The flight from San Francisco International Airport to Taipei International Airport took a distressingly long 13 hours, and was worth every single tortured second. We came over six thousand miles seeking information and we found what we were looking for.
Here is the first in a series of special reports from Taipei. This report covers the well-known motherboard maker, ABIT, and their future plans for motherboards, video cards and more.
ABIT is working on a VIA KX133 Athlon motherboard. While they didn't have any specific announcements to make regarding the product, we would expect to see this board in April.
ABIT is well known for their SoftMenu technology, which makes overclocking so easy even my mother could do it. We were curious as to how ABIT would handle overclocking an Athlon, so we asked whether or not they would have a "Magic Fingers"-like solution built into their Athlon board, which would hopefully be controlled by SoftMenu III. The reply we received, accompanied by some sheepish looks, was a statement along the lines of, "Our customers have written in and told us what they want."
When we asked about other possible Athlon chipsets being used, we received a straight answer of "No." Either way, this is good news for Athlon adopters.
ABIT is working on a VIA Apollo 133A-based board, which should be ready within a month. VIA's PC133-capable chipset offers a way to support Intel's newest and fastest 133MHz FSB CPUs without having to pay exorbitant prices for RDRAM for i820 boards or face terrible 3D performance with the i810. You can go with an i820 board and use SDRAM but you will face crippled performance as well as AGP 4x problems with fast writes.
So why aren't we recommending VIA-based boards? Our problem with VIA chipset solutions is, historically, we've had annoying compatibility problems and less stability (as well as less speed) with VIA-based motherboards. VIA has always marketed themselves as a mass-market, low-end chipset provider, and in our eyes, that is all they have been. In a recent turn of events, VIA has really upped their reputation a few notches with the release of the KX-133 platform for the Athlon. When we get our hands on ABIT's VIA Apollo 133A based board, we'll run it through its paces to see how the overall quality has or has not changed.