VIA's KT333: The Athlon gets DDR333by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 20, 2002 1:57 AM EST
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When the KT266A was launched it completely blew us away; the performance of the chipset was spectacular and it was clear that it would quickly become a top pick for all Athlon owners. The KT333 doesn't have nearly as great of an impact but the reasons behind that are understandable; both new features supported by the chipset, DDR333 and Ultra ATA 133 aren't features that will result in tangible improvements in performance today. Instead the KT333 is more of a technology enabling platform for VIA. The chipset will not cost any more to manufacture than the KT266A and thus motherboards won't increase in price. While DDR333 SDRAM isn't officially available today (the specification isn't complete), when it is first made available it will carry a price premium over DDR266 SDRAM.
Remember that the KT333 will function just fine with DDR266 SDRAM, meaning that it will eventually replace the KT266A in all forthcoming motherboards out of Taiwan. Although the performance improvement is non-existant, there's nothing to complain about from the motherboard manufacturer's perspective. Outside of ensuring stability at 166MHz DDR memory bus frequencies, it costs no more to manufacture a KT333 board than it does a KT266A motherboard.
Obviously to current KT266A owners there's no need to upgrade, nor is there any need to feel outdated. What should be taken away from this review however is the presence of VIA at the top of the Athlon chipset market. Moving forward the biggest threat to VIA's Socket-A marketshare will be the nForce 415-D which is supposed to be very aggressively priced, however it seems like it will have to be some very impressive pricing from NVIDIA in order to convince both motherboard manufacturers and end users to make the switch. The high-quality audio system and integrated LAN would be the only reason to lean towards the 415-D as the performance between the 415-D and the KT333 should be relatively similar.
That pretty much sums up all that can be said about the KT333; it wasn't as hard hitting of a launch as the KT266A but that's understandable given the limited improvements. The KT333 is a natural replacement for the KT266A and if AMD does ever move to a 166MHz FSB you can expect VIA to be there with a KT333A chipset to match. The bottom line is that today, DDR333 doesn't result in any tangible performance improvements but if paired with a 166MHz DDR FSB the boost could be quite tangible.