Gotta wear shades
On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to meet with Richard Brown, VIA's Director of Marketing. VIA has been doing very well. VIA has captured an estimated 40% of the chipset market. The company has reached 1 billion in revenues, as compared to just 360 million a year ago, and the future looks bright with their upcoming Pentium III DDR chipset.
Apollo Pro 266
The big question of the day was when are we going to see the Apollo Pro 266, VIA's much anticipated Pentium III DDR chipset. Richard informed us that chips are currently in limited production right now, and we should see motherboards from the usual suspects (ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte) in December.
Since the Pentium III is still the leading platform for their customers, they've decided to launch their Intel-compatible chipset before the AMD chipset, which isn't expected to reach availability until January.
VIA expects too see a DDR chipset transition similar to the one we saw for the original Athlon motherboards. During the Athlon launch, AMD was the only game in town with its 750 chipset, but motherboard manufacturers quickly switched to VIA with the release of the KT133 chipset.
To ease costs for motherboard manufacturers, VIA's Apollo Pro 266 platforms will be 4-layer designs. In their tests, they've witnessed a 5-7% performance increase with the Apollo Pro266 over 815.
To further demonstrate the chipsets' performance, VIA had a pre-release engineering sample on hand and allowed us to play with it. Quake 3 framerates on a Pentium III 933 were 170 fps in Quake 3 fastest, and 151 fps in Normal mode. Both tests were conducted at 640x480 with 16-bit textures/color. These numbers will only improve on the final product.
Chip up close
Upright this time
The topic of discussion then switched to the KT133A. The KT133A chipset is an updated version of the KT133 that includes support for the much desired 266MHz bus. VIA was able to develop the KT133A chip with the aid of a few tweaks to the bus core logic. While it won't outperform 760 in all situations, we wouldn't be surprised if KT133A is a sleeper hit for VIA. We have heard reports from some motherboard engineers that the 266MHz bus may actually be responsible for much of the performance gains we saw in our 760 DDR tests.
VIA, of course, plans on releasing a Pentium 4 chipset. They're tracking Intel's Northwood chipset for product launch. Intel has already told us that Northwood won't have DDR support in the initial release. VIA plans on having DDR support right out of the gate (with launch around the same timeframe as Northwood), and the company anticipates that it will have the first P4 DDR chipset on the market.