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Asus's A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard

ATI's CrossFire Express 3200 chipset arrives

Manufacturer Asus
Model A8R32-MVP Deluxe
Price (Street) $199-219
Availability Now

ASUS HAS BEEN on a nice run lately, cranking out motherboards for different CPUs based on various chipsets with all of the boards sharing a similar look, a happily tweakable BIOS, and a largely common set of features. They've got enthusiast-class motherboard design down to a formula, and they're executing quickly on that formula, oftentimes delivering boards based on new chipsets weeks before the competition.

The latest bit of core logic to get the Asus treatment is ATI's CrossFire Xpress 3200, a brand-new north bridge that allows Radeon cards to ride in dual PCI Express x16 slots, each with a full complement of 16 lanes of PCI-E connectivity. The goal, of course, is to accelerate the working of a pair of Radeon cards in a CrossFire configuration, bringing even more performance to an already potent dual-GPU setup.

The CrossFire Xpress 3200 is the second wave of ATI's bid to win over PC enthusiasts to its chipsets. ATI's first attempt, the Radeon Xpress 200, saw limited success, but established some strong credentials as a decent performer and an excellent overclocker. If the CrossFire Xpress 3200 can continue that tradition and round off some of its predecessor's rough edges, ATI could have a definite winner on its hands.

So, the questions are: has Asus done it again with the A8R32-MVP Deluxe? Can the CrossFire Xpress 3200's additional PCI Express lanes make the fastest dual-graphics setup in the world—a pair of Radeon X1900 cards—even faster? How well does this mobo stand up against its arch-rival from Asus, the A8N32-SLI Deluxe, based on NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI X16 chipset? Let's have a look.

The specs

CPU support Socket 939-based AMD processors
North bridge ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200
South bridge ULi M1575
Interconnect PCI Express x4 (2GB/sec)
Expansion slots 2 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
3 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 4 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR266/333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
4 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 support via ULi M1575
2 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0,1 support via Silicon Image SiI 3132
Audio 8-channel HD audio via M1575 and Realtek ALC882 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 parallel port
USB 2.0 ports with headers for 4 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet port via Marvell 88E8053
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet port via Marvell 88E8001

1 eSATA port via SiI 3132
2 Firewire headers via TI TSB43AB22A
1 serial header

1 analog line out/front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out

1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 coaxial digital S/PDIF output
1 optical digital S/PDIF output

Slot-based insert for 1 game port and 2 USB 2.0 ports
Slot-based insert for 2 Firewire ports
Slot-based insert for 1 serial port
Bus speeds HT: 200-400MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI-E: 100-150MHz in 1MHz increments
DDR: 100, 133, 166, 183, 200, 216, 233, 250MHz
Bus dividers HyperTransport: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x
Voltages CPU: auto, 0.8-1.6V in 0.025V increments
DDR: auto, 2.6-3.2V in 0.05V increments
North bridge: default, default + 1.20-1.50V in 0.1V increments
PCI-E: default, default + 1.20-1.50V in 0.1V increments
HyperTransport: default, default + 1.20-1.50V in 0.1V increments
South bridge: auto, "Enabled"
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, chassis
Uh, yep, those are the specs. Highlights include a substantial amount of control over voltages for a whole range of components, including traditional ones like the CPU and memory. More exciting is individual control over voltages for PCI Express and HyperTransport.

By and large, the specs are impeccable as far as features and capabilities go. One of the board's two GigE network controllers is a PCI device, which will limit its peak throughput, but the PCI-E NIC should serve well as the primary network device. We'll talk about more of the specifics as we go.