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nForce2 Dethroned? VIA's KT400A Chipset Reviewed

Conclusion: Much Ado About Nothing

Finding ways to accelerate a memory technology that has been squeezed for years has never been easy. The good news is that VIA did it again: like several times before, the KT400A chipset is faster than the first release using DDR400. The Apollo Pro 133A beat the the 133; the KT133A outperformed the KT133; the KT266A topped the KT266; etc. With the KT333, VIA was more cautious and never released the "real" KT333 in favor of the KT333A, which today is known and sold as the KT333 (without the "A").

Maybe VIA should have been cautions once again, as there is a strange downside to KT400A: it is faster than KT400 when using DDR400, but it runs even faster with DDR333! And if this wasn't enough, the KT400A with DDR333 is even slower than the KT400 with DDR333. Still with me? ;)

Well, it's quite simple: the KT400A chipset and DDR400 cannot live up to the expectations. The KT400 (without "A") combined with fast DDR333 memory is still the fastest single-channel chipset for Athlon, while nForce2 remains the fastest Athlon solution available using two DIMMs and DDR333.

The differences that we found in all of the benchmarks are very small; too small to feel anything at all, even. I had to run all benchmarks three, four or sometimes even five times to make sure I got a reliable result rather than a benchmark variance.

Finally, I have to make clear that such small differences as the ones we have here can easily be made up by a good motherboard or come to grief by a poorly performing model.

If you want the fastest platform, nForce2 is still your first choice. If you're looking for a good price point, the KT400 and DDR333 at CL2 mode is the way to go. So far, there is hardly a right to exist for KT400A - except by way of the new southbridge VT8237 with Serial ATA, which we are going to cover seperately.