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nForce2 Dethroned? VIA's KT400A Chipset Reviewed

KT400A In Detail

The following table has been taken from VIA's website and lists the current chipsets and their features. Besides the improved memory interface, the KT400A can make use of VIA's new southbridge VT8237 with an integrated four-port Serial ATA controller. However, the test sample we received from Gigabyte comes with the old one (VT8235).

KT400AKT400KT333KT266A
North BridgeVT8733AVT8377VT8367VT8366A
Processor SupportAMD Athlon XPAMD DuronAMD Athlon XPAMD DuronAMD Athlon XPAMD DuronAMD Athlon XPAMD Duron
Front Side Bus200/266/333 MHz200/266/333 MHz200/266/333 MHz200/266 MHz
Memory Bus200/266/333 MHz200/266/333 MHz200/266/333 MHz200/266 MHz
AGP SupportAGP 8XAGP 8XAGP 4XAGP 4X
Memory TypeDDR200/266/333/400 SDRAMDDR200/266/333 SDRAMDDR200/266/333 SDRAMDDR200/266 SDRAM
Max. Memory4.0 GB4.0 GB4.0 GB4.0 GB
South BridgeVT8235, VT8235CE, VT8237VT8235VT8233, VT8233C, VT8233A or VT8235VT8233, VT8233C or VT8233A
North/South Bridge LinkVIA V-Link@ 533 MB/sVIA V-Link@ 533 MB/sVIA V-Link@ 266 MB/sVIA V-Link@ 266 MB/s
Integrated AudioAC'97 6 ChannelAC'97 6 ChannelAC'97 6 ChannelAC'97 6 Channel
Integrated ModemMC'97MC'97MC'97MC'97
Integrated Network ControllerVIA 10/100 Ethernet MACVIA 10/100 Ethernet MAC3Com (VT8233C) or VIA (VT8233 or 8233A) 10/100 Ethernet MAC3Com (VT8233C) or VIA (VT8233 or 8233A) 10/100 Ethernet MAC
PCI Devices/ Slots6 PCI5 PCI5 PCI5 PCI
IDEATA 33/66/100/ 133 Serial ATA (VT8237), up to 4 devicesATA 33/66/100/ 133ATA 33/66/100 ATA 133 with VT8233A South BridgeATA 33/66/100 ATA 133 with VT8233A South Bridge
USBUSB 2.0 8 PortsUSB 2.0 6 Ports, 3 ControllersVT8233 series USB 1.1 6 Ports, 2 Controllers VT8235 USB 2.0 6 Ports, 3 ControllersUSB 1.1 6 Ports, 2 Controllers
Super I/OLPC Super I/OLPC Super I/OLPC Super I/OLPC Super I/O
IO APICYesYesYesYes
Power ManagementACPI/APM/PCI/ PMACPI/APM/PCI/ PMACPI/APM/PCI/ PMACPI/APM/PCI/PM

The improvements inside the memory controller are called FastStream 64 technology, which is a side blow to NVIDIA's dual-channel interface that runs at 128 Bits. It's quite obvious that pure bandwidth is not always the key to high performance, a fact with which Rambus DRAM always had to contend. An intelligent prefetch buffer array has been integrated into the memory controller in order to reduce latency. This is, most of you might still remember, the main reason why KT400 plus DDR400 performed comparatively poorly in contrast to KT333/ KT400 teamed up with DDR333.