Sometimes the truth hurts and all wishes for the better turn out to be futile. That's what VIA had to experience last week when the first respectable online reviews of VIA's Apollo KT266 hit the web, showing lackluster performance compared to AMD760 chipset. Both chipsets support AMD's SocketA Athlon processor and DDR-SDRAM, and therefore a combination that is expected to yield excellent performance. Unfortunately even AMD's 760 chipset was never able to show a speed advance over PC133-systems (typically equipped with VIA's Apollo KT133A chipset) of more than 10%. VIA's rather late DDR-supporter Apollo KT266 could hardly reach 5% more speed than its PC133-brother KT133A, which could only be seen as a major disappointment. DDR is still a buzzword, but more due to marketing hype than due to actual major improvements over the cheaper and reliable performing PC133 SDRAM.
My demand is simple. I want to see at least as much of a performance benefit from DDR-SDRAM as what AMD760 is just about able to provide. A DDR-chipset that cannot even provide 10% performance improvement over PC133 has simply failed the class goal. ALi's MaGiK1 chipset has already disappointed the majority of us and now VIA's Apollo KT266 had failed to beat or at least live up to AMD760 just as much.
A New BIOS - The Magical Cure?
My judgment over Apollo KT266 was clear. Its performance was not good enough to justify its very existence. This was also not changed by the fact that its price is actually lower than AMD's counterpart, because if anyone really wants to save money, he should go for the even cheaper Apollo KT133A chipset plus PC133 memory and do completely without DDR. A 'Team DDR'-sticker on your PC doesn't make it better, faster or more impressive. The performance has to live up to the expectations.
After the posting of our first review last week there was a minor VIA-friendly website that did not want to believe the truth, foolhardy attacking us as well as Anand, who had come to a similar conclusion. A new BIOS was supposed to change everything and KT266 would all over a sudden perform really well. We were finally equipped with all the tools to flash this new BIOS onto our MSI test board and since we take our job rather seriously, we re-tested our KT266 platform with this new BIOS to see if VIA's wishes would finally come true.