VIA's DDR-Runner For Athlon - The Apollo KT266 Chipset


A KT266 review of the German online magazine 'CHIP Online' that had been published very ambitiously in English was recently raising hopes that VIA's Apollo KT266 chipset would not perform as poorly as what had been seen by many reviewers in the weeks before CeBIT. I was also able to see improvements, but although I was using the very same board and revision, KT266 is still way too slow to challenge or even replace AMD's 760 chipset.

The step to the new and currently more expensive memory solution DDR-SDRAM should be justifiable with a noticeable performance gain, unless TeamDDR wants to play with the same questionable tactics as the Rambus/Intel combo. Right now, the only platform that could just about justify the usage of DDR-SDRAM is AMD's Athlon processor plus AMD's 760 chipset. Many people like to say that future processors at higher clock speeds will be able to take more advantage of DDR-SDRAM, but I would like to demystify this belief. As long as the processor bus specs of Athlon don't change, it ain't gonna be able to benefit from memory with higher data bandwidth. PERIOD! What it WILL benefit from however are lower latencies. VIA as well as ALi have presented DDR-platforms that may just as well provide the DDR-typical peak memory bandwidth of 2.1 GB/s, but at latencies that slow Athlon down rather than accelerate it. All the gain of DDR's higher data bandwidth over PC133 SDRAM is lost again due to sad latency issues. TeamDDR has got to stop those things from happening, unless it wants to risk the marketing-value of the term 'DDR'.

As a conclusion, I could maybe say the typical words always used in early reviews "let's hope VIA will finally improve KT266". However, I have my doubts if this will happen any time soon. My advice to you is to either forget about DDR altogether for the time being, or to go for Athlon plus AMD760 and NOTHING ELSE. ALi and VIA will try their hardest to benefit from the current DDR-hype to cover up the rather disappointing performance of their DDR-solutions.

Taiwanese motherboard maker won't make this choice easy for you though. As it seems, VIA's Apollo KT266 is about $10 cheaper than AMD's 760. This is reason enough to produce more KT266 DDR-motherboards than AMD760-motherboards. There is also the rumor that AMD has problems supplying reasonable volumes of AMD760. As a result you will see hyped DDR-platforms with ALi or VIA chipset all over the place. The best way to handle this fuss is to ask yourself if you really need top performance. VIA's Apollo KT133A still provides a reliable and very well performing Athlon platform and it only requires the cheaper PC133 SDRAM. If you really want DDR, go AMD760!