When AMD first released the Athlon, the CPU garnered enough attention so that the company could start to be taken seriously as a fierce competitor to the previously dominant Intel. But if you look at it, there is a lot that has happened which has helped to ensure that the Athlon was much more than just a one hit wonder from AMD.

Among the most important players in this ballgame were, of course, the motherboard manufacturers. Without their continued support, albeit a tad slow at the start (we all remember the trouble we had getting motherboard manufacturers to support the Athlon at the beginning right?), the Athlon would have never had the opportunity to be put up against Intel's Pentium III. As great of a CPU as it is, the Athlon would have never been able to survive had it not been for the support of the handful of motherboard manufacturers that helped to carry the Slot-A CPU out of its infancy.

Luckily, things are much different now, after the release of the latest revision of the Athlon, the Thunderbird and its low-cost (but definitely not low-performance) variant, the Duron, there are quite a few motherboards that are becoming available for both CPUs. Only two months after the release of AMD's first Socket-A CPUs, we are able to bring you a roundup of 11 motherboards that are potential candidates for a Thunderbird or Duron system.

In spite of the fact that there are some AMD 750 based, Socket-A solutions around, the majority of the motherboard manufacturers are producing boards based on VIA's KT133 chipset. As you will recall from the initial Athlon launch, the AMD 750 chipset differs from the KT133 in that it doesn't offer a 133MHz memory bus and doesn't feature some of the integrated functions that the South Bridge of the KT133 chipset brings to the table.

From the perspective of the consumer, the KT133 chipset makes the most sense since it is being mass produced by a chipset manufacturer, not by AMD. AMD has no real intention of being present in the chipset market, they are simply planning to release chipsets whenever they are introducing a new technology (i.e. DDR memory) and let VIA, ALi and SiS handle the rest.

It is that philosophy that has landed VIA pretty much the exclusive lease on producing Socket-A chipsets; while that will change in the future with ALi's recently announced DDR chipset and SiS' upcoming solution, for now they're pretty much the only player in the game.

In this roundup, the candidates we've compared include the following: the ABIT KT7 RAID, ASUS A7V, Chaintech 7AJA, EpoX 8KTA, FIC AZ-11, Gigabyte GA-7ZM, Gigabyte GA-7ZX, Iwill KV200-R, Microstar K7T Pro and the QDI KinetiZ 7T.

VIA's KT133 Chipset

As you'll remember from our original Thunderbird review, the KT133 chipset is no different than VIA's KX133 - it is simply adapted for use with Socket-A processors.

The chipset supports AGP 4X, Ultra ATA 66 (Ultra ATA 100 is supported with the forthcoming 686B South Bridge), the 133MHz memory bus as well as some OEM-friendly features such as integrated audio/telephony codecs that can be taken advantage of by system integrators making use of on-board AMR slots.

In spite of the fact that you have to install a handful of patches and drivers in order to get the most performance out of the KT133 chipset, if done properly the KT133 chipset can perform quite reliably and will truly make you appreciate your investment in an AMD/VIA platform.

What to look for in a KT133 Motherboard
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