The Athlon XP motherboard market has quite a few chipset options, including several older models supporting the 266 and 333 MHz front-side bus. The current crop of high-end 400 MHz-compatible chipsets includes the VIA KT600 and NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400, and both are available in a wide range of motherboards. The move to the higher 400 MHz front-side bus, PC3200 DDR becoming a standard, and upgrades to onboard features mark a few of the transitions the Athlon XP motherboard market has undergone. We've selected a couple of motherboards featuring the KT600 and nForce2 chipsets, and will run them through the gamut of feature, performance, overclocking and price comparisons.
The VIA KT600 is an evolutionary upgrade from the older KT400A chipset, and incorporates a few noted enhancements. The most obvious is support for the 266, 333 and 400 MHz front-side bus speeds, which allows the KT600 to make use of the high-end Athlon XP 3200+ processor. Memory support (up to 400 MHz) remains unchanged, with the KT600 still including a single-channel DDR400 capable memory controller. But with a synchronous 400 MHz CPU and memory bus speeds, the KT600 offers higher memory and system performance than the KT400A. Serial ATA and RAID support have also been added, and the VIA VT8237 features onboard RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1. VIA has added 2 additional USB ports to the KT600, but other than this small change, the other features remain consistent with the KT400A design.
The KT600 compares quite well to the nForce2 Ultra 400 in many ways, and actually outpaces it in terms of inherent SATA and RAID functionality. The other features remain fairly constant between the two platforms, with the obvious exception of the nForce2's dual-channel DDR400 memory controller, and the much higher bandwidth it affords. Of course, with a 400 MHz CPU bus, there is no requirement for a 2x400 MHz memory architecture, and this extra bandwidth really only comes into play with certain games and applications.
In this article, we'll start off with a full review of the AOpen KT600 and MSI nForce2 Ultra 400 motherboards, and cover off features, board layout, installation, and BIOS options, before moving on to our usual application and game benchmarking, and offering a final conclusion.
* In the following product reviews, we list the hardware and onboard 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.