For the second time in recent history, VIA has stepped up to a leadership position in the desktop PC chipset market.  The last time, if you recall, was with their MVP3 chipset, which helped keep the Super7 platform alive even while ALi’s Aladdin V solution was struggling with AGP incompatibilities. 

It has usually been the case that in a market that Intel isn’t present in, VIA steps forth and takes the burden of leadership on their shoulders, and most of the time, they do a very good job at it.  While it is true that, historically, VIA chipsets haven’t been as trouble free as their Intel counterparts, they have usually been able to offer their users with exactly what they wanted in terms of features. 

VIA’s MVP3 chipset, for example, brought 2MB L2 cache sizes, the 100MHz FSB, and in its later stages, Ultra ATA 66 support to the Super7 platform even before Pentium III owners could get their hands on an Ultra ATA 66 enabled motherboard. 

Their success in the Slot-1 market has been much less significant than what they were able to do with Super7, mainly because for the longest time, Intel’s LX and BX chipsets left very little to be desired.  The BX chipset still survives today and, if it weren’t for Intel’s push away from BX, OEMs and end users alike would still be actively pursuing BX based solutions. 

VIA had a very difficult time competing with the BX platform, simply because their Apollo Pro platform offered no real advantages over Intel’s solution and ended up being noticeably slower than the BX.  During this time, everyone was preparing for the release of Intel’s “Camino” chipset which was supposed to offer the benefits of the BX chipset in addition to 133MHz FSB, AGP 4X and Ultra ATA 66 support.  When it turned out that this chipset, now known as the i820, forced its users to adopt RDRAM as their only memory option (a very expensive one at that), the need for an alternative became evident.  That alternative quickly grew to be VIA.

VIA came to the rescue of a distressed market with their Apollo Pro 133 and 133A chipsets, which offered the benefit of supporting the mainstream memory types, PC100/PC133.  This is in contrast to the i820’s native support for RDRAM which, at the time of publication, was about three to five times more expensive than PC133 SDRAM.  Eventually, the cost of RDRAM should come down, but until then, VIA’s Apollo Pro 133/133A solutions are the most viable alternatives for users that need official support for the 133MHz FSB, AGP 4X, Ultra ATA 66 and PC133 memory. 

This roundup focuses on a total of twelve motherboards based on either the VIA Apollo Pro 133 or the Apollo Pro 133A chipset, the difference, of course, being that the 133A chipset supports AGP 4X while the 133 features only AGP 2X support.  The motherboards included in this roundup are the ABIT VA6, ASUS P3V4X, AOpen MX64, ECS P6BAP-A+, ECS P6BAP-Me, ECS P6VAP-Me, EPoX 3VCA, FIC KA-11, Gigabyte GA-6VX-4X, Gigabyte GA-6VX7-4X, Shuttle AV64 and the Tyan Trinity 400. 

The Chipset

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now