ATI's AMD Athlon64 chipsets began with a bang almost a year ago with the "Bullhead" Reference Board. In our review of the first Radeon Xpress 200 Reference board, ATI was clearly aiming for the AMD Enthusiast. This continued with the all-white "Grouper" this past July, and the black "Halibut" which was reviewed as the Crossfire AMD in late September. Despite three generations of capable Enthusiast chipsets based on the Radeon Xpress 200 core, we only began seeing ATI AMD chipsets used in Enthusiast motherboards with the launch of Crossfire. The first ATI enthusiast board was the DFI LANParty UT RDX300 reviewed less than a month ago. Now we are finally seeing Tier 1 manufacturers like Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte with ATI Crossfire AMD boards starting to ship.

Click to enlarge.

The Manta Reference board is a distinctive clear blue with Red slots and peripheral connectors. ATI seems to have no lack of Fish names or unique board color schemes, so Manta carries on a tradition that could soon stock an aquarium. Some love the fish internal development names, some hate them, but they are definitely unique.

When we recently reviewed the nVidia Dual x16 board we saw a dual chip setup with PCIe channels split between two multipurpose chips.

The nVidia dual x16 design provides one x16 PCIe off the "north bridge" or SPP and one x16 PCIe off the "south bridge" or MCP. On the AMD side the North chip is the MCP51 which communicates with the CK8 south chip over 16-bit HTT connections. The Intel dual x16 uses the same CK08 SLI south bridge as the AMD chipset, but the North chip is C19. C19 forces communications between the North and South chips to 8-bits.

The ATI RD580 also uses a North Bridge/South Bridge configuration, but all PCIe channels reside in the North Bridge and both PCIe x16 slots are driven by the North Bridge Chip. The new RD580 north supports 44 lanes and can be combined with any of the south bridges than can be used with the Rx480 chipset. This includes the ATI SB450, the revised pin-out SB460, the upcoming SB600 with SATA2 and revised USB, and the ULi 1573/1575.


While ATI has used the current SB450 South Bridge in the Manta we evaluated, we expect the shipping Manta Reference Board will use the new SB460. SB460 is identical in function to SB450, with the same fast feature performance, but limited USB and no SATA2 or NCQ. It is important because it is pin-compatible with the upcoming SB600. This means boards designed with SB460 will be able to drop in SB600, with revised USB, SATA2, and NCQ as soon as this new South Bridge is available - possibly as early as January. Manufacturers can also combine the RD580 Dual x16 North Bridge with the ULi M1573, or more likely the ULi M1575, which supports SATA2, NCQ and competitive USB.

HD Audio

ULi was actually the first to annonce HD Audio on the AMD chipset in April of 2004. However, ATI was the first major manufacturer to bring High Quality HD audio to their AMD product line with the introduction of the SB450 South Bridge for the Xpress 200 chipset in the late 2004. HD support continued with the Crossfire AMD chipset. This advantage continues with RD580, which features the Realtek ALC882D HD audio codec on the Reference board.

Index Overclocking and Integrated Graphics


View All Comments

  • aepurniet - Friday, January 27, 2006 - link

    all these crossfire motherboards (480 / upcoming 580), look like they are gonna only support one processor. is there ever gonna be a dual processor crossfire enabled motherboard? ive been holding out on a puny laptop for a while, but it looks like im not going to be running crossfire anytime soon. my plan was to get tyan 2895, dual 7800gtx's. the x1900 looks like a good competitor but might sit all alone in that box, with having the chance of its crossfire brother ever dropping by. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 18, 2005 - link

    A reader has sent me links to press releases that show ULi pioneered HD Audio on the AMD Athlon 64. We made a couple of corrections in the article to reflect that information. Reply
  • Clauzii - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    Man - it´s amazing to see how many can get over xited of a preview .. Geeeeezzzzzz.
    Nice preview and then we aaallll wait for the card to settle to market and in january the world will change!
  • Kiwi - Monday, March 06, 2006 - link

    What strikes me about all of this is that it's now March, and some actual MB's are in the market with 939 sockets, but the article about the release version of the Chip Set, now named "Express 3200" can't seem to get out of Purgatory.

    I think that I've seen the article posted three times over the past month, but it is always removed again in less than a single day. I wonder what the problem is? Anything to do with a majority of MB makers holding off to use the new chip sets with AM2 sockets instead of 754/ 939?


  • tajoh111 - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I have a ati card in my laptop, my desktop, even my pocket pc. Heck even my gamecube has a Ati card in it. The only nvidia product I own is in my xbox and thats it.

    I just believe ATI should be punished for their idiocy this year.
    - Lack of products.Besides the 1800XL what have they brought to the table.
    - Lack of availiblity(out of stock).
    - Lack of warrenty.
    - There only competent product that beats nvidia in any sense, is the GTO2, and even that is a result of their idiocy, to improperly lock pipelines.
    - A inferior product at every pricepoint.
    Midrange 800 xl nvidia 6800 gs, 1800xl, 7800gt, and 1800xt, 7800 512 gtx.

