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Posted by Parth Barot on July 18, 2006

nVidia’s releases of the nForce 590 SLI chipset and reference designs have been implemented one way or the other by a number of manufacturers – each of which has added a little bit of his or her own secret sauce to make things more comfoming to the rest of the product line-up, shave off a few pennies here and there or simply “because”. There is, however, Foxconn, who manufactured the original , nVidia-internal reference boards. Reference boards have in the past always stomped the final production versions – in terms of performance and reliability and, often enough, also in terms of overall compatibility. Reason enough to greet reference boards with a bit of skepticism. However, in this case, we have a one-to-one conversion of a reference design into a GTO production – with an unspeakable name, produced by Foxconn and sold at a perfectly acceptable price.

Enter the C51 (as we call it), the way nVidia was meant to be built!

Probably the hottest newcomer in the motherboard scene is Foxconn. Rising up from a pure OEM supplier into the retail business, Foxconn has taken quantum leaps in terms of technology and also in terms of establishing their brand recognition as a first tier manufacturer. Only a few months ago, the logical choices for anybody looking for quality enthusiast boards were pretty much limited to ASUS, DFI and maybe ABIT, pretty much everybody else had found their own niches somewhere else.

The first steps taken by Foxconn were still a bit homey, quality boards, yet lacking most of the features that the overclocker community is interested in like BIOS tweaks of voltages and performance parameters such as timing and frequency settings. A lot of this changed with the first foray into a real high-end domain with the Winfast NFPIK8AA, a true enthusiast board with about any feature that one could possibly hope for.

Nothing comes from nothing but it also goes the other way around, meaning that persistence usually pays off. The track record of deliverance of quality, along with the engineering capabilities at Foxconn were certainly among the decisive features that led to the choice of Foxconn by nVidia for the launch of the nForce5 chipset and the AM2 platform. In short, what Foxconn did was taking the nVidia reference design and running it as a true production board. The twist here is that whenever we reviewed reference designs, they were faster than most of the production boards that followed, courtesy of better components and lower tolerances that allowed more aggressive settings. Essentially what it comes down to in a case like this is that there is a pure-bred board in mass production, something that does not happen every day.

And finally, there is the name: C51XEM2AA is probably the sexiest acronym we have seen in a long while – despite the fact that it is impossible to pronounce it without twisting the tongue.

In most cases we have looked, there is little difference between boards on the same platform, as long as the same chipset is used and even in cases where the same CPU is plugged into different chipsets, the performance differences are often just marginal. In the case of the C51XEM2AA, however, it appears as if we were in for a surprise…

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