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nForce2 Dethroned? VIA's KT400A Chipset Reviewed

VIA's Apollo KT400A: A Threat To NVIDIA's nForce2?

Recently, VIA released a new Athlon chipset. But it is no silver bullet that could take down the Pentium 4 and its brand-new 875 chipset. No dual-channel memory interface, no faster FSB speeds. Still, VIA claims to reach dual-channel performance with only one memory module. Let's look at the evidence.

The KT400 is quite a controversial chipset. On the one hand, it carries a name that makes you expect some kind of DDR400 support. Yet actually, because DDR400 wasn't specified by JEDEC at that time, VIA decided to cancel official support. However, the chipset is capable of running at 400 MHz memory clock (200 MHz in double data rate mode).

On the other hand, the so beloved high performance DDR400 memory was not able to reach respectable performance numbers. This situation was even worse: most benchmarks finished slower with DDR400 than with DDR333.

Not even faster DIMMs (CAS latency 2) were able to alleviate the performance deficit. This also applies to NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset, whilst this one lives on its dual-channel memory interface in order to score higher numbers.

What VIA is now trying to do is to make the step from DDR333 to DDR400 - no more, no less. If it follows the tradition which holds that VIA chipsets perform best in their "A" version, the KT400A should be able to offer better performance than KT400. Or, in other words: we do expect better performance; anything else would be a disappointment. So, will it be fast enough to beat nForce2?