VIA KT266A Motherboard Roundup - January 2002by Mike Andrawes on January 18, 2002 4:48 AM EST
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AMD remains very focused on CPUs and only rises to the role of a chipset manufacturer when it's absolutely necessary. Case in point would be the release of the AMD 760 chipset which enabled DDR SDRAM to be used on Athlon platforms, and more recently the AMD 760MP/MPX platforms that finally brought dual processor support.
AMD has relied in third party manufacturers to supply chipsets for their CPUs for the longest time. Back in the Socket-7 days it was Intel that provided the majority of the chipsets, and eventually VIA took over the role. The Athlon itself would have never succeeded had it not been for VIA's support but as any business mind will tell you, it's dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket. AMD began encouraging other chipset manufacturers such as ALi, SiS and eventually even NVIDIA to develop Athlon platforms.
Around the Computex 2001 timeframe VIA was feeling quite a bit of pressure as it seemed like motherboard vendors were tempted by SiS' 735 and the then forthcoming nForce. Fast-forwarding to the present day, many of VIA's fears were unwarranted.
While the SiS 735 exhibited excellent performance combined with a very low cost, motherboard manufacturers were not quick to adopt the solution. Other than ECS' extremely low-priced K75SA, there were no more than a handful of boards made based on the 735 chipset.
Even more of a disappointment was the launch of NVIDIA's nForce. We still firmly believe in the capabilities of the chipset but what was originally the highlight of Computex fizzled at its official shipping launch in late 2001. There is still much potential for the chipset with more affordable solutions coming this year but it seems like we were all a little too optimistic about how revolutionary NVIDIA's first shot at a PC chipset would be. The nForce platform will be an interesting one to keep an eye on, but it's not destined to replace VIA's role in the Athlon's growth anytime soon.
This leaves us with by far the most desirable Athlon platform on the market - VIA's KT266A. While most manufacturers won't touch their Pentium 4 chipsets with a 10 foot pole, there isn't a single motherboard manufacturer in Taiwan that isn't happy to feature the KT266A chipset. Much of the success of the AMD Athlon XP's launch can be attributed to this chipset which performs so very well and allows the processor to truly spread its wings. With a chipset this important, how could we not make a roundup out of it?
In this roundup, besides KT266A boards, we also threw in two boards using the latest stepping of ALi's MAGiK 1 chipset - the ASUS A7A266-E and the Iwill XP333. On the KT266A side, we have a total of 14 candidates; they are the ABIT KR7A-RAID, AOpen AK77 Plus, ASUS A7V266-E, Chaintech CT-7VJDA, DFI AD70-SR, ECS K7VTA3, EPoX 8KHA+, FIC AN11, Gigabyte 7VTXH, MSI K7T266 Pro2, Shuttle AK35GTR, Soltek SL-75DRV2, Soyo AY-K7V Dragon Plus! and the Transcend TS-AKR4.