaissance comes from the French Renaissance, meaning "rebirth". Typically, the Renaissance period, although a generalisation on behalf of the writer, was a period that encompassed a revival of learning based on classical sources and gradual but widespread educational reform. Traditionally, this intellectual transformation has resulted in the Renaissance being viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Although the Renaissance saw revolutions in many intellectual pursuits, as well as social and political upheaval, it is perhaps best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

So how does the Renaissance period relate to a motherboard based upon Intel's latest Nehalem architecture and X58 Express Chipset, I here you ask? Well not a hell of a lot really! Nehalem is the codename for an Intel processor microarchitecture and subsequent successor to the Core microarchitecture. Manufactured on a 45nm process similar to Penryn, Nehalem sees a number of changes to processor architecture: an integrated memory controller supporting two or three memory channels; point-to-point processor interconnect, the Intel QuickPath Interconnect which replaces the legacy front side bus; the reintroduction of Hyper Threading, and second-level branch prediction and second-level Translation Lookaside Buffer to name a few.

Nehalem could almost be considered the rebirth of the Intel processor as we know it, and a motherboard designed to maximise upon the processor's performance is a necessity. Let's face facts - Nehalem is where it's at if you use multi-threaded applications or are looking for the ultimate multimedia platform. Admittedly, gaming performance is also very good but CPU performance has only a moderate impact on gaming. Let's see what Foxconn has to say about their Foxconn Renaissance motherboard:

Foxconn'Digital life aims to delivery high performance computing, connectivity and digital entertainment.With more options for accessing and managing other devices, enhanced reliability features and new PC multimedia technologies, Renaissance is the ideal choice for a digital lifestyle. This motherboard is based on the Intel® X58chipset - providing ultimate performance for today's desktop computers. The X58 supports the latest industry technologies - Intel® Bloomfield series processors, and DDR3 1600MHz(via overclocking) memory. 100% SOLID Capacitor design, Ferrite Choke power delivery and Cool Pipe design help to maximize performance and increase reliability.and provides digital audio outputs via S/PDIF OUT and Harp Audio Card. Supports DTS CONNECTTM and Dolby Digital LiveTM certigication,guarantees the highest quality fidelity for games and movies.

In recent times we have had the oppotunity to look at Foxconn's Digital Life motherboards (A79A-S and ELA P45 respectively), and admittedly while they provided perfectly acceptable performance, they were let down by slightly disjointed/flakey BIOS and extraordinary pricing. Judging by the specifications of the Foxconn Renaissance Digital Life below, this motherboard should hopefully turn the tables in Foxconn's favour this time around.


Specifications

The specifications for the Foxconn Renaissance were unashamedly copied from Foxconn's product page.

Foxconn Renaissance specification list

Let's head over the page to see how the Foxconn Renaissance Digital Life motherboard should arrive at your place...


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging

The Foxconn Renaissance is packaged in a bold and highly visible cardboard box with a predominantly black and orange theme. On the front of the box is an image of multimedia devices spinning around the Digital Life logo. On the rear of the box, Foxconn has included a rundown of the prominant features of the motherboard.

Foxconn Renaissance front of box Foxconn Renaissance rear of box
Foxconn Renaissance cover insert Foxconn Renaissance cover insert_2

Foxconn appears to be taking a leaf out of ASUS' book when it comes to packaging. On the top of the box is a secondary lid that when opened reveals an image of the motherboard itself and additional information about the Foxconn Renaissance's features.
 
Foxconn Renaissance secondary packaging Foxconn Renaissance secondary packaging with motherboard and contents

Opening up the box we can see the usual double-walled cardboard box that houses both the motherboard and the included bundle. This method of packaging hardware is proven, and subsequently, should provide maximum protection for the motherboard contained within.

Opening up the secondary box we can see the Foxconn Renaissance motherboard securely situated on top in an anti-static bag. Underneath the motherboard is a secondary box that houses the motherboard bundle.

