VIA Technologies has made quite a name for themselves in the AMD motherboard arena, and their KT266A chipset has long been the de facto platform choice for a high-end AMD Athlon XP system. With the advent of PC2700/DDR333, VIA has updated their chipset lineup to include the new KT333. Apart from adding support for PC2700 and a true 166 MHz front-side bus (FSB), the KT333 is in many ways quite equivalent to the KT266A.
Although the transition from KT266A to KT333 is more evolutionary than revolutionary, those upgrading their current system base or buying new will want the newest, fastest technology. The KT333 Northbridge is usually paired with the ATA-133 enabled VT8233A Southbridge, thereby alleviating the many different KT266A chipset combinations that are currently available. Although AMD failed to capitalize on the 166 MHz FSB for their Thoroughbred line, the option does exist for overclockers, depending on the motherboard and whether the vendor chose to implement this feature.
The main benefit to the KT333 selection is simply that these motherboards are newer and are bound to include more robust and capable onboard hardware, full support for all AMD processors, and potentially greater overclocking features and options. In the computer industry, buying into the current technology is usually the better choice, and the current crop of KT333 motherboards is superior to the last-gen KT266A crop in a great many ways. Here is a list of the KT333 motherboards we will be reviewing:
In this roundup, we will start with a short review of each board, covering off features, layout, installation and BIOS options, and then move on to a full system benchmarking comparison, a FSB overclocking matchup, and then finish up with our Top 3 KT333 motherboard recommendations.
Before we start off the roundup, we'd like to cover off the old KT333CE debate. There has been a great deal of hoopla regarding the newer VIA KT33CE chipset revision, with several motherboard manufacturers touting the chipset, while others have said little. We found this a little strange, especially considering that the "CE" revision is a slight one at best, with no real features enhancement. Still, the question remained, which of the boards have a CE revision, and which do not.
After the benchmark and overclock testing was complete (naturally), we went the extra mile and proceeded to remove the heatsink/fan units from all motherboards to uncover the actual chipset. Removed may be too kind a word, as many are attached using some very extreme thermal tape, while others thankfully featured only push-pins and thermal grease. Regardless of the methods or hardship involved, we soon had all the motherboard chipsets clean of any obstruction and proceeded to catalogue the revisions.
What we found was quite surprising, and using the EPoX KT333CE board as our reference, we found that all the motherboards included the newer CE revision. There were derivations of the actual coding (which we took to represent YWW or YearWeek) with our range falling between 210CE (EPoX) and 216CE (ABIT). Although this is a very small test sample, it does seem to indicate that current KT333 motherboards have transitioned to the newer "CE" revision of the KT333.
The silence of some vendors in trumpeting the KT333CE may suggest that some of the earliest models did not include this chipset but the line may have been transitioned soon after, while companies that came to the party a bit later (like EPoX and Shuttle) had the CE from Day 1. This is only a theory, but it is backed up by our hands-on research, which shows the KT333CE featured in 100% of the review motherboards.