When the Asus A8R-MVP landed on our doorstep, we were frankly a bit disappointed. Here was the first Asus board built with the ATI Crossfire AMD chipset and the first board to market that uses the ULi M1575 south bridge instead. If you recall from our launch review of the M1575, this ULi south bridge fully supports SATA2 and provides competitive USB performance - removing the few nagging issues with the excellent ATI Crossfire AMD chipset.

So, why were we disappointed? We really hoped that Asus would deliver a super high-end board, much like the Asus A8N32-SLI deluxe 8-phase that we recently reviewed. That kind of board could clearly show what the Crossfire AMD chipset was really capable of doing. Instead, we had a competent-appearing mainstream board that will likely sell in the $100 to $125 price range. Our first thoughts, naturally, were "ho-hum", a solid but unspectacular Crossfire AMD.

We even talked with Asus about why they didn't lavish their attentions on the A8R-MVP, and we were given perfectly reasonable explanations. With Dual x16 NVIDIA now available, Asus really believed that the ATI Crossfire AMD was better positioned as a mainstream product, and Asus would likely give "top-end treatment" to the upcoming RD580 ATI Dual x16 Crossfire chipset for AMD. We couldn't argue with the Asus logic, but it did not stop our disappointment that maybe this board could have had it all for those looking for an ATI chipset solution for Athlon 64 Socket 939.

If we always went with our assumptions, there would be no reason at all to test motherboards, and thankfully, our first opinions are often proven wrong in the actual testing. As we began benchmarking the A8R-MVP, we realized that our assumptions were completely wrong and this board might prove to be the board many have been waiting for. It turns out that there is absolutely nothing missing from the feature set of the A8R-MVP except the high price, and we think that you will enjoy our journey with this board.

We also had a few shocks in other areas. Our first attempts at overclocking were pretty average, but as we persevered, we had another assumption shoved back in our face.


Click to enlarge.

This isn't a mistake. This is a screen capture of the Asus A8R-MVP after running 2 days at 325x9 - the highest overclock that we have ever achieved with our standard OCZ PC3200 Platinum Rev.2 memory and our 4000+ CPU. We actually reached even higher overclocks, but 325 was completely stable with air cooling.

Now that you know that this average-priced motherboard turned out to be anything but average in performance, join us as we take a closer look at the motherboard that may turn out to be the value-priced rocket everyone is looking for.

Asus A8R-MVP: Board Layout
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  • AllanLim - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    What I should have said is that the BIOS memory option maxes out at 200, so why is there a need to raise memory timings to 3-4-3-8 when at 325x9.


    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    200 is the starting point (400DDR) in BIOS, and memory clock floats with the CPU frequency. Thus at 325 Clock Speed the memory set at 200 is running DDR650. Memory floats with clock frequency on almost every board we test.

    If you start memory at 166 (333), it would run at about 270 (DDR540) with the Clock Frequency set to 325. You may want to do some reading or ask some questions in our Forums to better understand how this works.
    Reply
  • AllanLim - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    Got it, checked out Zebo's article in forums, my bad for not checking this out earlier. Thus begins my foray into AMD64 overclocking.

    Many thnx for help.
    Reply
  • EnlightenedOne - Monday, December 12, 2005 - link

    K great. Thanks for the quick reply wes :D

    Final question I promise, lol.

    At the 325 x 9 setting, how stable do you think the CPU would be @ load? For example, I'm going to be playing alot of BF2 and Quake 4 with this new set up. I was wondering if it will be atleast 6 hours stable in those games at load.

    What do you think?
    Reply
  • EnlightenedOne - Monday, December 12, 2005 - link

    I'm also trying to see if I can tighten those dram timings a bit by adding more voltage. What are the tighest/stable that you got with a higher ram voltage? Reply
  • EnlightenedOne - Thursday, December 08, 2005 - link

    Hey Wesley, Great Review!

    I was wondering a few things with this motherboard and the setup.
    First, do you think the clawhammer 4000+ would overclock better than the Diego?
    What voltage are you feeding your ram to reach such a high frequency?
    Do you suggest using the 246 x 12 or the 325 x 9 set up for games?
    Finally, what voltage are you feeding the PCIe slot? Also, why haven't you upped the voltage to your cpu core to maintain stability and go beyond 2 days? :)
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    Our San Diego clocks almost exactly the same as the Clawhammer 4000+, but it runs cooler. I would choose San Diego. We tested both on this board, as we have done for the last few reviews, found performance very similar (we had a fantastic Clawhammer that may not have been typical), and moved to the 90nm CPU for future reviews.

    The OCZ TCCD RAM was only getting 2.75V-2.8V. My pairs really don't like or need more voltage to reach high overclocks.

    Which you use depends on your RAM. In most cases you can get tighter timings at 246 than at 325. The best speed is a balance of highest RAM clock consistent with tightest timings. There is no cut-and-dried answer to your question.

    I did not overclock PCIe, but the chipset and/or PCIe sometimes reauires a small voltage boost at extreme overclocks.

    If you check the OC page I am using 1.45V vCore which is a modest OC of .05V from the default 1.4V. It didn't reboot after 2 days, we had to move on to other reviews. It might still be running fine at 325x9 for all we know.
    Reply
  • EnlightenedOne - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    Awesome. 1 Quick last simple question. Did you slowly up the FSB through the bios and reboot, then up it again? Or did you use a windows based overclocker program that asus provided? If using the reboot method.. how long did you let it run before rebooting and upping the fsb a little more. If windows method, how long did you wait before upping the FSB little by little? Thanks :D Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, December 11, 2005 - link

    I rebooted and upped the frequency a bit, went into windows, then rebooted and upped frequency again. Reply
  • abakshi - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    Hmm...this is looking pretty good. But GigE performance is pretty important for me -- if I get a separate PCI-E 1x GigE card, can I match the throughput of the integrated PCI-E chipsets, like the Marvel, etc.?

    Any recommendations for a card? From a quick look around, I've seen an expensive D-Link ($80), some assorted others (SysKonnect, etc.) at varying ranges. Any benches of these for reference?

    And if I put in two X1800XT's, I wouldn't be able to fit a 1x card in between, right? What about with single-slot cards like the X1800XL?
    Reply

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