While legal issues have kept VIA's success in the Pentium 4 market to a disappointing minimum, the story changes dramatically when you look at the Socket-A market. Although almost all of the major players present in the Pentium 4 arena carry an equal presence in the Athlon world (sans Intel, of course), when it comes to AMD platforms there is no one more dominating than VIA. VIA controls the market and they're bringing to AMD the very same features that the Pentium 4 platforms enjoy, sometimes even before Intel.

VIA's success in the Socket-A market today dates back to their early cooperation with AMD on the original Athlon. Being the first high-volume chipset vendor to support the Athlon processor gave VIA a tremendous lead-time advantage over the competition. Companies like ALi and SiS didn't even touch the Athlon until the transition to Socket-A and newcomer NVIDIA has only been in the market for less than a year. Not being first to produce a DDR Athlon solution, VIA allowed the competition time to play catch-up, but even today, they enjoy a 3 - 6 month development lead time.

The maturity of VIA's memory controllers is very respectable, with the P4X333 besting even Intel's highest performing DDR memory controller. It's this maturity that has given the KT series of chipsets such great respect in the community. No longer recovering from a premature launch of the KT266 chipset, VIA released their fastest Athlon chipset ever in February - the KT333.

Although it has taken a while, motherboards based on the KT333 chipset are finally available from almost all of the major motherboard manufacturers out of Taiwan - and they're the most mature set of boards ever to carry a VIA chipset. There are still entirely too many that won't work reliably with all memory banks populated and there are still the select few that insist on not getting with the times when it comes to features, but for the most part, the collection of KT333 boards that are available today are the best the Athlon has ever seen.

With the Thoroughbred just launched, many users will be upgrading to new Socket-A platforms and there's none faster than the KT333. When it comes to the Athlon XP, it's not about choosing a chipset; it's about picking a motherboard.

DDR333: The Athlon's RDRAM
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