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

    Theoretically nVidia SLI can run on ATI crossfire without much trouble. We have tested hacked drivers that do just this and it appears to work fine. However, until nVidia allows Crossifire board operation in their video drivers it is officially not supported. The same goes for ATI Crossfire on nVidia - ATI has to support it in their drivers. Single video cards are supported on all platforms.

    As for avaialability of X1800XT, our video reviewer received a review sample about 6 weeks ago, but we have not seen another X1800XT from ATI. The X1800XT was to be available for sale November 5. ATI tells us daily there are none available for sampling, but we can expect a unit for motherboard testing "very soon".

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

    Geez if your having this much trouble getting a x1800xt i wonder when you'll recieve the crossfire ones. Reply
  • Schro - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Has Asus stated the general availability date of the board? The only vendor that I can find with it listed is ZZF @ $199 for a pre-order, which is certainly not a mainstream price. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 24, 2005 - link

    I just did a search on Google's Froogle at http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=A8R-MVP+&b...">http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=A8R...;btnG=Se.... There are 4 listings for the A8R-MVP - buy.com for $104.99, Computer Brain for $108.21, PC & Stuff for $115.94, and PCSuperDeals for $119.15. These prices are very much in line with what Asus projected - in fact they are even better. A Crossfire motherboard with these features for $105 is a terrific value. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    We confirmed final pricing with Asus yesterday. They told us the board should sell initially in the $115 to $125 range. Obviously a new board, a good review and limited availability drive up the price in capitalism. Asus confirmed last evening the boards have shipped from Taiwan to US e-tailers and should begin appearing for sale Friday or Monday (November 25th or 28th). Reply
  • Live - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    This board is listed for pre-order from several e-tailers here in Europe at just the price range ASUS is suggesting. Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    it's nowhere near the $100-$125 suggested by the article... but the price will fall when availability increases Reply
  • OrSin - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    Poster before me hit it right on the head. My next motherboard will most likely be one of these ATI boards but it seems this was fluck to me. I guess we can wait for other sites to seee if they get similar results. Reply
  • poohbear - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    excuse me, great review, but when presuming that this board is not a fluke u state:

    "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."

    how are the 2 aforementioned reasons related to it NOT being a fluke? i was a bit confused reading that. if a mobo manufacturer's expectations are low, and then they're surprised, would'nt that mean that this mobo might on the contrary, be a fluke?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - link

    I receive some emails complaining that I must receive "Cherry" motherboards for testing since my OC results are so high. Of course, part of my success is due to being a long-term overclocker, and overall my results have not noramlly been that different than what other experienced overclockers found on retail boards.

    In this case Asus positioned this as a mainstream board and advised us the board was not positioned as a top overclocker. The ATI Crossfire chipset is an outstanding overclocker and I believe this board, with the design efforts of a talented design team turned out to be a surprising overclocker and that retail boards will also. I really don't think Asus as a company considered that this might be a top overclocker, but certainly someone in Asus design did consider this with the BIOS options that are available.

    The first BIOS was not particularly good for overclocking, but version 2 and 3 are outstanding. We have seem many manufacturers, even tier 1, design boards for overclockers that were mediocre in performance. We have also seen boards that had a solid design but no great OC credentials rise to the top as a great overclocker. In fact, Asus has had a number of this type of "wolf in sheep's clothing" boards over the past few years.

    Reply

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