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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  • 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
  • Zebo - Thursday, November 24, 2005 - link

    Great having spread out memory slots. I found many A64 boards stack the dual channel sticks so close they are actually touching between sticks fi you have heat spreaders on there and they can't cool.

    Price!! I sure miss top of the line boards in the $100 range (Abit NF7-S Abit IS7 etc)granted this new era has high power requirements and thus a beffier boards but no excuse for these $200+ mobos floating around for enthusiants. nV and Intel must be charging crazy high prices for thier newer chipsets.. Thanks ATI.

    Legacy support - My printer won't work with full features on USB alone... needs Parallel cable for full control which my DFI does'nt have.

    - overclocking potential as Mr. Fink illustrated.

    - full features including Fast disk benches and great on-board audio (FWIW).

    - Passive cooled mobo design - How many of you hate those whinny 40mm/60mm fans that come on mobos? When they work that is.

    Asus really needs to adopt Black though for thier entire lineup unless it goes in an OEM build.. I mean that yellow traces and green board is so 1990's.:(
    Reply
  • Live - Thursday, November 24, 2005 - link

    s.
    quote:

    - Passive cooled mobo design - How many of you hate those whinny 40mm/60mm fans that come on mobos? When they work that is.


    I couldn’t agree more. Those small fans are highly unreliable and very noisy. And with today’s heat pipe tech there is no reason to not go passive even on the high end boards. ASUS seems to be leading the pack on this. To bad they cant/won’t go all out in their bios. DFI in particular have them beat in bios all the time.
    Reply
  • Sxotty - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    quote:

    There is always the possibility that this one is unique. But based on the Asus expectations being set very low for this board, and the genuine surprise that Asus expressed when we reported our results, I would venture to say that what we found is not a fluke.


    That is really not a very thoughtful way to look at it.

    If ASUS was "surprised" by your results that would argue they are atypical not typical. It is not as though they never tested the motherboard to see if it worked. If you ever find an engineer surprised by your results than you should assume that they do not represent what the acerage was expected to be. Perhaps it is a wonderful overclocker, but that is evidence that it is not. Perhaps the engineer that was so "promising" really did an excellent job and the other people you spoke with just did not happen to know the test results.

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    I can only report what I actually find, and we can both "suppose" all day long. Time will prove whether these overclocking results are typical or atypical.

    As i said in a comment above: "Asus does extensive overclocking tests on their top-line boards aimed at that market. They generally know how they will perform in overclocking. They do more modest tests on mainstream boards. It is my opinion it never occured to Asus that the A8R-MVP might be a monster overclocker until I reported my results back to them."

    I have worked closely with the Asus Engineering team in Taiwan on several Enthusiast board projects, and since my initial results were shared with them after the second BIOS they have not given me any reason to expect that they are not typical for this board. As I said in the Final Words: "We would feel much more comfortable in our praise of the A8R-MVP if we had an opportunity to prove similar overclocking on another five boards pulled at random from retail shelves."
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, November 24, 2005 - link

    ATI “Certified Motherboard?"? Reply
  • afrost - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    I can't wait to get my hands on this board.....I have been waiting for a solid passively cooled board like this for a long time.

    The HD audio is a very nice bonus.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    We did additional tests on the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe Dual x16 this morning, running at our standard 1280x1024 with AA and AF turned off, with 81.87 drivers. We have added A8N32-SLI benchmarks to F.E.A.R., SC-CT, Quake 4, Doom 3, Far Cry, and Wolfenstein - Enemy Territory.

    The added benchmarks do not really change any of our conclusions. As you can see, the Asus A8R-MVP is very competetive with the top-line A8N32-SLI Deluxe.
    Reply
  • nvidia4ever - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the updates. It really does look like there is another performance choice now for AMD systems. I still would find it interesting to see how a x1800xt performs on ATIs own chipset. Reply
  • Duplex - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    The only thing me and my friends missed is overclockingresults
    for the memory with tight timings like 1T 2-2-2-5 or 2-2-2-7.
    The 1T overclocking performance for Asus and Abit has yet been very poor,
    with tigh timings even worse. Abit has added higher vdimm options but it
    hasn´t helped much. Has this changed with this Asus-Ati-mb or is dfi nf4
    still my only option for pc-builds? 230/240/250/260 (/270) MHz???
    Reply

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