Once again we have a P965 based motherboard that performs equally with our other review units at stock levels. This is not necessarily a bad thing because with the base level performance basically being equal you can decide if features, price, quality, overclocking performance, or support will be the determining factor in your buying decision.
Our expectations of the Foxconn P9657AA-8KS2H varied over the course of testing as we did not anticipate much from a $100 P965 board at first. These expectations changed as we noticed the quality of the motherboard, its components, and general layout. Once we booted the board and updated to the latest BIOS our interest was piqued as maybe this motherboard would offer that perfect yet elusive price to performance ratio that we have been looking for during our P965 review process. We were at first disappointed with the overclocking capability of the board and then took a moment to recheck our original expectations of the board but more importantly ourselves.
Our original expectations of this board were centered on the stability and performance we would experience on a board that was selling for right under $100. We were also interested in the feature set and more importantly if Foxconn had designed a board that would live up to their marketing materials. Except for their recently released NVIDIA 590SLI motherboard which received a great deal of attention from NVIDIA's engineering group, their previous WinFast product lines were not the best enthusiast level boards.
This board is part of the CORE Series that promises leading technology products at affordable prices. Foxconn delivers on this point with the P9657AA-8KS2H motherboard. While not perfect, this board does exactly what it promises at a price that we find amazing for a board based on the Intel P965 chipset. The overall quality of the motherboard and its components are excellent while the feature set and layout is very good. We found the board was rock solid during several weeks of outright abuse in testing along with very good technical support from Foxconn.
We were originally disappointed with the overclocking performance and then realized we were expecting something from this board that was not promised by Foxconn in this series of product. We have grown accustomed to grading a board with the latest technology on its overclocking and pure performance aspects first and then looking at the features, stability, and other aspects of the board. We usually do this based upon how the motherboard is marketed but at times we also expect or demand premium performance at budget prices.
There have been just enough motherboards that have met these expectations to spoil us but they were usually a surprise and not an expectation. We have recently started to readjust our expectations to the point where features, quality, support, and overall platform stability are at the top of the list. Once those are addressed then we will certainly dive headfirst into the performance potential of the motherboard but with our eyes open as to what market the product is intended to reach. This board is intended for the mainstream user who needs stability, a good set of features, basic overclocking potential, and a strong technical support group behind the product. We believe this board is near perfect for that user and those buying the product looking for outrageous overclocks or class leading performance will be disappointed.
Not all is perfect with this board but a few minor issues can be overlooked considering the price/performance considerations. The location of the 8-pin ATX power connector will mean some creative cable routing will be required for the larger air coolers and even the stock unit to some degree. The overclocking capability of both the FSB and memory is limited but up to that limit the board was very stable. This board needs decent DDR2-800 to extract its performance potential but there is no need to purchase expensive kits as CAS 3 timings are not recommended. We had a few ghost issues such as our SATA drives not being recognized at various overclocks with a P4 processor or the Fox One utility occasionally not reporting the correct CPU temperature. One last minor quibble would be the addition of another fan header and Firewire support.
Overall, this is the best P965 motherboard available for under $100. It is not meant for the enthusiast group or even the hardcore gaming user. However, for the mainstream user that needs a high quality and stable Intel platform for general use then we highly recommend the Foxconn P9657AA-8KS2H.
Source:Intel P965: Foxconn P9657AA- 8KS2H