    ATi just has an excuse for everything and anandtech just believe it all. Like the lack of the ATI cards is because of memory(bull), or the performance problems are a result of immmature drivers(shouldn't a product in development for the longest time have decent driver, rather then a buy now fix later idea).

    Really those now, Wes, it not like we have to shop around for a 450 dollars 7800 gtx. Pretty much everyones sells the evga for 450.
    Which offers a lifetime warrenty and the a step up program.

    With the 1800 xt, you get a slightly better performing product, that uses lots more power and produces alot more sounnd. Could you imagine a crossfire 1800xt, you probaly grow mentally deaf in the process. Which cost you 150 dollars more. With a one year warrenty.

    Atleast with the 7800 gtx 512, which cost a hundred dollars more right now you get a much better warrenty(In my opinion worth the hundred dollars), more power usange(arguable as tomshardware got lower energy usage), definitely more quieter and most importantly braggin rights to the fastest card on the market.

    I believe people should stop buying ati products this years, to let ati know that they can't pulled the crap they did on people this year. So like a cornered dog, Ati has to fight for their survival or perish.

    p.s Anandtech should mention in there videocards buyer guide, the presence of a 1 year warrenty from ati build cards. Especially at the lower price levels where performance is just as important as reliability and customer care.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I fully understand your angst regarding ATI Video solutions (or lack thereof) this year. However, I do believe the ATI chipsets for AMD to be excellent introductions this year. Availability of motherboards with ATI chipsets has been a problem, but that has not been because of availability. ATI chipsets have been readily available, but as a new AMD player it has taken time to convince manufacturers to build high-end boards with ATI chipsets. A south bridge without problems would also have been a huge help, but that is also changing as the ULi M1575 is finally shipping.

  • gamara - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    So was there a date for the x1800 Phantom Edition that would compete with the 7800GTX 512? I like the competition, as it makes the Nvidia board I buy in the future better as well, but I do have to agree this came off as ATI Fanboy. Was the IP the 7800GTX? Did ATI hold back the x1800xt until they had enough chips that would ramp fast enough to beat it?

    I checked NewEgg, ZipZoomFly and AllstarShop. The only one that had x1800xt's was Allstarshop which was selling them at 680 and 700. They had a 7800GTX 512 for 799. Go figure they are the only one with stock. At 'retail' price points, it looks like both are the XT and GTX are short stock. ATI's x1XXX release has been a bunch of smoke and mirrors on the consumer end while Nvidia has actually had stock on shelves. A friend bought a 7800GTX and loves having a card he can actually put in his system. It runs games pretty well too.

  • 3DC - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    It just seems ironic how after the 7800GTX 512Mb launches we see this ATI preview. ATI must of said, "Hey Anandtech, can you run this preview for us so it looks like we are still around". The fact you don't use any results but say it's faster then a 256Mb SLI setup and then casually say, "Oh the 512Mb version still beats it" seems to me you didn't want to make the article 100% pro ATI. Even though I assume ATI wanted to show your viewers what they have up their sleeve.

    Seems to be a shady article enticing people NOT to by a 7800GTX 256Mb. Instead of a preview I get a ATI PR driven advertisement on their up and up and up and up coming products that no one knows will see the light of day.
  • allnighter - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    First of all I'm not against ATi, any of their products or pre/reviews of those at AT at all. Quite the contrary. Second, as I clearly pointed out, I did not doubt Wesley's or any other AT editor's competence, again quite the contrary. I am using plain common sense and am doubting that any company will send a run-of-the-mill engineering sample for preview to Anandtech, without tweaking the board to achieve the best possible perf in order to present itself in the best of light. Not that there is anything wrong with that but my point is - remember the "Bullhead" (another ATi mobo mind you). I'm trying to dig out that piece but I think I don't have the time for it right now. Long story short it was to be an nForce killer and the ultimate enthusiast board yet today, when you can actually buy one, not even ATi considers it enthusiast level, more a value board if anything else.
    Again, I'm not doubting Wesley's competence to put together a quality review set-up or run a battery of quality tests but how can you really know that the board in your hands is not on steroids but simply a great design. Again, not so long ago there was an overclocking extravaganza thrown up by ATi, where iirc they were introing the x850 (someone correct me if I'm wrong please, might have been a different card, my memory isn't perfect) where they had a guy literally hand tuning bios'es on the spot for people yet "Bullhead" failed to yield earth shattering results.
    And since I'm being given a lesson in semantics - well sure every article is a "pr piece" in essence. However my perception of my fellow AT readers was always that majority of us are the actual computer enthusiast that pay attention to more things than just company names, so unless something has dramatically changed (the structure of AT readers or editor's opinions about those readers)I think statements of "...but just wait 'till such & such pulls out the ace out of their sleeve.." is a type of sensationalism I'm unwilling to accept from AT. We have Inquirer for that.
  • Artuk - Thursday, November 17, 2005 - link

    I hope that the vendors will create a layout that allows at least one regular PCI slot to be used. With a pair of two slot cards in crossfire, I dont think I could get my x-fi into a board laid out like the reference design. The nforce sli and crossfire boards I have seen from this generation havent given much thought to paired two slot graphics cards.


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