Checking Out Six New AMD Motherboards

By Joel Durham Jr.  |  Posted 2002-01-29 Print this article Print

Some of these DDR Athlon XP mobos are hot--and some can't boil water. Here's why.

The Athlon XP has injected new life and improved performance for fans of AMD CPUs. Unfortunately, users are faced with a dizzying array of choices for motherboards, and picking the right motherboard for your AMD CPU can seem like a daunting chore. In some ways, choosing the best motherboard for an Athlon XP is more critical than for users of Intel CPUs. For one thing, the rate of turnover of core logic chipsets supporting AMD CPUs is more frequent. This means that technology improvements (such as faster DDR memory) often show up on Athlon systems first, and it also means that the system BIOSes can be immature and the designs sometimes seem more rushed.

The recent release of DDR memory support for the Intel CPU line has given tech enthusiasts more options if they favor Intel CPUs. However, DIYers with limited funds may still want to steer clear of Northwood because of its higher cost for roughly the same performance level. Its great to have the newest toys on the block, but to get em you also have to have the biggest wallet on the block. While its true that RDRAM seems to be slightly cheaper these days than name brand DDR memory, its also true that good Athlon motherboards and a fast Athlon XP CPU still costs less.

So AMDs range of solutions continues to be a favorite among gamers and DIYers, both for its gratifying price/performance ratio and its accessibility when it comes to tweaking, overclocking and otherwise breaking the terms of their processors warranties.

A while back, we reviewed whole swath of AMD DDR chipsets and motherboards. (Check out "DDR Solutions for the Athlon XP") Round two is upon us, but its not as diverse as the opening volley. Today were looking at a six pack of AMD DDR motherboards, five of which are built upon the sturdy foundation of AMDs wonderfully stable and efficient VIA KT266A chipset. The sixth is built around the ALi MAGiK1 SDR/DDR chipset.

One thing to remember before we take the plunge: in seeking a home for their processors, RAM, and other components, different folks are drawn toward different features. Most of the boards reviewed here are high-quality bits of equipment, but that doesnt mean theyre right for everybody. Tweakers and overclockers look for boards that have as few jumpers as possible and feature lots of BIOS setup controls for memory timings, FSB and clock ratio settings, and so on. Hardcore gamers want tweakable performance--the ability to squeeze every last drop of bandwidth and speed to crank up their frame rates as high as possible. Less driven folks might look for a good, stable platform that they can set up as a server, or use to crunch spreadsheets and compile graphics without having to worry about it crashing. Theres something for all of you here.

Joel Durham Jr. has loved computers, technology, and gaming since he was a kid, first enjoying the wonders of the Atari 2600 and later indulging in the fabulous graphics of the Commodore 64. His lust for all things technical drove him to eventually seek employment: he landed a job at Computer Concepts, a Rochester-based PC consulting and repair firm, where the company president took Joel on as his apprentice. Within a year, Joel was running the service shop, installing networks for clients, and building systems with glee.

A writer at heart, Joel longed for the glory of seeing his words in print, so in 1997 he left his shop to take a job as PC Gamer's first Technical Editor. After leaving that post to flee the ridiculous cost of living in northern California, Joel worked mostly as a freelance tech writer, taking a year-long break from the mercenary life to telecommute to CNET as the Senior Technical Editor of the now-sadly-defunct Gamecenter. Residing in Upstate New York with his family, Joel repeatedly flung himself at ExtremeTech (which often used his freelance services over the years) until he convinced them to hire him.


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