CrossFire Xpress 1600 Motherboards: DFI, Asus, ECS
Asus A8R-MVP: The Board
As we mentioned earlier, Asus didn't design the A8R-MVP to be an enthusiast class motherboard. Instead, the A8R-MVP is an affordable mainstream-class product. Due to this fact, this board doesn't feature a flashy colored PCB or a myriad brightly colored slots and connectors.
Although the Asus A8R-MVP doesn't feature a unique aesthetic to differentiate it from the other boards in this round-up, it is different in a one very important way. While it has the same CrossFire Xpress 1600 northbridge, the A8R-MVP does not feature ATI's sub-par SB450 southbridge. In lieu of the SB450, the A8R-MVP is equipped with ULi's more feature rich 1575 southbridge chip which offers SATA II RAID 0, 1, and 5 support and improved I/O and USB throughput. The A8R-MVP doesn't feature any supplemental RAID controllers though, so the board is limited to the 1575's native pair of PATA ports and its four SATA ports.
The A8R-MVP's layout is generally good, with a couple of minor exceptions. The passive Northbridge cooler is located very close the CPU socket, which could pose a problem for those that want to use oversized coolers, and a supplemental 4-pin Molex power connector is situated just above the first PEG slot, almost in the middle of the board.
The board's DIMM slots are also in a good position. Even with a pair of graphics cards installed, user's can still install and remove RAM. And the power connectors are also positioned well and won require users to drape bulky power cables directly over the CPU socket. We should also note that all of the F.E.T.s in the VRM, the northbridge and the southbridge are passively cooled with aluminum heatsinks.
The A8R-MVP's I/O backplane features PS/2 mouse and serial ports, a coax S/PDIF connector, legacy serial and parallel ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a single Firewire port, an RJ45 LAN jack and three analog audio connectors. Firewire functionality comes by way of a Ti 1394a controller and audio duties are handled by a Hi-Def Analog Devices AD1986A codec. The RJ45 LAN jack is powered by a Marvell 88E8001 controller, which unfortunately utilizes the aging PCI bus.