Any excuse for a new chipset
It's that time of year again, when the core logic chipsets that drive motherboards get a refresh or redesign, updating their features, enhancing their performance and giving board makers a fresh new base to create products with. With new processors and supporting platforms, like AMD's Athlon 64 and Opteron, chipset designs are brand new due to the platform's age. With existing stuff like Intel Pentium 4 and AMD's Athlon XP, things are a little more relaxed; the chipsets get incremental upgrades as and when they need them.
So when Tarinder took a look at VIA's PT880 chipset for Intel's Netburst processors late last year, we witnessed one such incremental upgrade.
And as luck would have it, his analysis of PT880 makes my job much easier today. KT880 is identical in features, save being a core logic chipset for 32-bit AMD processors, rather than Netburst-based chips in the case of PT880.
That means dual-channel memory support (yep, you read that right), support for all Socket A processors, VIA's V-Link bridge interconnect, pairing with the all conquering VT8237 southbridge and all the flexibility that V-Map brings to the table. If you have any idea about the current core logic options for Socket A AMD processors at the moment, you'll know that your high performance options run to nForce2 Ultra 400 and, err, that's about it. KT600, while offering nice performance in reference board form, seems to be fairly underwhelming in implementations from board vendors. nForce2 Ultra offers the same northbridge features as KT880 and NVIDIA have been supplying the market with the chipset for a long time. Infact some boards are on their second revisions, using nForce2 Ultra 400, ABIT's AN7 upgrade to NF7-S 2.0 is one such case in point.
So VIA are playing catchup on a chipset that's had wide enthusiast acceptance for months and who's boards enjoy maturity and high performance, along with good features and low price. KT880 has its work cut out for it then.
But even though it's a bit late to the table, we shouldn't discount it without having a good look. The dual-channel memory controller, DualStream64, is the reason for the new chipset, VIA using it to bring parity with their P4 offering and to provide a Socket A chipset that can stand toe-to-toe with nForce2 Ultra 400's feature set. Can they wrest the Socket A performance crown from NVIDIA at this late stage of the game?