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Athlon XP Chipset Shootout - VIA KT400 vs. VIA KT400A vs. nVidia nForce 2

By: Shawn Baker | AMD CPUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Jun 12, 2003 4:00 am



- Package


As far as the package from MSI goes we don't see anything out of the ordinary, of course we receive your normal host of Manuals and IDE cables but also your Raid Driver Disk, a copy of MSI DVD, I/O back plate, two serial ATA cables, firewire back plate, a nice little MSI sticker for your case as well as the D Bracket which gives the user USB and the ability to easily diagnose problems when booting.


The most unique product in the package would be the D Bracket which helps users identify problems when the mainboard is not posting, with four LED's and a host of combinations you shouldn't have a problem finding out what is wrong with the mainboard if you do have trouble with it.






- Board & Layout



MSI have again chosen to the go with the red PCB that catches a lot of attention. While for most enthusiast the color of the motherboard won't make a difference some people will enjoy the color being seen through their case window. MSI have chosen use a six PCI and one AGP configuration compared to the 5/1 that we see on a lot of other boards, this of course gives people the ability to have an extra PCI device on their system. One problem with this configuration is that it pushes up the AGP slot and for users of longer graphic cards you will have to remove the card when adjusting your memory as it isn't possible to un-do the clips with it in place.




The board is very simple as far as the layout of it goes with the IDE connectors located in the top half of the board on the right side and the Serial ATA ports located either side of its controller down towards the bottom. As stated above the AGP slot is slightly higher on this mainboard due to the 6/1 configuration. Moving to the I/O panel you have got your normal setup plus four USB ports, one 10/100/1000 LAN port as well as your onboard audio jacks.




- The Chipset



The MSI KT4 Ultra is powered by VIA's KT400 chipset which was originally intended to support the latest batch of memory at the time, which is PC3200 or DDR-400.


VIA had problems running the memory at this speed and had to abort official support for it, some companies have chosen to include the ability to run the memory at these speeds with certain divider settings but of course it isn't officially supported. The KT400 also carries along the ability to run the latest video cards in AGP 8x mode, although the difference is minimal and reports of instability are known.


- Promise SATA RAID


Serial ATA RAID is offered via the Promise PDC20376 controller which gives one parallel ATA port as well as two Serial ATA ports which have been all been implemented in the KT4-Ultra. Due to the PCI bus limitations, the maximum throughput is still only 133MB/s and not the full 150MB/s that Serial ATA hard drives are able to offer.



- Firewire


The KT400 doesn't support firewire within the chipset and for this reason the VT6306 controller has been added to the motherboard to power the firewire ports that are included. Firewire hasn't become a big as USB 2.0, which was released shortly after and offered a higher bandwidth as well as the ability to run with your older 1.1 devices without a problem.



- Gigabit Lanning


MSI have chosen to go down the path of the Broadcom 10/100/1000 network controller which has now been used on a number of newer motherboards without any issues at all. While we are still waiting for Gigabit networks to get implemented into companies, it is defiantly handy to have if transferring files from one person to another using a cross over cable. It could be years before we see Gigabit networking used on a wide spread basis.



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