It has been close to two months since the release of AMD’s 760 chipset, the first Socket-A chipset with support for the 133MHz DDR FSB and DDR SDRAM to go along with it.  However, if you search for the current prices on those AMD 760 based boards that are available, or the cost of PC2100 DDR SDRAM, you’ll think twice about how much you’re willing to pay for a 10% performance boost.

Competing solutions, such as ALi’s recently released MAGiK1 chipset aren’t mature enough and still fail to offer more than that 10% average performance boost we noticed with the AMD 760 and DDR SDRAM.  Opting for “cheaper” PC1600 DDR SDRAM instead of PC2100 will save you a few bucks however in the end, the performance levels offered by PC1600 systems are barely any faster than what today’s KT133 platforms can offer with PC133 SDRAM. 

So is DDR SDRAM completely useless on the Athlon platform?  Looking towards the future, applications and games will become increasingly more memory bandwidth dependent.  We proved this through the use of the SPEC CPU2000 benchmark, which is very helpful in predicting future application performance.  In the SPECfp_2000 scores, the AMD 760 with PC2100 DDR SDRAM proved to be very high performing, often offering over a 50% increase in performance because of the additional bandwidth DDR SDRAM offers.

However for today’s applications, the 10% real world performance boost just isn’t enough to justify the added cost of migrating to a new platform with new memory for most users.  In fact, we never really found out how much of that 10% overall performance boost was from the use of DDR SDRAM and how much was from the 133MHz DDR FSB since the AMD 760 chipset does not offer the ability to run the FSB and memory buses asynchronously.

With AMD’s 760 too expensive for most users to pursue currently and ALi’s MAGiK1 without the maturity necessary to be a viable option, the only real option for Athlon users today still happens to be the KT133 chipset.  But with so much attention being given to the DDR platforms it’s almost painful to put money down today on an “obsolete” 100MHz FSB/PC133 platform. 

We have given VIA quite a bit of flack for not having their DDR Athlon solution available while both AMD and ALi have already been shipping theirs, however VIA has another solution to tide the market over until their DDR KM266 does hit the streets.  This “new” solution is really nothing more than a rehash of old technology, with a twist.  We are, of course, talking about the KT133A, a 266MHz FSB version of the tried and true KT133 that we have all been familiar with since June. 

But how effective can the 266MHz FSB be if the KT133A chipset is still limited to the PC133 SDRAM support of its predecessor? 

The Athlon isn’t the Pentium 4
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