Having first made waves at this year's Computex, it's time for Foxconn's premium socket LGA2011 motherboard, the Quantum Force X79, to get down to business. The channel brand of the OEM giant is gearing up for a Q4 2011 launch, and seems to have made some notable changes to the design we saw in June, on its latest engineering sample. These changes include rearrangement of expansion slots, a finalized design for the heatsink over the X79 chipset, and a slight rearrangement of the front-panel header area. While this is still an engineering sample, there is some progress - for better or worse - as the final release revision takes shape.
To begin with, Foxconn did some rearrangement in the bottom-half of the PCB. On the sample we saw at Computex, expansion slots were arranged (from top to bottom) as PCIe x4, PCIe x16 (electrical x16/x8), PCIe x16 (electrical x8), legacy PCI, PCIe x16 (electrical x16/x8), and PCIe x16 (electrical x8). With the new version, they're arranged as PCIe x16 (electrical x16/x8), PCIe x4, PCIe x16 (electrical x8), PCIe x16 (electical x16/x8), legacy PCI, and PCIe x16 (electrical x8). The new expansion slot layout is a notch better, as it makes room for three graphics cards that are two slots thick, to be installed.
Moving on, Foxconn didn't have the PCH (X79 chipset) heatsink design in mind when designing the older iteration. The new one makes room for the heatsink, pushing aside most tall components. For example, the three EEPROM chips that were arranged in a file are now pushed to the bottom-right corner, along with the two tall capacitors. This change doesn't take away anything from the older iteration, just relocates it. There's now a small speaker for beep diagnostics that wasn't found on the older board, the numerical diagnostic-LED display is still there. The rest are cosmetic changes, such as certain chips being moved around. With the final revision, it is expected that the SAS (serial-attached SCSI) ports will be removed, leaving behind around 8 SATA ports.
The Quantum Force X79 is positioned to be a high-end socket LGA2011 motherboard. The processor is powered by a 14-phase VRM that makes use of DirectFET MOSFETs, which when backed by a good I2C-capable VRM controller have known to provide smooth voltage control. Such FETs have been used on older Quantum Force motherboards and BIOSTAR's TPower series models. Other overclocker-friendly features include redundant firmware (BIOS), consolidated voltage measurement points, and OC hard-tuning buttons apart from power and reset buttons.