VIA has had a difficult time recently in the Intel chipset market. After making great in-roads since the Intel Rambus/i820 setbacks, VIA stubbornly stuck to a course that created a legal battle with Intel over licensing. They continued to produce decent chipsets for Pentium, but manufacturers wouldn't touch the chipsets due to legal concerns. Instead, manufacturers chose either Intel or the licensed SiS chipsets for their Pentium 4 boards. The legal problems with Intel were resolved eventually, but by that time, Intel had moved the chipset world to Dual-Channel memory.

With that shift to Dual-Channel memory, VIA seemed to have a difficult time producing a Dual-Channel solution for either Intel or AMD, and they continued to lose market share to Intel, SiS and nVidia. Finally, with last September's introduction of the Athlon 64, VIA was back with AMD. The K8T800 proved to be a decent and good-selling chipset in both the single-channel and dual-channel versions. It is true that the memory controller with Athlon 64 is on the CPU itself, but VIA had a new modern 8237 Southbridge that could now compete with the best from Intel. With the renewed success in the Athlon 64 market, VIA once again set their sights on the Pentium 4 chipset market. The VIA PT880 chipset is VIA's first dual-channel solution for Intel, and VIA has been very excited about prospects for the chipset.

Soltek is the first shipping PT880 chipset board that we have seen, but there will likely be more boards based on the PT880 in the near future. Soltek decided to give the PT880 a top-of-the-line treatment with the launch of their newest PRO series, and this is certainly the most feature-laden Soltek board that we have ever tested. Soltek even includes dual SATA RAID options, and a single IDE RAID connector - options that are more reminiscent of a top-line Asus board.

A Closer Look at VIA PT880
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