Articles: Mainboards

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Another advantage of the ULi M1575 South Bridge is its support for High-Definition Audio whereas the competing chipset from Nvidia offers the lower-quality and lower-performance AC’97 solution. These advantages, however, don’t make the combination of ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire with ULi M1575 a worthy alternative to the nForce4 SLI chipset.

Unfortunately, the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire can’t offer up-to-date networking opportunities with either of the South Bridges. Neither the ULi M1575 nor the ATI SB450 has an integrated Gigabit Ethernet controller, so mainboards with these South Bridges have to use external network controllers, and the ASUS A8R-MVP is not an exception.

But let’s first see what functions of the ASUS A8R-MVP are provided by the ULi South Bridge. This chip is responsible for all the eight USB 2.0 ports available here, four of which can be found on the mainboard’s I/O panel. The remaining four ports are implemented as two pin-connectors on the PCB, one of which can be employed through the back-panel bracket included with the mainboard and the other is supposed to be connected to the front panel of your PC case.

The ULi M1575 South Bridge is also responsible for all the Parallel and Serial ATA ports. Thanks to this chipset, the ASUS A8R-MVP allows uniting the attached Serial ATA drives into RAID arrays of level 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 and thus surpasses nForce4-based mainboards in this respect. The Serial ATA controller complies with the Serial ATA II standard, including support for NCQ technology.

The integrated sound of the ASUS A8R-MVP is provided by the South Bridge through a six-channel AC’97 codec from Analog Devices, the AD1986A chip. The codec isn’t very good, frankly speaking. At least, its parameters are overall inferior to those of the popular HD codec Realtek ALC882. The ASUS A8R-MVP offers the user only three analog audio outputs and a single coaxial SPDIF output. The mainboard’s IEEE1394 ports are connected to a Texas Instruments controller. One port is on the mainboard’s I/O panel. To use the other, you should attach the included IEEE1394 back-panel bracket to the appropriate onboard header.

The networking capabilities of the mainboard aren’t superb, either. The South Bridge lacking a networking interface, ASUS had to install an external Gigabit Ethernet controller, a Marvel 88E8001 chip. This chip, however, is connected to the PCI rather than to the PCI Express bus, which means it cannot provide a bandwidth of near the theoretical maximum.

So, there’s nothing extraordinary in the functions the ASUS A8R-MVP offers to the user. The manufacturer has clearly saved on additional controllers and some of the mainboard’s features are worse than they might be. But well, this is all justified by the low price of the product.

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