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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


Everything about this board is over the top and that is what makes it absolutely fantastic. DFI's new LANPARTY series looks absolutely amazing and what may have just taken Gigabyte off top spot as far as looks go. The contents of the LANPARTY box has to be the best on the market, you open it up and you are greeted with a nice LANPARTY sticker and a smaller case badge version of the modern day skater boy. Hidden under that is the Quick instillation guide as well as all the necessary reading material - user manual, feature manual, RAID driver disk and two CDROM's, one with WinDVD/WinRIP and the other your motherboard driver disk. Moving away from the less interesting items and the motherboard, we start to find some really exciting and new items.




DFI haven't just included your standard IDE rounded cables that some companies offer but have also been kind enough to include a rounded FDD cable that is UV reactive like the others. This is defiantly a nice change if you are still using a floppy drive - you don't have to worry about having neat rounded IDE cables and a ugly flat ribbon cable for your floppy drive.


Moving onto the next box we find the Front X, this gives you the ability to access all your main connectors from the front including: USB, Firewire as well as Audio in and out. Moving onto the Accessory kit box we find the normal motherboard back plate, game port back plate, Serial ATA cable, Serial ATA power adapter, firewire back plate, thermal paste and finally S/PDIF coaxial cable back plate. The final box inside this massive package is labeled PC TRANSPO, instantly seeing this we had to quickly pull out the box to discover what it is. The PC TRANSPO is a solid and handy PC transportation system. It simply straps around the outside of your case so it can be carried with great ease to and from LANs. We saw something similar on the Antec LAN Boy case we looked at. Overall the package is one of the best we have seen, DFI really have put a lot of effort to getting the attention of the enthusiast market and from our prospective - it should be given.






- Layout


If you're looking at purchasing the DFI LANPARTY KT400A motherboard it is defiantly worth making sure you like the color green as you will find a lot of it. On the configuration side of things nothing too out of the ordinary as far as placement of items go, the board goes with a 1 AGP / 5 PCI setup as well as four PATA ports placed between the middle and the bottom of the motherboard with the FDD connecter under the non-RAID set of PATA ports. Considering all the effort that DFI has placed into this board it is quite disappointing to find only a passive cooler on the northbridge, a fan with a green LED would have defiantly suited the mainboard a lot better and made an already brilliant looking motherboard that little bit better.


The inclusion of a power and reset button on the motherboard is very handy especially in a situation where you have to test a board, it is nice to not have to grab a screwdriver to turn the motherboard on and risk touching the wrong pins and doing some real damage.





Moving around the front to the IO panel we have quite a normal setup as far as the first half of it goes, moving past the com ports you are greeted with not only one LAN port but six USB ports to go along with it. Finally are the connections for your onboard sound if you don't have a PCI sound card, you will find your Audio outs and in.


Overall the motherboard looks amazing, this teamed up with the fabulous package creates a beautiful and useful board.



- The Chipset



The DFI LANPARTY motherboard is again powered by another one of VIA's chipsets, the KT400A which is a updated version of the KT400 chipset which the MSI motherboard in this roundup uses.


The new technology around the KT400A is the inclusion of VIA's "Faststream 64 Technology", which is designed to help lower latency times which we will see is true or not in our benchmarks. The Southbridge used on the KT400A is meant to be the latest VT8237 but unfortunately it hasn't managed to hit many boards at the moment due VIA finishing off little things, so an external controller has been used to enable Serial ATA support.


- SATA from Marvell 88i8030


DFI have chosen to include the Marvell 88i8030 to give the user Serial ATA, the way this works is by converting your normal Parallel ATA ports into Serial ATA. Unfortunately the problem with this system is that you loose the ability to use both. You simply have the choice between using the two PATA ports or one SATA port which a lot of people may not like.


- Firewire


Firewire is provided by VIA's Fire II VT6306 chip and offers up to a 400Mbps transfer rate. While Firewire is up to 30 times faster then traditional USB 1.1, the wildly used USB 2.0 interface is quicker and seen standard on a lot more motherboards.



- Dual LAN Networking ready


The dual LAN interface is courtesy of the VIA VT6103 chip and Realtek RTL8101L Fast Ethernet controller giving off a 10/100 configuration. This gives people the ability to run dual network devices - for example a LAN and an ADSL connection or you could even merge both together to create a maximum 200Mpbs if you're clever enough.


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