With the new bus speed comes one interesting new challenge: chipset, and ultimately, motherboard support. After all, it doesn’t do the Athlon XP 2700+ any good if it’s capable of “speaking” to the chipset, and therefore the rest of the system, at 166MHz but the chipset itself can only “speak” at speeds as high as 133MHz before electromagnetic interference and other factors get in the way of both components communicating with each other. So how does AMD plan to release a 333MHz chip if there are no chipsets out there that officially support the new bus?
It turns out, that KT400, nForce2, and SiS 746 have offered support for the 333MHz system bus for quite some time, but nondisclosure agreements have prevented them from boasting about it. This certainly makes sense, after all AMD wants to keep its upcoming products as secret as possible.
But besides these next-generation chipsets, many existing KT333 motherboards will also probably run at the new bus speed as well. In fact, our Athlon 2700+ test kit shipped with Epox’s KT333-based EP-8K3A+ motherboard.
We’re not exactly sure how this is going to play out among motherboard manufacturers. Right now the KT333 chipset does not officially support the 333MHz bus so technically we’d assume that motherboard manufacturers are under no obligation to officially support the new bus speed. Considering how slow the tech market is these days, a motherboard upgrade would certainly perk up sales. But it appears motherboard manufacturers are going to be honest this time around. ASUS for instance has already posted new BIOS releases for its KT333 and KT400 boards that offer 166MHz bus support. The MSI board we used in today’s review also worked flawlessly.
However, we still wouldn’t be surprised to see the marketing folks at these companies hype up 333MHz support on their KT400 products, while this important detail is kept under the rug for KT333, even though it works just as well. After all, they’ve got to make a living selling their latest and greatest products! Therefore we recommend that you keep up with the BIOS releases for your motherboard in particular, also be sure to check AMD’s validation page for a list of motherboards that have been validated to work with the new processors.
Pricing and availability
Like the Athlon XP 2600+ launch, the Athlon XP 2800+ and Athlon XP 2700+ haven’t shipped to retail channels just yet. This time around, AMD will sell its first supplies to OEMs. We were told high-end computer manufacturers such as Alienware and Falcon Northwest would be the first to receive supply of the new chips, with retail availability coming later on. AMD's press release states that limited edition systems featuring the processors won't be available until late November, so we don't expect either chip to hit retail until Christmas at the earliest, but most likely early 2003.
Officially AMD is charging $397 for the Athlon XP 2800+ when purchased in 1,000 unit quantities, while the Athlon XP 2700+ is priced at $349. Pricing on the remaining Athlon XP processors remains unchanged.