I first saw ECS Crossfire boards at the nice ECS Editor’s Day they held about half a year ago. Both the Intel and AMD versions were there. Flash forward a few months and ECS releases the Intel Crossfire board. It was an interesting choice as gamers tend to favor AMD products. At this year’s CES, I saw the AMD Crossfire board first hand rather than in a case at the Editor’s Day event. I was finally able to get my hands on the KA1 MVP
to give it a run through so let’s see how this board does. This isn’t my first taste of an Xpress 200 board but it’s my first full retail board. The one I looked at earlier was a pre-production model and this is the first full Crossfire board I’ve been able to get my hands on. The KA1 MVP
follows close to the KN1 SLI Extreme
layout. If you’ve seen recent ECS boards then you’ll be familiar with the color scheme. The purple based PCB supports socket 939 processors including the dual core lines. If you are looking for an AM2 Crossfire board, you’ll have to wait a little longer.
The Northbridge consists of the ATI RD480 while the Southbridge is the SB450. Both contain a heatsink without any fans. Less fans means less noise and that’s good in my book. The RD480 allows for Crossfire support as evident by the two PCI-E x16 slots on the board. Now the RD480’s being replaced with ATI’s latest RD580 or the Xpress 3200 so if you’re thinking about this board, know that a new chipset is already out there. Four 184-pin DIMM slots give you a maximum of 8 GIGS of memory.
The SB450 is known for lackluster USB 2.0 performance. If you plan on using a USB hard drive, you’ll be waiting a little longer than normal. But for those that just use USB for thumb drives and input devices, the USB performance shouldn’t be an issue. In my point of view, I don’t know of anyone that runs a USB drive for long periods of time. There are instances where using a USB hard drive to transfer large files is convenient, but you’re probably not going to do it enough to care about the sub-par USB transfer rate of the SB450. A big plus for the SB450 is Azalia support. I’m happy to finally see AC ’97 being phased out and the move to higher end integrated audio being put in its place. The SB450 lacks SATA II but that’s taken care of by the SIL3132 controller onboard for two SATA II ports. The additional four SATA ports are supported by the SB450 Southbridge.
Since this is a Crossfire board, two PCI-E x16 slots are available if you do have a Crossfire setup. When using one video card, a shunt card is placed in the top most slot while the second slot is the main video connection. Single card operation gives you the full x16 channel while using two cards knocks them both back to x8. There are also two x1 PCI-E connections with one situated between the two x16 slots and one after the second x16 slot. Rounding out the expansion set are two PCI slots.
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