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When CrossFire was launched it required an external dongle to work with a master carfd. However, even though it’s barely even arrived it’s already changed. While X1800 master cards have yet to appea, according to ATI, the entry-level X1300 and mid-range X1600 cards won’t require a master card.
There is another component required - CrossFire ready motherboards. We’ve seen the DFI LanParty UT RDX200 CF-DR, but it didn’t live up to its expectations. However, it now looks like Asus has come to rescue with the A8R-MVP.
Specifications wise, the A8R-MVP is pretty basic compared to the DFI LanParty UT RDX200 CF-DR. Asus has changed the ATI Southbridge in favour for a chip from ULi and it seem to have done the trick as the review sample worked flawlessly in our benchmarks. However, as we only had two X850XT cards – one being a CrossFire Edition Master card – we decided to leave out most of the 3D tests and we will be returning to this board at a later date when we have more recent newer cards to test it with.
Let’s start with taking a closer look at what the A8R-MVP has on offer in terms of features. Although I said it is a pretty basic board, modern motherboards are rarely feature-free. The most important part of this board is of course the two x16 PCI Express slots, as this is what makes this a CrossFire board. As with the first generation of SLI boards, when both slots are in use each slot is allocated x8 bandwidth.
Rather than using a small PCB in a slot on the board to change between single and dual card mode, the A8R-MVP uses a small piece of PCB that slots in to the top slot. This disables this slot and transfers the bandwidth to the lower slot to make this a full x16 slot. It’s a simple solution but it works well. The downside is that you can’t use the slot at all in single card mode, something most SLI boards allows you to at reduced bandwidth.
As you might have realised by now this also means that if you only use one graphics card with the A8R-MVP this ends up being in the middle of the board. This isn’t really a problem, just rather unusual for a modern PC, but then again the same is true for the Asus A8N32-SLI.
There is a further x1 PCI Express slot and three PCI slots for additional expansion cards. The four SATA connectors – with support for SATA II – support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD configurations thanks to the ULi southbridge. This also adds two IDE connectors for up to four drives.