In the past few months, we've been paying quite a bit of attention towards the multi-GPU scene, especially on the growing CrossFire enabled product base. ATI initially plugged the gap with a CrossFire Edition of their well-mellowed Radeon Xpress 200 (RD480) chipset. In our past few CrossFire motherboard reviews, the RD480 proved to be a good bargain for users to get on CrossFire without burning a hole in their pockets, but the chipset itself may not have been too appealing to enthusiasts looking to a powerful platform. ATI then followed up with the released of the high-end dual x16 CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580) chipset, which has so far been very well received but still limited in availability.
Imagine our surprise when the ASUS A8R-MVP (not the A8R32-MVP mind you) arrived at our labs sporting the brand new ATI CrossFire Xpress 1600 chipset targeted at the mid-range market promising to be ATI's 'performance-class multi-GPU platform'. The ATI CrossFire Xpress 1600 chipset is a standard two-chip solution and as its name implies, it is half that of the CrossFire Xpress 3200, which means it will run CrossFire with a dual PCIe x8 interface.
CrossFire Xpress 1600? There is no CrossFire Xpress 1600. Well there is, but contrary to what we initially thought, it isn't a new chipset. ATI apparently thought that since the RD580 is called the CrossFire Xpress 3200, it would make sense that its predecessor is thus similarly named. If you look past the smoke screen, the CrossFire Xpress 1600 is actually nothing more than a name change to breathe new life into the Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire Edition. As Computex 2006 is drawing nearer, we fully expect ATI and its motherboard manufacturers to take full advantage of this.
Now that we've cleared up the confusion between the relationship of the CrossFire Xpress 1600 and the Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire Edition, let's get right down to the board in question – the ASUS A8R-MVP. Seeing how successful A8R32-MVP is, we intend to find out if the more mainstream CrossFire capable A8R-MVP is worth considering. Breaking our own convention slightly, we'll put the stakes on the table first. The A8R-MVP costs on average US$100 while the A8R32-MVP goes for a whopping US$190. Now if that has gotten your attention, let's get on with this review.
The A8R-MVP comes with a nice hefty bundle that takes care of all the connectivity onboard. However, there doesn't seem to be a SATA/RAID driver diskette provided, which will be a slight inconvenience, but something users should take note of when installing Windows. Apart from that, here's a list of accessories you can expect to find in every A8R-MVP motherboard package:-