May 23rd was a pretty busy day in the industry, with both AMD and NVIDIA choosing to announce new products. AMD announced its new line of Socket AM2 processors, supporting DDR2 memory and NVIDIA saw the launch of AMD's new processors as an ideal time to introduce its nForce 500-series chipset.
We previewed the technology behind the nForce 500-series, but due to the amount of time it takes to complete our motherboard reviewing process, we delayed our review of the motherboard that NVIDIA sent to us. Foxconn was at the top of NVIDIA's pile when it came to sampling with an implementation of NVIDIA's flagship nForce 590 SLI chipset because Foxconn was so happy with NVIDIA's own reference design that it decided to realise the reference design and bring it to market.
Foxconn is a company that you would not normally associate with high performance enthusiast motherboards, but the giant is looking to get in with the enthusiast crowd in a big way. Indeed, it worked closely with NVIDIA in order to bring the reference design to market. We don't expect this to be the first and last time that the pair combine resources.
As we're sure you know, AMD integrates its memory controller into the CPU die, allowing for flexibility when it comes to chipset adoption. There was no real need for NVIDIA to launch nForce 500-series, to allow its partners to make AM2-based motherboards, but the platform giant decided that it was a good time to re-establish its lead in the AMD-based chipset market.
Indeed, many motherboard manufacturers were displaying Socket AM2 motherboards based on NVIDIA's older nForce 4 core logic at this year's Computex trade show, proving that it is possible to combine nForce 4 and Socket AM2. ATI also announced its CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset for Socket AM2 processors and we are expecting retail motherboards based on the chipset in the very near future. For now though, lets focus on Foxconn and NVIDIA's joint nForce 590 SLI venture and find out if its any good or not...
Support for all Socket AM2 AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2 and Sempron processors with Cool 'n' Quiet technology;
Four DDR2 memory slots supporting up to 8GB of DDR2-800 memory;
NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP;
Dual Physical Layer Gigabit Ethernet;
Two full-bandwidth PCI-Express x16 slots with SLI support, one PCI-Express x1 slot, one PCI-Express x4 slot and two PCI expansion slots;
7.1 channel Realtek ALC882D high definition audio with jack sensing and optical S/PDIF Out;
Six SATA 3Gbps ports controlled by NVIDIA's SATA RAID controller, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD;
Support for ten USB 2.0 ports (six on back I/O panel and four via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
Two IEEE1394a Firewire ports and one IEEE1394b Firewire port;
One ATA133 connector;
One floppy connector.
Six 90-degree SATA cables;
One rounded ATA133 cable;
One rounded floppy cable;
Three molex-to-SATA power adapter cables;
One Serial port, four additional USB 2.0 ports and two IEEE1394a Firewire ports (on expansion brackets);
Manual, Quick Install Guide and Driver/Utility CD.
The bundle included with the Foxconn C51XEM2AA motherboard is pretty much right on the mark - there are no areas where Foxconn appear to have fallen short of expectations and there is pretty much everything that you included that you are likely to need when using the motherboard. Foxconn's manual is pretty comprehensive and full of useful information. There is also a useful quick install guide to help when installing the motherboard.
The driver CD includes a soft copy of the motherboard manual, along with chipset drivers, nTune 5.0, MediaShield, an NVIDIA RAID Floppy Creation application and NVIDIA Network Access Manager. We guess that one thing that could have been included in the software suite would be a floppy disk containing the NVIDIA RAID drivers. Aside from that, there are no shortcomings in Foxconn's C51XEM2AA bundle.