Moving on to the rear of the motherboard you’ll find two PS/2 ports, a serial and parallel port, a coaxial S/PDIF, four USB 2.0 ports, a six pin FireWire connector, an RJ45 – for the onboard Gigabit Ethernet controller – and finally three audio jacks. The onboard audio codec support HD audio, but only for 5.1 rather than 7.1-channel sound. This is also the reason why there are only three audio connectors.
A further FireWire header is located at the bottom of the motherboard and a suitable rear bracket is supplied. There are also two spare USB headers and a bracket for two USB ports – leaving two spare for any case USB ports – alongside a game port fitted to another bracket. Apart from this you get four SATA data cables and two SATA power splitters which each support two drives. Finally, there are two IDE cables and a floppy cable in the box.
The board layout is quite clean and the power connectors are towards the top of the board. One small complaint is that beyond the CPU cooler there are only two fan headers, not great but then this is a low-cost board. The chipset is passively cooled – both the Northbridge and the Southbridge – alongside the MOSFETS.
So what about performance? Well, this isn’t the fastest board I have ever tested, but with an overall SYSMark 2004 score it beats the Asus A8N-SLI Premium by one point. This is within the margin of error and newer drivers might also make a difference here. In PCMark 2005 the A8R-MVP scored 4211 points overall compared to 4138 for the A8N-SLI Premium. Although this was with two 6800GTs in the A8N-SLI Premium which would be the reason for the slightly lower score as these cards are slower than the X850XT cards used in the A8R-MVP.
Either which way it goes to show that that ATI northbridge in combination with the ULi southbridge is a fast and stable combination and Asus has put together yet another solid motherboard. When you consider that it only costs £78.31 it’s pretty good value for money as well. The only question mark here is how good it is in 3D.
As I mentioned earlier on in the review, as we only had access to an X850XT CrossFire setup we felt it would be wrong to run a full set of numbers on this motherboard as it wouldn’t show the platform in its best light. However, CrossFire worked flawlessly during the whole testing procedure and a quick 3DMark 05 run produced a score of 6164 points, not exactly impressive. So once we’ve managed to secure a couple of more up to date CrossFire compatible cards we’ll revisit the A8R-MVP and do a full set of 3D tests.
Overall the A8R-MVP proved to be a solid motherboard and it shows that CrossFire might finally be ready to compete with SLI as a dual-graphics card solution. It’s not the feature richest board on the market, but considering the price it’s still good value for money.