It seems as though not a day passes without VIA releasing another chipset. Frankly, it has started to worry us a bit. When companies like Intel take over a year to churn out one chipset, VIA manages to pump out a many. While Intel only has to have support for their own CPUs, VIA creates chipsets for both segments, and all at the same time operating on a budget that would be a drop in the bucket in comparison to Intel. Could VIA be stretching itself a little to thin in an attempt to cover all the bases? In about the span of a year, VIA released the KT133A, KT266, KT266A, and P4X266. This isn’t even counting the Mickey Mouse chipsets geared for the low-end.
This time around we’re taking a look at the MSI KT3 Ultra ARU, a board based on the newest VIA creation – the KT333. While it’s true that the rule of thumb has become “wait for the A”, we’re obligated to take a look at the newest.
KT333 Ultra ARU
Silicon-wise there isn’t too much different from the KT266A and the KT333 that is readily apparent by reading the list of specs. We’re sure that there have been some major overhauls on the internals of this chipset, but that doesn’t change the specs of the chipset much to the end user. Aside from the addition of ATA133, not too much has happened. It is nice to be moving up the tech tree, but ATA133 isn’t going to be bringing you much in terms of a performance gain. Even if you run multiple drives in a RAID format, the performance gain would be negligible.
In fact, the most apparent change would be the addition of the “333” moniker. While the name is technically correct, it’s only half the truth. The chipset itself only supports a 166MHz bus speed for the memory. Any attempt to reach 166MHz on the FSB side is an exercise in futility. If we’ve learned one thing, running the FSB and memory asynchronous of each other has historically been a waste of time. There is no reason to this; it simply results in the memory waiting to be fed, as the limiting factor is the FSB. A simple analogy would be to pair up really big Z rated tires with an engine out of a Ford Festiva, it’s just not going to do very much for you because that itty-bitty engine is what’s holding you back.
This isn’t all VIA’s fault, AMD has yet to release a CPU that runs at a 166MHz FSB. While we’re sure that their CPUs can take the boost, a lot of people have to play catch up in order for this to happen. Motherboard manufacturers have to start including a 1/5 divider in order for the PCI slots to even come close to functioning at their norm of 33MHz. The AGP, which normally runs at 66MHz, is also going to need a new divider. As 166 divided by 2 results in an 83MHz AGP bus, this might work for some, but not all. And most of all, JEDEC needs to approve standards for all these fast memory technologies. All kinds of problems are cropping up with DDR at the moment; and until they are settled, most of this is in the air.