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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  • Avalon - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Wesley, just for giggles, can you set a RAM divider and drop your CPU multiplier down to 7x, and see how high the HTT can reach stably? That would be nice to see. Reply
  • n7 - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    I may have just founds my next motherboard!

    As long as prices do come to the level of a mainstream mobo, this looks very good.

    I have to admit, until the A8N32-SLI Deluxe, & now this, i was extremely unimpressed with all Asus A64 motherboards.

    Now the last two i've seen from Asus look very good :)
    Reply
  • fitten - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    quote:

    It is very important that users change the default 2T Command Rate to 1T for best performance.


    I see this a lot (particularly on AnandTech) and have yet to see any *real* benchmarks that show this change results in anything more than a 1% to 2% performance gain, which is typically within the statistical margin of error for the benchmarking performed by most review sites. Are there any definitive benchmarks (that are statistically significant) that show more of a gain than this?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    You have seen this a lot on AT and any site that specializes in performance and overclocking. Memtest86 is a standard test used in the memory industry to test performance. It shows a 5 to 10% increase in performance at 1T compared to 2T - depending on CPU speed and memory frequency. Similar increases are reported by SiSoft Sandra Unbuffered and Everest, which also measure memory bandwidth.

    Memory is only one small part of total performance, and in gaming 1T only increases framerate 1% to 5% depending on the game and equipment used for testing. You are correct that this won't be noticed by most end users, but if you are aiming for absolute top performance in gaming or competetive benchmarking this does matter. We covered this pretty thoroughly with test results in a memory piece several months ago.
    Reply
  • Live - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Very nice review and a nice find!

    I would have loved to have seen the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 included in the benchmarks. Why? It is just as close in price as many other boards and frankly cater to sort of the same user group. This would also show what can be had in the different price groups.

    I also find this quote a bit strange
    quote:

    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.


    I would think that ASUS having low expectations on this board and they being genuinely surprised would indicate that there internal testing does not show the same results as your sample does. Thus indicating it is indeed an over performing sample. This possibility seems just as likely anyway. What I am missing?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    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. Once I did, Asus was very helpful in adding additional options to BIOS that I suggested would be welcomed by overclockers. Some components limit what Asus can add, but they had added additional options that could be added.

    We do have a very good working relationship with Asus. As an example the first Asus A8N-SLI Premium boards (without the paddle) were supposed to be top-end. Our pre-production samples turned out to be very poor overclockers due to the automatic switches and Asus decided to rework the board rather than bring a mediocre board to market. The revised Premium came about 8 weeks later and we confirmed it was an oxcellent overclocker and a good performer. That is the board Asus brought to market.
    Reply
  • Live - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I got what I was missing. In that light this board does look like a true gem in disguise. Reply
  • nvidia4ever - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Is there a reason why the X1800XT was not tested? By chance, did you test the board with a Opteron 148? I could see this combination being great together considering how well both overclock. That would be a killer package at $350. When will the board be available? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    The motherboard lab does not a X1800XT for benchmarking, a fact we point out to ATI whenever we get the opportunity. ATI is still having X1800XT supply problems and they have promised we will have cards for testing as soon as they are available for sampling.

    We have to wonder aloud if we have had so much trouble getting X1800XT for testing, what chance does a "mere mortal" have to buy an X1800XT. We can only say we're glad ATI does not appear to have motherboard chipset supply issues, because the video card situation is horrendous.



    Reply
  • nvidia4ever - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    There are several x1800xt cards available here - http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?Manu...">x1800xt cards Is ATI just screwing around with you guys? Can this board run nvidia sli cards? Reply

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