ECS played their cards right by waiting for the AMD's Socket AM2 launch before getting the KA3 MVP out the doors. Not only is the board more desirable after the inclusion of a high-end Southbridge (SB600), it automatically enjoys a longer shelf life as AM2 is here to stay for a while. The KA3 MVP on paper has all the right combinations to make the board a worthy successor to the KA1 MVP. With the CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset onboard, it is very clear that ECS is gunning for the hardcore gamers going for full bandwidth CrossFire setup. Despite the SB600 providing high-end storage options this time round, ECS stuck with a configuration similar to the KA1 MVP, boosting both SATA and IDE storage capabilities through an additional controller. With dual Ethernet, FireWire and 8-channel HD Audio as well, the KA3 MVP was all set to take center stage.
However, the board does carry a few drawbacks, such as its limited expansion capability, which might give its target audience a reason to pause. Then there are also the few performance issues that we encountered during our testing. The CrossFire Xpress 3200 is a powerful chipset, but the KA3 MVP suffers from a slight performance drop due to memory compatibility issues. Capable of running DDR2-800 at only CAS 5 and CMD 2T, the board wasn't able to keep up with our Foxconn C51XEM2AA nForce 590 SLI motherboard. Even more surprising, the KA3 MVP's HDD performance doesn't meet expectations for an AHCI enabled SATA controller and we even double-checked with another round of testing on a fresh installation.
The board is also only an average overclocker despite its broad set of BIOS options. With a 260MHz HT overclock, the KA3 MVP performs more like the mid-range nForce 570 Ultra based K9N Platinum. In comparison, NVIDIA's nForce 590 SLI has set a commanding precedent for overclocking on the AM2 platform so if ECS wants the KA3 MVP to attract the enthusiast crowd, they've got to tweak the board to get the most out of the CrossFire Xpress 3200. The KA3 MVP is still not out in the market yet, so with any luck, ECS will be able to fix some of the memory and performance issues that we've encountered with our board.
For all the little issues we've had with the KA3 MVP, it is still a feature-packed gaming board and ECS's pricing makes it a very attractive board for users who are more interested in getting into some dual x16 CrossFire action. The retail price that we've gotten from ECS puts the board in the range of around US$170-$175, which is considerably less than the high US$230-240 range that ATI suggests for top end models. So with all things said and done, the ECS KA3 MVP still ranks high on our 'buy' list, though the KA1 MVP it is not.