The second generation chipsets for Athlon 64 represent a genuine improvement in features, flexibility, and performance for AMD's flagship processors. As you saw in our chipset review, the nForce3-250 nVidia has added the features to bring their nF3 to the competitive edge of Athlon 64 chipsets. The HyperTransport speed, which was widely criticized on the 150 chipset, is now 800 or 1000 depending on the chipset version. The on-chip Gigabit LAN and on-chip Firewall are also unique in A64 land and are truly useful features. nVidia also fixed the problems with their implementation of PCI/AGP lock on the 150, and we are finding a working PCI/AGP lock on every nForce3-250 motherboard that we test, just as nVidia promised.

VIA's update to their excellent K8T800 chipset was less dramatic on the surface as there are not many new features, but the improvements are just as dramatic under the hood. As detailed in our review of the K8T800 PRO chipset, VIA brings 1000 HyperTransport to the PRO chipset for all Athlon 64 Sockets: 940, 754, and 939. Perhaps the most significant improvement was the addition of a working PCI/AGP lock to the K8T800 PRO. While VIA had demonstrated very fast performance with the K8T800, particularly on Socket 940 Dual-Channel, many enthusiasts had stayed away from VIA due to the missing PCI/AGP lock. With the K8T800 PRO, the PCI/AGP lock, which some vendors call "asynchronous operation", is finally a VIA feature for Athlon 64.

Today, we are looking at 5 new motherboards featuring the new chipsets. Since nVidia was first out with their chipset revision, the majority of the motherboards feature nForce3-250. Abit is the only board sporting the VIA K8T800 PRO only because the VIA is a more recent announcement. We fully expect to see more boards in all Athlon 64 sockets using the PRO chipset in the future. With VIA pricing the PRO chipset the same as the earlier K8T800, there is no reason for manufacturers not to use the K8T800 PRO instead.

While all the boards in today's test are Socket 754, please keep in mind that both nF3-250 and K8T800 Pro were really developed for next month's Socket 939 introduction. Socket 939 specifies 1000 HyperTransport speed and this is why you are seeing that feature on many of these new boards. The features and performance that you will see in this roundup should give you a better idea of what to expect in upcoming Socket 939 motherboards. Socket 939 adds Dual-Channel memory capabilities to the mainstream Athlon 64 and it will allow the FX flavors of Athlon 64 to work with the much more common unbuffered DDR memory instead of the current Registered DDR. Other than the new memory capabilities, which are really on the Athlon 64 chip as an integrated memory controller, Socket 939 will be basically the same as you will see in these new generation Socket 754 motherboards.

With this perspective in mind, let's take a closer look at the Abit KV8 PRO, Chaintech VNF3-250, Epox 8KDA3+, Gigabyte K8NSNXP and MSI K8N Neo.

Abit KV8 PRO: Features and Layout


View All Comments

  • intercollector - Saturday, May 29, 2004 - link

    I'm a little surprised to see why the MSI K8N didn't get the gold compared to the Epox. Both seem almost identical in every way, except that the K8N seems to include Firewire. Shouldn't this feature make it surpass the Epox board?

    The only downside of the MSI board seems to be the limit of a 300 max FSB, which is probably fine for 99.99% of overclockers.
  • Klaasman - Saturday, May 29, 2004 - link

    Thanks for link, but my KV8 Pro still wont boot when selecting "fixed" in bios setup.
    Why wouldn't my board have the pro chip? Manufacturing screw up maybe?
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    #6 -
    Bank Interleaving is not an option in any of the BIOS' tested here. Many current BIOS enable Bank interleaving by default. Where it is an option, we definitely enable the best interleaving option available and list what we set in the memory chart. We are not ignoring this option.
  • bigtoe33 - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    If you are looking for the latest Abit KV8 pro bios have a look here.

    multi support and PCI lock inc. if your pro board won't lock the pci bus with this bios then your board may not have the pro chipset.
  • Myrandex - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    Well after finishing the article, I was wondering why none of the boards are run with bank interleaving on? Doesn't it increase memory performance for the ones that support it? Reply
  • Myrandex - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    On the KV8 spec page, it states:
    Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 8 USB 2.0 ports supported by nF3-250
    No FireWire

    Should be K8T800 Pro instead of nF3-250.
  • Myrandex - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

  • Klaasman - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    What revision of KV8 Pro were you using and what bios version?
    Nobody else with a recently purchased KV8 can get the locks to work. How come your board does?
  • Aikouka - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    Anandtech should have looked at the problem that the Chaintech VNF3-250 has with it's RAID and installing an OS, and the problem where the board refuses to boot from SATA if you enable RAID on any IDE HDDs. People've said they've been able to circumvent it, but I haven't got it to work yet, and Chaintech is worthless when it comes to customer service. I received an automated response about 6 or 7 days after my initial submission on their website (they have no US phone number.) And I still have not received an email from a representative yet. Reply
  • RyanVM - Friday, May 28, 2004 - link

    If there's so little variation in system performance between these, why not look at other aspects like USB throughput/CPU utilization, IDE/SATA throughput, ethernet throughput/CPU utilization, etc.

    Ace's Hardware just did a great article showing that the rather crummy components being used these days on cheaper motherboards have a pretty large impact in performance in those areas.

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