There are basically two choices for a performance Athlon XP system: the NVIDIA nForce2 and the VIA KT400. NVIDIA does make a compelling case for the hardcore crowd, with its dual-channel DDR400 goodness, high performance and much improved overclocking features, but there is still a viable market for a more standard chipset like the KT400. The most obvious benefit is cost, and although nForce2 motherboards have come down in price, the combination of a lower unit costs and one-module DDR savings does hold its charms for the mainstream gamer.
The KT400 and nForce2 chipsets support cutting-edge features such as AGP 8X, DDR333/400 (unofficial support with the KT400), ATA-133, and USB 2.0, and can handle both 266 and 333 MHz Athlon XP processors. In terms of upgrades from the older KT333 chipset, VIA offers a 533 MB/sec V-Link bus between the Northbridge and Southbridge chips (266 MB/sec for the KT333), USB 2.0 as a standard feature, and unofficial support for DDR400 and the 400 MHZ front-side bus In terms of features, the VIA KT400 is still at the high-end of the AMD scale and offers a lot of bang for the buck.
The following is a chart that offers a closer look at the VIA KT400 chipset design, including its architecture, bus speeds, hardware support and features:
Our KT400 motherboard roundup consists of products from ASUS, MSI, ABIT, Soyo and AOpen, each with an impressive set of features and overclocking options:
AOpen AK77-8X Max
MSI KT4 Ultra
Soyo KT400 Dragon Ultra Platinum
In this roundup, we start off with a short review of each board, covering off features, layout, installation and BIOS options, then move onto a full system and game benchmarking comparison, an analysis of AGP 8X, DDR400 and overclocking performance and compatibility, and finish up with our Top 3 motherboard recommendations.
In these reviews, we describe and list the motherboard features of the motherboards as reviewed, but keep in mind that some are optional components that may need to be confirmed before making any purchase.