It will be several weeks until ATI AM2 retail motherboards are available. As a result ATI AM2 testing is confined to the ATI "Sturgeon" reference board. Somebody at ATI Engineering is apparently a fisherman, since all the recent ATI reference boards have carried fish names during development.

Whatever the reasons for ATI's delay in launching chipsets for retail ATI AM2 boards, ATI is not in a very good market position at AM2 launch. With the RD580 arriving months later than expected, at the end of socket 939 development, we really expected RD580 AM2 to be quickly out the gate. Instead NVIDIA has retail AM2 boards available from a host of manufacturers at AM2 launch and ATI is sampling a reference board.

As discussed in past reviews, reference boards are a breed apart. They are designed for manufacturer qualification, and rarely see the light of day in the retail market. The ATI reference boards are a bit different since Sapphire has marketed reference boards under their own brand name in the past. They are expected to do the same with Sturgeon.

Click to enlarge

Since the ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 AM2 was designed for qualification, not much time will be spent on layout. Features, other than integrated chipset features, will not be an overriding concern. Additional features can be selected by manufacturers based on their intended market and price point.

Some notes from using the reference board. Loaded with X1900 CrossFire, there are still 2 usable PCIe x1 slots. However, there is no usable PCI slot if CrossFire is installed. Since users who spend over $1000 for video will likely want to use a standalone audio card, this would be a real issue in a retail board. Similarly, with CrossFire installed, the CMOS jumper is hidden under a video card with X1900 XT cards. ATI did users a great service in making dual-channel memory occupy alternate DIMM slots. This provides for much easier cooling of DDR2 DIMMs, which can become very hot when pushing for fastest memory timings.

Basic Features

ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 AM2
CPU Interface Socket AM2
Chipset ATI RD580 Northbridge - ATI SB600 Southbridge
Bus Speeds 200 to 400 in 1MHz Increments
Memory Speeds DDR2 at 400, 533, 667, 800
PCIe Speeds 100 to 200 in 1MHz Increments
PCI/AGP Fixed at 33/66
Core Voltage Auto, 0.8V to 1.45V in 0.025V increments
CPU PWM Level 1 to 25 in 1 increments
VTT PWM Level 0.807v to 1.149v in .007v to .014v increments
CPU Clock Multiplier 4x-25x in 1X increments
DRAM Voltage 1.541V to 2.804V in .05v increments
HyperTransport Frequency 1000MHz (1GHz)
(Stable in overclocking to 1500+ HT)
HyperTransport Multiplier Auto, 1X to 5X
RD580 HT Drive Strength Auto, Optimal
HT Receiver Comp. Ctrl Auto, Optimal
RD580 HT PLL Speed Auto, High Speed, Low Speed
Radeon Xpress (NB) Voltage 1.143v, 1.201v, 1.260v, 1.299v, 1.348v, 1.406v, 1.455v, 1.504v
HT Link Voltage 1.143v, 1.201v, 1.260v, 1.299v, 1.348v, 1.406v, 1.455v, 1.504v
PCIe 1.2 Voltage 1.143v, 1.201v, 1.260v, 1.299v, 1.348v, 1.406v, 1.455v, 1.504v
SB Voltage 1.143v, 1.201v, 1.260v, 1.299v, 1.348v, 1.406v, 1.455v, 1.504v
GFX1/2 (PCIe) Link Width X16, X8, X4, X2, X1
GFX and/or SB Payload 64, 32, or 16 Bytes
GFX PCIe Link ASPM Disabled, L0, L1, L0 & L1
GPP PCIe Link ASPM Disabled, L0, L1, L0 & L1
GFX 0 and/or 1 Slot Power Limit 0 to 255 watts in 1 watt increments
GPP Slot Power Limit 0 to 255 watts in 1 watt increments
AHCP 2.0 (AMD Cool'n'Quiet) Enabled, Disabled
DDR Drive Strength (N) and/or (P) 0 to 8 in 1 increments
DQS Signal Training Enabled, Disabled
Memory Slots Four 184-pin DDR2 DIMM Slots
Dual-Channel Configuration
Regular Unbuffered Memory to 4GB Total
Expansion Slots 2 PCIe X16
2 PCIe X1
Onboard SATA/RAID 4 SATA2 Drives by SB600
(RAID 0, 1, 1+0, 10, JBOD) PLUS
4 SATA Drives by 2 Silicon Image 3132
(RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD)
Onboard IDE/IDE RAID One Standard ATA133/100/66 (2 drives)
Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 10 USB 2.0 ports supported by SB600
2 Firewire by VIA VT6307
Onboard LAN PCIe Gigabit by Marvel Yukon 88E8052 PHY
Onboard Audio Azalia HD Audio by Realtek ALC880 codec
BIOS Revision AMI Build 15 - May 30, 2006

Reference boards are used mainly for qualification and development by board partners. As a result you will generally see very extensive BIOS options that may or may not appear on retail motherboards. An option of particular interest is the DQS Signal Training option which replaces a wide range of manual DQS skewing options for both memory channels. This worked well in our testing, and made it much simpler to accomodate different memory on this board than the manual skewing controls seen on some other Enthusiast boards.

