Review Index:

AMD Athlon XP 3200+: Enter the 400 MHz FSB

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Enter the nForce2 Ultra 400 and KT600 Chipsets

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NVIDIA’s nForce2 Ultra 400

NVIDIA’s new chipset for the Athlon XP 3200+ has a couple of surprises for us. First, and most importantly, is that it is already shipping and you may have it already. Many of the more astute readers in our AMDForums have already been seeing that certain revisions of the latest nForce2 motherboards have been able to overclock farther and support faster bus speeds that older ones. These are those chips that are now called nForce2 Ultra 400.

You can check to see if you have the latest NVIDIA chipset by finding out the stepping of the chipset you have via the SiSoft Sandra or CPUID program. If you have stepping “C1”, you are already the proud owner of the Ultra 400 chipset. This situation creates an interesting situation for a number of users. First, it isn’t the easiest task to find out if you have the latest chipset revision already in your possession – there aren’t any exterior marks (except on the chip under the heatsink itself) to let the end user know. New boards that are being released with the Ultra 400 label are merely given a new revision number, such as the Asus A7N8X rev 2.0 that we used in our testing today. Now, as Joe Consumer, having or buying an Athlon XP 3200+, you have to be careful and check the minute details of the motherboard you are buying online to make sure you are getting the proper revision, or you need to be damn sure what revision you DO have.

The modifications that NVIDIA has completed on the new NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset allow for it to run at higher front-side bus speeds, and that is the only major difference between this and the previous nForce2 chipset. NVIDIA is also the only motherboard chipset manufacturer that can claim official validation for the new 400 MHz FSB Athlon XP 3200+ processor.

VIA’s KT600 Chipset

VIA’s most recent chipsets have fallen into a small rut that they are having a difficult time getting out of. The KT400 was not a successful product and while the KT400A performed well from a technical standpoint, there hasn’t been a lot of “buzz” created for it by end users. VIA has been seemingly lagging behind NVIDIA for the last several jumps in AMD processor technology.

VIA is hoping the introduction of the KT600 chipset will stop this trend. Where the KT400A chipset added full DDR400 support to the VIA chipset, the KT600 adds support for the 400 MHz FSB and thus 400/400 synchronous systems. Just as with the new nForce2 chipset, that is all that has really changed.

The disadvantage that VIA has already in front of it is that NVIDIA is and has been shipping their product for a month or so now. The KT600 sample that we received for this review was one of the first three taken from the production line, meaning that it will be a month or more before you’ll see manufacturers offering KT600 solutions for sale. There simply isn’t much time left in the Athlon XP life cycle for VIA to catch up to NVIDIA in terms of performance and sales.

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