AMD 760 vs. ALi MAGiK1 at 266MHz FSB and PC2100

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So far, one thing I have not been able to do is look at the performance difference between the AMD 760 and ALi MAGIK1 Socket A DDR SDRAM chipset when using a 266MHz FSB CPU and PC2100 memory, which is what I feel will be the ‘optimum’ performance setup that most users will be buying. Other testing already done at 200MHz FSB has indicated that the AMD chipset is faster then the ALI… something I found disappointing. Why you may ask? There are a number of different reasons:

I expect the ALi MAGiK1 to be the first ‘mainstream’ Socket A DDR SDRAM chipset available for the home or small system builder. It will be the first chipset generally available to mainboard manufactures in volume and it’s pricing will be attractive. IWill is already shipping limited quantities of an ALi MAGiK1 based mainboard, Soyo will be shortly and I’m sure there are others that will be shipping in the same time frame.

AMD has priced the 760 chipset fairly high and has no plans to be ‘in the chipset business’ by producing it in large volume. Most mainboards using the AMD 760 chipset will be used by large OEM’s selling complete systems not marketed toward the hobbyist.

VIA will ship their KT266 Socket A DDR SDRAM chipset well after ALi ships the MAGiK1, so if a mainboard manufacturer wants to get into the DDR SDRAM market early they will pretty much have to use the ALi (or spend more for the AMD). I also expect the VIA KT266 to cost more then the ALi MAGiK1 when available, but that is subject to change.

Being a dealer that knows he will be selling an ALi MAGiK1 based mainboard, I’m always concerned as to how a product will perform and be received by the market. In other words, if it’s perceived as a ‘dog’ I’m going to have a heck of a time selling them (or will I even want to sell them?).

The big question really is whether the end user who is looking for a Mainboard using the latest technology and speed will be willing to buy the ALi, or is the AMD significantly faster and will it be the chipset of choice? Or will the buyer be willing to wait a month or more for the VIA just in case it is faster? The same goes for dealers – will they be willing and able to sell the ALi DDR Mainboards?

As noted, most of the AMD 760 based mainboards have been geared toward the OEM market so far, so both I received (FIC AD11 and Gigabyte 7DX) did not allow me to over-ride the multiplier lock or manually set the HostClk to 133MHz and use a 200MHz FSB Athlon at 266MHz. AMD has also only just begun shipping true 266MHz FSB Athlon CPU’s, so in the past I’ve been forced to use a 200MHz FSB part along with a mainboard that allowed for over-riding the multiplier lock and FSB setting in order to test at 266MHz. Very difficult to give a good evaluation when you can’t test the product properly

Both the FIC AD11 and Gigabyte 7DX were also early (pre-production?) parts and once I did have a true 266MHz FSB CPU to test with I found neither would boot at 266MHz FSB! So Gigabyte sent out the latest version of the 7DX – Rev. 3.0 – that will run with a 266MHz FSB CPU. It also appears that the FIC AD11 will have the ability to over-ride the multiplier lock on final production parts (and run at 266MHz FSB), but the one I had did not have the ability to do so. One of the hazards of testing products before they have been finalized and start shipping in volume is that what you are testing may not reflect actual features or performance of the final product.

The Soyo K7ADA ALi MAGiK1 based mainboard did have all the overclocking features, even though it also was a pre-production part. It was also able to use a 266MHz FSB with no issues. Since it and other mainboards using the ALi chipset are going to geared toward the hobbyist and small system builders, I would expect them to be more likely to have such features in the initial design stage (and even the final version).

So far the AMD Athlon 1.133 GHz is the first (and only) true 266MHz FSB CPU I’ve received or seen. We should see the 1.0, 1.133, 1.2 and 1.33GHz Athlon 266MHz CPU’s in volume (except maybe the 1.33GHz) by the end of March, along with PC2100 DDR SDRAM from a number of different manufacturers. AMD 760 266MHz FSB mainboards are here already and ALi MAGiK1 Mainboards are just starting to ship, so it looks like DDR SDRAM and 266MHz FSB is really here!

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