VIA Apollo KX133 Athlon Chipset - Part 1by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 7, 2000 11:51 PM EST
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The slow demise of the Socket-7 platform quite possibly summed up a period in time when the hardware enthusiast was given the most choices when putting together a system. At the peak of the platform’s existence, there were three major CPU manufacturers producing processors for Socket-7 motherboards, there were solutions available in both AT and ATX form factors, and from a chipset standpoint, the platform had three chipset solutions from Intel and another three from VIA.
That theme of variety from the old Socket-7 days has long since been abandoned; until well into the establishment of the Slot-1 platform, all chipsets manufactured were made by Intel. That same trend seemed to be mirrored with the introduction of AMD’s Athlon late last year. One of the worries for the success of the Athlon that we shared at AnandTech was platform chipset support. While AMD announced that both ALi and VIA would have solutions ready for the Athlon, as launch time approached, it quickly became obvious that neither the ALi or VIA solutions would be ready for the release of the Athlon.
So what chipset would the Athlon launch with? AMD had done all of their internal testing and tweaking using their own in-house developed chipset, internally known as the Irongate chipset but commonly known to us as the AMD 750 chipset. The AMD 750 boasted AGP 2X and PC100 SDRAM support courtesy of the AMD 751 North Bridge as well as Ultra ATA 66 courtesy of the AMD 756 South Bridge.
It wasn’t too long before Athlon based motherboards began shipping with hybrids of the AMD chipset and VIA’s upcoming solution. Motherboards like the ASUS K7M and FIC SD-11 featured AMD’s 751 North Bridge but VIA’s 686A South Bridge, in order to move away from using AMD as a chipset supplier.
Last November, we were told that VIA’s upcoming Athlon chipset, the Apollo KX133, was already complete and they were hard at work with motherboard manufacturers to make sure that the delicate implementation of the chipset was handled properly. This would help to eliminate any of the motherboard problems that the first wave of Athlon boards based on the AMD 750 chipset so regretfully boasted.
Finally, on January 10 of this year, VIA announced that they had begun volume shipping of the “first independently developed chipset to support the AMD Athlon processor” known to all of us as the KX133. The release of the KX133 puts VIA in the position of a great monopoly in the Athlon market since motherboard manufacturers will refrain from producing many (if any at all) AMD 750 based solutions and since ALi’s Athlon solution has yet to be seen other than behind a glass display case at last year’s Fall Comdex.
With the exception of a few Athlon motherboards that were being developed with the AMD 750 in mind, all Athlon motherboards that will be shipping from manufacturers that have yet to enter the Athlon motherboard market will be KX133 based solutions. It won’t be long before the AMD 750 disappears from the market and VIA assumes the role of exclusive Athlon chipset provider for the time being. Scary thought?
It shouldn’t be. VIA has never been known to abuse their power during the times when they have been given the upper hand in a market (i.e. Super7 market), the only question is, in spite of VIA’s history, can the KX133 step up to the plate and offer performance and compatibility (the latter being a weak point in VIA’s history) superior to that of the AMD 750?