ASUS’ original CrossFire motherboard, the RD480-based A8R-MVP Deluxe was never intended to be a flagship motherboard. One quick glance at the board’s spec sheet reveals this. The A8R-MVP Deluxe not only lacks support for dual Gigabit Ethernet networking (a staple of most high-end boards), it also lacks a second network controller. Additionally, the LAN controller used (Marvell's 88E8001) while GigE-compliant on paper, is tied to the PCI bus. ASUS also opted to use a six-channel CODEC from Analog Devices, the SoundMAX 1986A HD Audio chip, whereas most of today’s latest motherboards come with 8-channel CODECs.
Finally, just in case that wasn’t enough to convince you of the board’s buget-oriented origins, perhaps the A8R-MVP Deluxe’s bargain-basement price will – street prices on these boards can be for under $100, making the A8R-MVP Deluxe the least expensive dual-GPU motherboard offering ASUS provides.
Unlike the original A8R-MVP though, their A8R32-MVP Deluxe board is clearly targeted for the high-end crowd. For starters the board supports dual Gigabit Ethernet. ASUS outfits the board with two controllers from Marvell, the 88E8053 and the 88E8001. The primary 88E8053 controller utilizes PCI Express while the secondary controller continues to reside on the PCI bus.
The audio subsystem has also been enhanced on the A8R32-MVP Deluxe, as ASUS replaces the Analog Devices 1986A CODEC with Realtek’s ALC882 8-channel High-Definition Audio CODEC. The ALC882 is Realtek’s latest CODEC, boasting a signal-to-noise ratio of over 100dB, five 24-bit stereo DACs and three 20-bit stereo ADCs. The ALC882 also supports EAX 1.0/2.0 as well as HRTF 3D positional audio.
Serial ATA on the go
One cool feature of Serial ATA that often goes underutilized is hot-plugging. Like USB, Serial ATA drives can be plugged in without having to turn off the PC. With this feature, external Serial ATA drives were expected to be all the rage, but up to this point, most external CD/DVD burners and even external hard drives still utilize USB or IEEE-1394 (FireWire).
A large part of the reason why these external drives are still using USB and FireWire is simple: easy access. While FireWire and USB ports can be found on the back plane and more increasingly on the front of end users PCs, up to this point Serial ATA ports are usually stuck on the motherboard inside the PC: not exactly an easy area to get to.
ASUS hopes to change all that with their upcoming motherboards like the A8R32-MVP Deluxe. With their Serial ATA on the go, ASUS provides a second storage controller, Silicon Image’s 3132 controller for additional storage connectivity. The Sil 3132 supports 300MB/sec Serial ATA transfer rates with NCQ and supports RAID Levels 0, and 1. The 3132 is a PCI Express controller and is capable of driving 6’ cables for external Serial ATA support.
On the back plane of the A8R32-MVP Deluxe, you’ll find one Serial ATA connector located just underneath the parallel port for driving external devices like optical or hard disk drives. Also tied to the 3132 controller is a fifth Serial ATA connector located on the motherboard itself, just above the x16 PCI Express graphics slot, right underneath the CPU socket.
ASUS isn’t the first manufacturer to provide support for external Serial ATA drives – Gigabyte has offered it on some of their motherboards as well (although not directly on the back plane) – but this is a feature we would like to see more often on motherboards.