Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1954



With today's launch of the new ATI Dual x16 PCIe chipset you will be able to buy motherboards on launch day from at least one manufacturer. The Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe is expected to be widely available for sale on March 1, and it represents an upgrade of the current A8R-MVP with improved performance and Deluxe features. Asus also continues their use of passive cooling on the A8R32-MVP, with no active cooling fans.


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Resellers will likely ask a Premium price at the A8R32-MVP launch, but Asus tells us prices should settle down to the $150 to $200 street price range. Asus answered our questions about the A8R32-MVP Deluxe street price on February 28th: "Since the A8R32-MVP supports dual PCex16 it will be positioned for the high-end. The price will be lower than A8N32-SLI Deluxe but higher than A8N-SLI Premium." The bargain-priced A8R-MVP, which is based on the RD480 chipset, is currently selling for $95 to $100. The A8R-MVP features dual x8 Crossfire compared to upgraded dual x16 on the new Asus A8R32-MVP.

With most nVidia dual x16 motherboards selling for premium prices, the Asus A8R32-MVP will be a good value, but it is now expected to sell for a higher price than originally reported here. The value is even greater when you consider the ATI X1900XTX and Crossfire X1900XT are the fastest video solutions currently on the market and they are fully supported by the A8R32-MVP.

With around 3 months until the scheduled launch of Socket AM2, it is not surprising that many Taiwan motherboard makers are skipping the RD580 Socket 939 launch and planning their first RD580 boards for AM2. However Asus, DFI, Abit, and Sapphire are all expected to deliver Socket 939 RD580 motherboards.



DFI RD580

One of the most anticipated Socket 939 RD580 motherboards is the DFI. With the incredible success DFI has enjoyed with their nVidia nForce4 chipset Expert, SLI and Ultra motherboards, enthusiasts expect great things from the new DFI RD580.


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DFi was showing the final pre-production RD580 at their Taiwan offices. We are told the board improves on the performance of the current RDX200, which is based on the ATI RD480 chipset. It is also the only DFI dual x16 motherboard, since DFI decided not to produce an nVidia dual x16 SLI motherboard.

DFI is definitely using the ULi M1575 chipset on their new RD580 board, instead of the ATI SB450 used on the RDX200. This will provide full SATA2 3Gb/s support and competitive USB performance. Four additional SATA ports will be provided by the Silicon Image 3114 chip.


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DFI tells us the final layout has been released to production. This means retail boards should be available for purchase 10 days to two weeks after the March 1 RD580 launch. Pricing data was not available, but DFI expects their new RD580 to sell at about the same price as the current RDX200.



Abit AT8-32X

Abit was showing their new RD580 chipset motherboard, called AT8-32X, at their Taiwan headquarters. Abit hopes this product, and future AM2 and Broadwater designs they were demonstrating, will fuel the revitalization of Abit. With USI as their new financial partner and many new designs on the way, Abit plans to return to their roots as an enthusiast motherboard maker.


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Like most other manufacturers of RD580 boards, Abit uses the ULi M1575 south bridge to provide support for 4 SATA2 3Gb/s ports and competitive USB performance. Abit is also using a heat-pipe passive cooling design on their new RD580 board. Abit tells us the RD580 chipset is very cool compared to competitors chipsets, allowing a much simpler and more effective silent cooling solution.

The Abit AT8-32X will also fully support the latest uGuru overclocking and system management features. Abit did not have a final price for the AT8-32X and the board will soon be released to production. The Abit AT8-32X will not be available for the March 1 launch, but should appear in the market in "several weeks".

Sapphire

While we did not have the opportunity to meet with Sapphire during our Taiwan visit, we did see their RD580 motherboard at CES. The Sapphire version is a virtual copy of the ATI Manta Reference design and is expected to mirror the performance and overclocking capabilities of the Reference board.

Sapphire officially launched the Sapphire RD580 on March 1. According to Sapphire marketing the Sapphire RD580 will start shipping March 20th. Their RD480 motherboard is widely available in Europe but took months to reach the US market and is still a limited availability item in the US. We hope their new RD580 board will be more widely available.



Bottom Line

ATI seemed to turn the corner in having product available at launch with their recent introduction of the X1900XT chipset video cards. Our conversations with Taiwan motherboard manufacturers in late February clearly showed that today's launch of the RD580 chipset will also be accompanied by retail products you can actually buy. It is good to see that ATI is finally able to consistently deliver product at launch. They seem to have turned the corner from the paper launches of 2005.

With the introduction of RD580 ATI has a single-chip dual x16 PCIe Corssfire solution to compete with nVidia's top-of-the-line dual x16 PCIe chipset. With a competitive chipset, the fastest current video card in the X1900XT, and the end of paper launches, ATI has had a great start to 2006. The ATI position is further enhanced by the fact that the ATI RD580 is fully compatible with the upcoming AMD AM2 processors alted for relese late in the second quarter.

The Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe will be widely available for purchase today. Street prices are targeted to provide good value in a dual x16 PCIe chipset, with a selling price lower than the nVidia dual X16 A8N32-SLI. The DFI RD580 will follow in 10 days to a week, the Sapphire ships March 20th, and the Abit AT8-32X arrives later in March.

In addition to the Socket 939 RD580 boards, motherboard manufacturers were shpowing a number of AM2 designs based on the ATI RD580 chipset. Many of these prototypes and working models will be on display at Cebit in a couple of weeks. Since RD580 was designed to support AM2 as well as Socket 939 you will see more manufacturers offering the RD580 chipset when AM2 launches in about 3 months.

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