Computex 2000 Coverage Day 1: Chipsetsby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 12, 2000 12:00 PM EST
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VIA's Future: DDR
Without a doubt VIA has been able to capitalize greatly on Intel's lack of any real 133MHz FSB solutions that were PC133 compliant in 1999 up through June 2000. The company is now in a very interesting situation, they have the potential to take advantage of their recent success and completely dominate the desktop chipset market for much longer. Obviously VIA is on the right track to achieving that success because if you look at their roadmap the next major announcement coming from them will be in the form of the first DDR solution for the desktop PC, the Apollo Pro2000.
As you probably know by now VIA's Apollo Pro2000 will be a P6 bus solution meaning that the first DDR chipset from VIA will be a Pentium III/Celeron solution. Shortly following the Apollo Pro2000's release we should be seeing an Athlon version of the chipset which will most likely be called the KT266, the 266 coming from its support for PC2100 DDR SDRAM otherwise known as DDR266 (133MHz DDR).
The DDR memory controller on the Pro2000 and on the KT266 (they will share the same memory controller) will simply be an upgraded version of the current memory controller on the 133A, meaning that if there are any inherent performance limitations caused by that memory controller design they will most definitely be carried over to the DDR platforms. Although it is obvious that the Pro2000 and KT266 should easily outperform any SDR platform available today.
There were banners all over the Computex floor advertising VIA's DDR266 support but we failed to see a single motherboard, not even a mockup or a prototype, that used either the Apollo Pro2000 or the KT266 chipset. Later on we found out from a motherboard manufacturer that VIA's chipset isn't too close to being complete. While the only ALi supporter we talked to at the show claimed that VIA didn't even have a pinout for their upcoming chipset ready, all the other manufacturers claimed that the chipset was in very early alpha stages.
The KT266 in particular seems to be up and running in some labs but the chipset is currently only running with DDR200 (or PC1600) SDRAM, at least that's what our sources revealed to us. Unfortunately VIA was not able to guarantee that the KT266 would be ready by Q4 2000 meaning there is a slight chance that the KT266 could hit the streets in 2001. We'll just have to wait and see how long it takes VIA to crank out the chipset. The good news is that the Thunderbird is running just fine at the 266MHz FSB (133MHz DDR) but we expected that in the first place.
VIA's future chipsets will also be using their answer to Intel's Accelerated Hub Architecture (used on all of the i8xx chipsets) called V-Link. While we couldn't get much information about V-Link, VIA claimed that it would increase the transfer frequency between the South Bridge and the North Bridge to 133MHz which is up from the 33MHz of the current implementation.