Articles: Mainboards
 

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Functionality

There’s no sense in our enumerating the CPU and memory types supported because the ASUS A8R-MVP doesn’t differ in this respect from any other modern Socket 939 mainboard.

Based on the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire chipset, the mainboard features two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics cards. This configuration is meant to support ATI’s multi-GPU CrossFire technology. Like with mainboards on the Nvidia nForce4 SLI chipset, the graphical slots work as PCI Express x8 as soon as you install two cards on your ASUS A8R-MVP. If there is only one graphics card installed, the user should plug in the included dummy card into the second graphical slot to enable the correct operating mode of the PCI Express bus. The latest BIOS versions make this dummy card unnecessary, though.

Besides the two graphical slots, the mainboard carries one PCI Express x1 and three PCI slots. There’s no empty space in between, so the rightmost PCI and the PCI Express x1 slots will be inaccessible if you’ve got two high-performance graphics cards with massive coolers.

As mentioned above, the capabilities of the ASUS A8R-MVP are mostly determined by the characteristics of the South Bridge as this mainboard has but few additional controllers. The ULi M1575 South Bridge is employed instead of the traditional ATI SB450 chip here. This is possible because ATI’s Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire chipset uses an open PCI Express x2 bus as a link between the Bridges.

Of course, replacing the ATI SB450 with the ULi M1575 is an attempt of the manufacturer to improve the mainboard’s characteristics without spending much money or much effort. Well, let’s see in what points the ULi M1575 chip surpasses the South Bridge from ATI and if it endows the ASUS A8R-MVP with functionality similar to that of Nvidia nForce SLI-based mainboards.

ATI SB450

ULi M1575

NVIDIA
nForce4 SLI

PCI support

7 devices

7 devices

6 devices

USB 2.0

8 ports

8 ports

10 ports

Firewire

None

None

None

Serial ATA

1.5 Gbit/s

3 Gbit/s

3 Gbit/s

NCQ

None

Yes

Yes

SATA ports

4

4

4

PATA ports

2

2

2

RAID ports

0, 1
(only for SATA)

0, 1, 0+1, 5
(only for SATA)

0, 1, 0+1

Ethernet controller

None

10/100 Mbit

1 Gbit/s

Secure Networking Engine

None

None

Yes

Integrated sound

High Definition Audio

High Definition Audio

AC97

The table suggests that the South Bridge from ULi boasts a good implementation of the Serial ATA RAID controller. It supports the SATA II interface, with NCQ and 3Gbit/s bandwidth. The integrated RAID controller supports the now-popular RAID 5 configuration. Unlike the nForce4, the ULi M1575 doesn’t permit to use Parallel ATA drives in the RAID array, but this is not so very important today.

 
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