Small Steps: Nine Athlon Motherboards with the KT400 Chipset
The launch of the KT400 puzzled many - when using the much praised new memory (PC3200 standard, a.k.a. DDR400), the new chipset was not one bit faster than its predecessor, the KT333.
It's been a few weeks, and the manufacturers have had time to optimize their products. A total of nine of the latest boards with the KT400 chipset found their way into our lab to see how they stack up not only against each other but also, again, against their predecessor. We adapted our benchmark tests for this purpose. For the very first time, we ran the tests using memory modules that, at 400 MHz, also handle the fast CL2 mode - with amazing results. In addition, we wanted to be able to draw meaningful comparisons to the KT333, which is why we re-ran all the tests with DDR333 memory. Our reference board with a KT333 chipset was an Epox EP-8K5A2+.
Aside from all the discussions about the performance of the current generation of motherboards, we were happy to see the many features displayed by the test candidates. For example, several USB ports (USB 2.0) and a sound system are part of the minimum. In addition, some of the boards already feature interfaces for Serial ATA hard drives, as well as FireWire or network controllers.
DDR400 vs. DDR333: Less is More
DDR400 memory from TwinMos was available for testing the first KT400 arrivals, but it could not be used reliably with a CAS latency (CL) of 2. We are therefore unable to say whether CL2 would boost performance over CL2.5.
We ran all the tests for this article using a different memory module:
The operation of this DIMM module, with demanding timing settings, was no problem with most KT400 motherboards. However, we were brought right back down to earth when we realized that even this memory didn't boost performance much over DDR333 (also with CL2); see our benchmark section for more details.
Therefore, the editor's choice for the most useful memory is definitely DDR333. The modules for operation in CL2 mode are affordable and, by today's standards, certainly not any slower than DDR400. The latter is still hard to find for CL2.