ASUS M2R32-MVP vs ECS KA3 MVP Extreme: CrossFire Xpress 3200 Shootout

Introduction, ASUS M2R32-MVP Specifications And Bundle

Stepping back to look at who has the largest market share in the chipset sector for AMD socket AM2 processors, it's clear who is on top and who is not.  Take virtually any major motherboard manufacturer and see what they have to offer and in most cases, NVIDIA chipset solutions are going to dominate the product list.  It's a little ironic when you take into account the merger between AMD and ATI, but it's a safe assumption that AMD and ATI will be working to level the playing field in the near future as they work on their roadmap product offering together.

Today, however, ATI does have a chipset designed for the AM2 processor line, which brings competitive performance and feature set to the table.  For those of you looking for full CrossFire support for socket AM2, the CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset is the sole offering from ATI at the moment.  Today we are going to assess two motherboards built with the CrossFire Xpress 3200 at their core.  The first will be the ASUS M2R32-MVP, which has a workstation appearance but enthusiast class performance and overclocking potential.  The second is the ECS KA3 MVP Extreme motherboard that offers an enthusiast's feature set with competitive performance.  Read on as we take both of these board to task to assess performance, features and overall value.   

ASUS M2R32-MVP Specifications
Socket AM2 for AMD Athlon 64 X2/ Athlon 64 FX/ Athlon 64/ Sempron
AMD64 architecture enables simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing
AMD Cool 'n' Quiet! Technology
AMD HyperTransport Technology
AMD Live! Ready

ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200/ATI SB600

Front Side Bus
2000/1600 MT/s

4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2 800/667/533, ECC and non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture

Expansion Slots
2 x PCI Express x16 slot with CrossFire support at full x16, x16 mode
2 x PCI Express x1
2 x PCI

Support ATI CrossFire graphics cards (both at x16 mode)

ATI SB600 South Bridge:
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33
- 4 x Serial ATA I/II 3.0Gb/s with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
Jmicron360 SATA controller supports:
- 1 x External Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s hard disk (SATA On-the-Go)

ADI 1988A 8-channel CODEC
Universal Audio Jack
Coaxial S/PDIF out ports on back I/O

Marvell 88E8001 Gigabit LAN Controller, featuring AI NET2

IEEE 1394a
VIA VT6308P controller supports:
- 1x IEEE 1394a connectors at midboard
- 1x IEEE 1394a connectors at back panel

Max. 10 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

Special Features
Stack Cool2
SATA On the Go (External SATA on back I/O port)
Noise Filter

Overclocking Features
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- AI Clock Skew
ASUS O.C. Profile: overclocking configuration-sharing tool
Precision Tweaker:
- vDIMM: 12-step DRAM voltage control
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.025V increment
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- FSB tuning from 200MHz up to 400MHz at 1MHz increment
- PCI Express tuning from 100MHz up to 150MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection:
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)

Other ASUS Special Features
- Q-Connector
- CrashFree BIOS3
- EZ Flash2
ASUS Q-Fan2 Technology
ASUS Mylogo2

Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Out
1 x IEEE1394
1 x External SATA
1 x RJ45
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
8-Channel Audio I/O
1 x COM connector

Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB 2.0 connector supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
1 x IEEE1394a connector
4 x SATA connectors
1 x IDE connector
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x CPU/ 2 x Chassis/ 1 x Power FAN connectors
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
Chassis Intrusion
CD audio in connector
Front panel High Definition Audio connector
System panel connector

8Mb Flash ROM, AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, WfM2.0

WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME, Chassis Intrusion, PXE and RPL

Support CD
ASUS Update
Anti-virus software (OEM version)

User's manual
2 x Serial ATA cables
1 x 2-port Serial ATA power cables
1 x 2-port USB2.0
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x ASUS Q-Connector (USB, 1394, system panel)
FDD cable
I/O shield

Form Factor
ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6"(30.5cm x 24.5cm)

Looking at the retail package for the ASUS M2R32-MVP, it's clear the bundle covers the basics of what one would expect, with a couple of extras along the way.  There is a standard User Guide which offers thorough instructions on the board's physical configuration and features overview, but oddly omitted any mention of the BIOS whatsoever.  It is standard practice to include a BIOS section that spotlights the various menu options and each setting's choices.  With the M2R32-MVP, the user is left to their own devices, which may be of little help to the less experienced consumer.  ASUS did include a Setup CD that contained all necessary drivers for the M2R32-MVP as well as add on utilities commonly found with ASUS product, such as ASUS PC Probe II, ASUS Update and ASUS MyLogo2 to name a few.  For those proud to advertise the ASUS name on their rig, a case badge sticker is provided as well.


Moving to the hardware components of the package, ASUS offers two SATA cables, a single 80-Pin IDE cable and a floppy cable for those still using Floppy drives.  A power adapter is provided turning a single Molex 12v connector into two standard SATA power plugs.  A bracket is included that connects to headers on the main board, adding two additional USB 2.0 ports.  An I/O shield is provided as well, helping to make sure the board fits properly in any ATX case.  Lastly, ASUS included their Q-Connector kit, which takes USB, FireWire and a case's power, reset, HD LED and power LED and connects them to a block, which matches up perfectly to the headers on the board for easier setup.

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