Contents

Opening up the bundle box we were greeted by a mass of SATA and Molex-to-SATA power cables. You would be excused for thinking that Foxconn had a special on them at the moment. As well as the cabling, Foxconn has included a standard array of bits and bobs in the bundle, I have made a list of them for you below:
 
* OEM I/O backplate
* 4x SATA cables
* 6x 4-pin Molex to SATA power cables
* 2x SAS SATA/Power cables
* 1x IDE cable
* Support CD
* Motherboard manual
* Specification summary
* Qualified Memory Vendors list
 
Foxconn Renaissance included cabling Foxconn Renaissance user manual, quick start guide, driver CD and memory vendor list
Foxconn Renaissance Harp audio module Foxconn Renaissance audio module_2

Also included with the motherboard bundle is a Foxconn Harp audio module which promises analogue 7.1 channel audio.

Let's head over the page to have a look at the Foxconn Renaissance motherboard in greater detail...


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 3
A Closer Look

Upon first impressions, the Foxconn Renaissance demands your attention. The black and orange theme has been continued on from the packaging that we saw on the previous page and gives the motherboard a sleek and professional appearance. This is a major departure from the A79A-S and ELA P45's mismatch of colours. Personally I don't think a black PCB can be beaten for 'coolness'.  One glance at the Renaissance, and you would be drawn to its peculiar-looking northbridge cooler that looks like a speaker, but it is purely cosmetic, as with the southbridge cooler that looks like a rotary knob from a hi-fi system, from an angle. These are just to make the motherboard aesthetically blend with the Digital Life branding.

Foxconn Renaissance_1 Foxconn Renaissance_2
 Foxconn Renaissance rear of motherboard

Beginning our tour around the motherboard at the expansion card slots, we can see that Foxconn has included two PCIe x16 (orange), two PCIe x8 (black);one PCI x1, and one PCIe slot respectively. The Foxconn Renaissance supports CrossFireX ( 2x16 or 4 x 8) and 3-way SLI. To the left of the expansion slots is a RealTek ALC888SDD, which provides both DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live and drives the 6 audio jacks and the optical/coaxial audio connectors.

Continuing on along the bottom edge of the motherboard we have: 1x IEEE 1394 connector; 2x front USB; speaker connector;  2x Serial Attached SCSI connectors; front panel and Power/Reset buttons.IEEE 1394 support is provided by a Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip which is visible to the left of the second orange PCIe x16 expansion slot. The SCSI connectors are controlled by a Marvel 88SE6320-TFJ2 chip and it can be found immediately above, and to the left, of the orange SCSI connectors.
 
Foxconn Renaissance PCI-E slot area Foxconn Renaissance SB and motherboards connectors

In the bottom right hand corner of the motherboard we have the digital de-bug LED's; 6x right angled SATA ports and the IDE port. The SATA ports are controlled via the ICH10 chipset and a JMicron JMB363 Host Controller which can be seen behind the IDE plug. Also present here are an onboard speaker; AMIBIOS flash ROM; Fox One chip (monitors critical motherboard components) and CLR_CMOS button.

Moving up the right hand side of the motherboard we have the 24-pin ATX Power connector and six DDR3 DIMM slots. The DIMM slots are are able to accommodate 24GB of DDR3 system memory. Moving around to the CPU socket area we can see it remains relatively uncluttered with the exception of a number of low-profile solid capacitors and chokes to the left hand side of the socket. We can see the ATX 12V power connector sitting at the end of the Digital Life PWM heatsink
 
Foxconn Renaissance memory DIMMs Foxconn Renaissance CPU socket, VRM cooler and NB
Foxconn peaker NB CPU socket area showing available room for heatsinks

I thought it would be prudent to include a few images of the Foxconn Renaissance's Northbridge heatsink considering its slightly unusual shape. You will notice just how close the stock Intel CPU cooler comes to touching the Northbridge heatsink. The height of the Northbridge heatsink needs to be taken into consideration if you're looking at mounting an aftermarket CPU cooler on this motherboard.
 
