Mainboards for the Athlon 64 platform on chipsets from ATI Technologies have been drawing much interest lately just because they are an always-welcome alternative to the dominating nForce4 chipsets from Nvidia, but the tests we conducted earlier showed that the Radeon Xpress 200 was not actually a highly competitive product. It was the South Bridge of the chipset, with its limited functionality and numerous problems, that was the main object of our complaints. Although some mainboard manufacturers have tried to use this mediocre chipset to build products for PC enthusiasts, we can’t honestly recommend them to you.
Still, we don’t want to dismiss the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 altogether. After all this chipset, as opposed to the nForce4 SLI, is the only one to support CrossFire technology which allows using two graphics cards on ATI Radeon chips as a single graphics subsystem with a higher overall performance. It just has no alternatives as such. Moreover, the Radeon Xpress 200 may be accompanied with another South Bridge, manufactured by ULi, which helps overcome many limitations of the original South Bridge from ATI. That’s why we are going to review yet another mainboard based on the Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire chipset, but this time it is equipped with the alternative South Bridge. There are few such mainboards on the market, but you can find one if you really want to. We’ve taken a sample of the ASUS A8R-MVP mainboard which has already got positive reviews on some other sites somehow.
Running a little ahead, we’d want to say our opinion about this product differs in many points from the opinion of our colleagues. Our tests show that although the South Bridge from ULi helps to solve some problems of the original ATI SB450 chip, the total of the drawbacks is not at all smaller. Basing on our experience with the ASUS A8R-MVP mainboard, we will show you below that the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire chipset with the ULi M1575 South Bridge cannot be considered as a serious alternative to NVIDIA’s chipsets for the Athlon 64 platform. At least ASUS, a renowned mainboard manufacturer, didn’t manage to make a worthy alternative.
It’s possible that ASUS engineers rather than ATI or ULi are to bear the blame for the poor results we got, but there will probably be no new mainboards using an ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire North Bridge and an ULi M1575 South Bridge. ATI’s partners can hardly expect new shipments of this South Bridge after Nvidia has acquired ULi. So, the maximum we can all hope for is that the existing mainboards with the ULi M1575 South Bridge will still be shipping for some time yet.