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VIA In Shape: 6 Motherboards using the renewed KT133A Chipset

To 'DDR' Or Not To 'DDR'

Technically savvy and power hungry Athlon-fans might call both the Apollo KT133 and the KT133A already outdated. Of course DDR is pretty close to the mass market, but so far it hasn't exactly met the expectations. Right now, the latest DDR-chipset generation is not able to beat its predecessors by an impressive margin, which might be the fault of the DDR-chipset designers AMD, ALi or VIA, but more likely due to the processor design of Athlon/Duron and Pentium III/Celeron. Those processors aren't able to take enough advantage of the higher memory bandwidth provided by DDR memory. Intel's Pentium 4 however, a processor that lives and dies with memory bandwidth, is currently without a chipset that would support DDR-memory. Why should anyone spend money on DDR-memory, which might be technically up to date, but not superior to common stuff in terms of performance?

Right now DDR-memory is more of a catchword than the provider of a major performance boost. It might take a while until there will be processors and software that are able to take real advantage of it. We have had this situation many times before. The best example is the (forced) introduction of RDRAM with Pentium III-Coppermine. This Intel-processor was never able to get anything out of RDRAM's 'virtues' and it took until the introduction of a new processor, Intel's Pentium 4, that we could finally see sense in the existence of this memory type.

VIA's Apollo KT133 and the beefed-up KT133A could play the role of Intel's BX chipset, which still happens to be the best-performing Pentium III chipset, only that Intel never bothered to introduce a 'BX133'-type that would allow safe operation at 133 MHz FSB and the proper AGP-clock divider. Right now it seems as if a motherboard with Apollo KT133A is the best future investment. Due to the higher FSB speed of 133 MHz, most boards will be able to run future Athlon processors at up to 133 MHz x12.5 (Athlon's highest multiplier for the time being) = 1666 MHz.

It might be that the next generation of AMD-processors will require a new CPU socket (= new motherboard). In that case, you would have to throw away any current motherboard - no matter if it runs with SDRAM or DDR RAM.

The performance delta between a standard SDRAM system and a machine based on DDR will probably increase with higher CPU clocks. The faster the processor, the more sense the new high-speed RAM might actually make. Only some weeks ago, our benchmarks proved that the performance increase reached by DDR systems is rather small today - even if you are using an Athlon 1200.