Foxconn Renaissance rear I/O

The rear I/O panel features a plethora of connectivity options. A legacy PS/2 mouse port is there along with eight 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 (courtesy of the daughter card) enable many different audio outputs. The somewhat surprising single gigabit Ethernet port is powered by a Jmicron363 controller.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 4
BIOS

The Foxconn Renaissance uses an American Megatrends BIOS. Most of these screens will look very familiar, and as a result I will be concentrating purely on the tweaking/tuning/overclocking settings in order to save time as I'm sure many of you are already familiar with the other pages. The overclocking settings are contained with the Fox Central Control Unit section which is where we shall start our tour.

Foxconn Renaissance splash screen Foxconn Renaissance Main screen
Fox Central Unit config CPU configuration

Upon entering the Fox Central Control Unit section of the BIOS we are greeted with CPU Configuration, Memory Timing Config, All Voltage Control, QPI Frequency, and CPU Frequency. Under the CPU Configuration tab we can see the obligatory CPU Ratio ; Hardware Prefetcher; Adjacent Cache Line Prefetch; Limit CPUID; Virtualisation  Technology; Execute Disable Bit and Intel Hyperthreading Function settings.

Memory Timing Config Uncore Frequency

DRAM Frequency
 
Moving on to the Memory Timing Configuration tab we are greeted by a very standard set of memory timing configurations. You have the option to set the memory timing mode to Auto or Manual, but seeing as this is OC3D we chose the latter :D. Uncore Frequency can be set to Auto, but the manual configuration allows for 1333Mhz through to 4000Mhz, as does the DRAM Frequency.

All Votage Control

CPU voltage CPU VTT voltage options

Memort Voltage NB Voltage

Under the All Voltage Control tab we have voltage configuration options for CPU, VTT, Memory and the Northbridge. For CPU and VTT voltage options you basically pick an option from the voltage stepping drop-down list. Foxconn has also provided current voltage/target voltage screen below the drop-down list which makes the method a little more functional and accurate. Memory voltage can be increased to a maximum of 2.794 volts and Northbridge voltage to a maximum of 1.936 volts.

PC Health_1 PC Health_2

The Foxconn Renaissance has a really comprehensive PC Health tab where all current voltages are displayed and temperature thresholds and fan settings are able to be adjusted accordingly. Nice touch Foxconn.

Let's head over the page to see how we're going to test the Foxconn Renaissance...


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 5
Test Setup and Overclocking

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:

Processor: Intel Core i7 920 (2.66Ghz) and overclocked to 3.75Ghz

Motherboard: Foxconn Renaissance Digital Life Motherboard

Memory: 3GB Corsair Dominator @ 9-9-9-24 1866Mhz

Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 4870 512mb

Power Supply: Silverstone Strider

CPU Cooling: Stock Intel Cooling

Hard Disk: Hitachi Deskstar 7K160 7200rpm 80GB

Graphics Drivers: ATI Catalyst 8.12

Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1

During the testing of the setup above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:


Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• Lavalys Everest 4.6
• Super Pi 1m, 8m and 32m

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra 2009

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06

3D Games
• Crysis
• Company of Heroes
• ET:Quake wars

You may notice that 3DMark Vantage results were omitted from the benchmarks above. This is because 3DMark Vantage refused to run past the second test without crashing to the desktop with an id3d10device::createpixelshader failed error. A subsequent reinstall of the OS, drivers and patches failed to produce a clean run. My apologies for the lack of Vantage results.

Overclocking

Overclocking on the Foxconn Renaissance was quite an enjoyable experience. Although the Foxconn Renaissance isn't able to match it with the fully fledged overclocking motherboards from the likes of Gigabyte, ASUS and DFI, it did provide a respectable overclock and increase in performance over stock settings. While I was able to happily boot into Windows Vista at 3.85Ghz, the most stable overclock that I was able to maintain 24/7 was 3.75Ghz.

Core i7 920 overclock Core i7 memory



Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 6
Super Pi logo

SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. Once again, testing was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.

Super Pi 1M
 
Super Pi 8M
 
Super Pi 32M

Sisoft SANDRA logo

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.

Sandra CPU Arithmatic
 
Sandra CPU Multimedia

Sandra Memory Bandwidth

Sandra Memory Latency

Everest logo

Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.

