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The King of the Heap: 4 Chipsets for the Athlon64

VIA K8T800

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VIA's K8T800 has already been crowned the fastest Athlon64 FX chipset around. The differences in the Athlon64 for Socket 754 are smaller, however, and its lead in most applications is razor thin. Other Taiwanese companies are heating up the competition even more.

Despite it all, VIA is still in an unshakeable position: the K8T800 is a solid product, even if it "only" interconnects with the VT8237 Southbridge via a 533 Mbps V-Link. Even this will probably be upgraded in the next chipset generation, as has been done with the 655TX Pentium 4 chipset, which communicates at 1 Gbp/s via an Ultra V-Link. However, having the slowest North-South interface doesn't seem to make any difference in the standard applications, as the benchmarks attest. On the contrary, the K8T800 tears up most of the gaming benchmarks and the SPECviewperf faster than its rivals, although the SiS755 starts out with a CPU-clock advantage of some 10 MHz.

The K8T800 also sports VIA's latest mechanism to reduce signal noise on the HyperTransport channel to the CPU Hyper8. However, VIA does not describe how Hyper8 works exactly. Instead, it mutely offers a link to download the HyperTransport Analyzer from viaarena.com. VIA feels there are still some problems with the bandwidth and clocking of the HyperTransport channel and believes that Hyper8 offers it a competitive advantage.

Unfortunately, the K8T800 locks the clock ratio between the HyperTransport and the AGP/PCI bus. Not exactly a brilliant move, because AMD Athlon64 processors normally allow you to freely adjust the multiplier, provided you remain below the standard setting (x10.0 for 2.0 GHz CPUs). That means that VIA consciously allows you to overclock, then blocks one of the main overclocking avenues. NVIDIA and SiS do not block this option; as to ALi, we have no information one way or the other.

VIA has evidently outmaneuvered its rivals in one key aspect: it will soon launcha revised VT8239 Southbridge with two more SATA ports and built-in Native Command Queuing (up to 32 commands).

For a list of vendors that use VIA's K8T800, click here .