Foxconn currently offer two major families of motherboards, Quantum-Force which are designed for enthusiasts and Digital Life which are aimed at mainstream users, especially those who want media related features. As a result the packaging on the Renaissance board (which is part of the Digital Life product range), goes some way to communicating the boards versatility to the consumer. Inside we find a selection of documentation including a memory compatibility sheet. Also included is a soundcard which connects to a motherboard header rather than a PCI/PCIe slot, Foxconn claim this method of installation reduces electrical interference from other components. This card uses a Realtek chipset and supports both Dolby Digital Live and DTS: Connect.
The packing is informative and the bundle reasonably thorough but one of the most impressive aspects of the Renaissance is its design. Despite the rather bright orange used this is a lovely looking board with some nice touches such as a passive Northbridge cooler (which looks like a speaker) and a Southbridge (ICH10R) cooler (which looks quite like a volume dial on a hi-fi). There is a single PCIe 1x slot on this board and a single PCI, in addition to this we have two larger orange PCIe 16x slots which support 16x speed and two black slots which support 8x. Foxconn state that the board supports both CrossFireX and 3-Way SLI however it would be quite hard to install three high end GeForce cards on this board due to the slot layout. For SLI a two card solution is most appropriate, additionally no 3-Way SLI connector is bundled with the board.
Despite this board being aimed at mainstream users Foxconn have decided to include onboard switches for power, reset and clear CMOS. This is always good to see and alongside these is a Debug LED to assist with diagnosing system problems. Also in this area of the PCB we also find eight SATA ports, six use the Intel Southbridge and support Raid 0, 1, 5 and 10 with the two orange ports being SAS enabled. There are six memory slots on the Renaissance and as with all X58 boards these support triple channel operation. The official support for DDR3 is 24GB at 1600mhz but the BIOS actually allows selection of 2133MHz.
As the audio daughter card handles the majority of the audio connectors this means the back panel connectivity seems a little sparse but this is not actually the case. There are eight USB 2.0, two eSATA, optical and coaxial audio, GB LAN, PS/2 and Firewire. Really the only essential which is missing is an external clear CMOS button. Finally, for those who want a closer look at those chipset coolers, above are an additional two pictures.
Last month Intel launched their Z97 chipset, essentially an evolution of Z87, which in many cases brought new features such as SATA Express and M.2 compatibility to the mainstream desktop market. There was of course no new CPU at that time with the existing socket 1150 processors working without issue in the new boards. Since then though Intel launched (along with some lower spec models) the Core i7-4790K, a model which sits at the top of their mainstream platform. Today we see how it compares to various other models when installed on Gigabytes Z97X Gaming 5 and paired with PowerColors new dual core 290X Devil 13.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK vs. MSI Z97 Gaming 5 vs Asus Maximus VII Hero
It is probably fair to say that Intel don't stealth launch their products... sure they have NDAs but by the time those expire we know pretty much everything about a new product. Part of this is of their own...