Everest Read and write

Everest Latency

Results Observations

When it comes down to CPU performance of the Foxconn Renaissance, our Super Pi benchmark demonstrates the additional performance obtained by overclocking the processor. The Sisoft Sandra CPU Arithmatic and Multimedia benchmarks further reinforce this. The overclocked memory read/write performance has also significantly increased over the stock settings and the memory bandwidth test also shows improved performance.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 7
ViMark logo


ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.

ViMark windows media
 
ViMark Quicktime
 
ViMark GIF

7-Zip logo


7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.

7-Zip compression and decompression

Results Observations

Again, encoding performance has significantly increased over stock settings in both of our ViMark and 7-Zip benchmarks.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 8
HD Tach logo



HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.

HDTach Burst Speed
 
HDTach avg. read speed
 
HDTach random access
 
HDTach CPU Utilisation
 
SiSoftware logo



SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.

Sandra Disk Read Index
 
Sandra Random Access

Results Observations

Our HDTach benchmark results show a closer result between the stock and overclocked Foxconn Renaissance. Once again Sisoft Sandra reinforces our findings with the exception of the Random Access benchmark.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 9
Cinebench 10



Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.

Cinebench 10

3DMark 053DMark 06

3DMark 05
 
 
3DMark 06
 
Results Observations

Our Cinebench 10 bench mark once again illustrates the increased performance of the overclocked Foxconn Renaissance, with the Multi Core benchmark obviously showing the biggest gains. This trend continued further with the 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 synthetic tests.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 10
ET: Quake Wars



ET:Quake Wars is a follow-up game to Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory developed by Splash Technology. Using a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 engine along with Mega rendering technology, the game offers high resolution textures, fast gameplay and plenty of explosions.

ET:Quake Wars

Company of Heroes



Company of Heroes is Relic's first title to make use of the "Essence Engine". This engine was designed and coded from scratch by Relic in order to make use of special graphical effects, including high dynamic range lighting, dynamic lighting & shadows, advanced shader effects and normal mapping. On May 29, 2007 Relic released a DX10 patch for Company of Heroes which was applied for this test. Running the in game performance test 5 times, the highest and lowest scores were omitted with the average calculated from the remaining 3.

Company of Heroes

Crysis



Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.

Crysis

Results Observations

It's interesting to note the performance gains that we saw in the synthetic benchmarks on the previous page, however, when compared to real life 3D gaming benchmarks the performance isn't as substantial. Of the three benchmarked games, Company of Heroes saw the biggest gain to the tune of seven frames per second. ET: Quake Wars saw a two FPS increase and the taxing Crysis, around one FPS.


Foxconn Renaissance X58 Digital Life Motherboard Page: 11
Conclusion Foxconn Renaissance

So how well did the Foxconn Renaissance perform in today's review?

The Foxconn Renaissance is a well laid out motherboard with some excellent features. Foxconn should be commended for squeezing so much onto an ATX PCB. The move from the mismatched colour schemes of previous Digital Life motherboards to the sexy black and orange should also appeal to many. 

The re-worked American Megatrends BIOS is also a lot friendlier than past offerings from the Digital Life range - it's not perfect, but definitely a lot better. Admittedly, the motherboard is targeted towards the HTPC enthusiast and the BIOS configurations reflect that. The Foxconn Renaissance was never meant to be an overclocking behemoth. If you want one of those then check out the Foxconn Bloodrage.

One area that Foxconn always seems to fall down in is the asking price for their motherboards.  With the Foxconn Renaissance having a bundle extremely similar to the other two Digital Life motherboards, I can't help but feel that they could offer a little more for the money. If Foxconn were to include a licensed copy of 3DMark Vantage or a recent popular game, then the bundle would be considerably more appealing. However, that being said, the Foxconn Renaissance doesn't come in as the most expensive X58-based motherboard as I thought it may have done. Our UK readers can get their hands on the Foxconn Renaissance from Ebuyer for the sum of £249.99 inc vat.

The Good
+ Performance
+ Quality
+ Reasonable overclocking
+ Better BIOS than past Digital Life offerings

The Mediocre
* Bundle still lacking
* Price still a little too high

The Bad
- Nothing to report

OC3D Recommended award

Thanks to Altech Computers for providing the Foxconn Renaissance sample

Discuss this review in our forum