Cost-Defying Single-Channel Platforms: Chipsets from NVIDIA and VIA

Conclusion: NVIDIA Beats VIA, But Only Just

The nForce2 400 came out stronger than the challenging KT600 from VIA in 15 of 20 benchmarks. In many disciplines, however, its wins were so close that you can't quite call it a real lead. Again, remember our comments about the low-budget boards: if you are in the market for serial ATA, your only choices are a fully-stocked nForce2 board (expensive) or a VIA KT600 board that supports serial ATA out of the box. If, on the other hand, you will need the two possible network controllers on the nForce2 chipset, the NVIDIA is the platform for you.

We were shocked to discover that the performance gap between the two single-channel platforms and the nForce2 Ultra 400 with dual-channel DDR400 is a lot less than you might expect. Tests conducted a year ago with the nForce2, 166 MHz FSB and only one DIMM demonstrated that dual-channel mode is bound up with definite advantages.

This time, we used an Athlon XP 3200+ with a Barton core and a 200 MHz system clock. The results show that fast FSB clock is more important than sheer memory bandwidth. According to most of the benchmarks, the nForce2 400 (single channel) isn't that much slower than its big brother.

So cost-conscious users take note: the single-mode nForce2 400 is more than sufficient for many application scenarios. Investing in the nForce2 Ultra 400 and a couple of expensive brand-name RAM modules is only worth it when you need the very best performance level.

Generally, boards based on VIA's KT600 chipset should be cheaper than boards with NVIDIA products. As long as you can live with a touch less performance than what the nForce2 offers, the VIA chipset is the bargain for pre-Christmas season upgrades.