ATI has aimed their discrete chipset AMD boards squarely at the computer enthusiast. This clearly continues with the CrossFire Xpress 3200 AM2. The range of options and features is the best so far on any ATI motherboard for AMD. This pays off in the tweaking options and performance of the new ATI RD580 AM2.

ATI SB600 Overclocking & Power Usage


View All Comments

  • Saist - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    to quote

    "short life for AM2 dominance before the launch of Conroe"

    Um. Anandtech, if you actually do believe that Conroe's performance numbers are going to hold up in multithreaded applications that exceed 4megabytes of cache data, I think you need to redo you're calculations. After intel's showing of Conroe behind closed doors during E3, I think you should also be aware that the performance numbers are not adding up. Intel might finally be competitive, but even when Intel chips have been competitive in the past, AMD chips have won on price. AM2 may not be the only game in town come this fall, but to say it has a short life? Makes me wonder if you actually bothered even asking the game developers what they are getting out of the processors.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    ...multithreaded applications that exceed 4megabytes of cache data..."

    We believe in real world testing. I'm sure there will be applicaitons where AMD still comes out ahead, but synthetic scenarios don't really count. If">Intel wins in encoding tests, 3D rendering, gaming, office... and loses in a few specific benchmarks that require lots of memory and low latency RAM access, does it really mean AMD is competitive? I mean, there are still a few specific scenarios where P4 can beat A64, but you don't see us trumpeting those as being representative.

    What it comes down to is what most people will get out of each platform, and so far it's looking like a pretty clean sweep for Core Duo 2. Woodcrest vs. Opteron in HPC applications might be a different story (I doubt it), but that's really only relevant if you're running server workloads. As far as pricing,">last I saw the $300+ prices of dual core AMD chips are going to have a difficult time competing with $185-$225 Intel chips. Overclocks are also looking promising as well, so a $185 chip running 2.8 GHz will be a force to be reconned with.
  • R3MF - Friday, June 02, 2006 - link

    can you tell me the what and the when of this amzing revelation? Reply
  • Slaimus - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link


    In the end, if you want ATI CrossFire video you must choose ATI AM2 and if you want NVIDIA SLI you must choose NVIDIA nForce5.

    You can run CrossFire on 975X as well. It should be a competitive platform once the new CPUs come out.
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    Umm, the article made no mention of the Sil3132 performance on the A8R32-MVP, which I believe is bugged. Reply
  • Trisped - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link">
    First chart, #1 is the Silicon Image 3132 SATA2 (ATI) performance rating.
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    I saw that. But if you look at the second graph, the performance of the Sil 3132 in the MSI board is considerably worse than in the ATI reference board.

    That is still quite usable, but the one from the Asus A8R32-MVP is basically unusable (slower than what modern drives are capable).
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    We retested Sil3132 on the ATI and some other controllers for this review, and the other 3132 data should have been deleted. Now corrected. We are not aware of the 3132 issue with the A8R32-MVP. The Sil3132 is one of the best SATA2 controllers on the market, and it is a much better performer than the Sil3114. Reply
  • Axbattler - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    The result does shown in the review does suggest a solid performance from the Sil3132 controller. However, this is what I have been experiencing:
    -"> (Sil controller)
    -"> (ULi controller)

    Two motherboard bioses were tested (0311, 0404), as well as all the drivers from (bundled with the motherboard installation CD, to the latest

    The poor HDTach performance is reflected in real world application too, gaming loading, file copying are all slowed down to horrendous level.

    I believe that Gary was able to replicate this issue (not sure if he eventually found a way around it), although I suppose that based on the result of the other board, it is an issue specific Asus board (perhaps the A8R32-MVP). Is there any chance you could run a test to confirm this?
    Very few people in forums that I've visited use the Sil controller, perhaps due to the positioning of the SATA socket (which is actually optimal to where my Raptor is installed: on a 5.25" drive bay).
  • Trisped - Thursday, June 01, 2006 - link

    ATI AM2.jpg is a bit blurry when blown up. You might want to set the camera on the highest quality setting so that doesn’t happen.


    CPU Clock Multiplier 4x-25x in 0X increments
    0X looks like a typo

    Why did the Audio Performance charts not have any NVIDIA solutions?

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