Athlon gets souped-up chipsets

AMD's Athlon processors will get the ability to use DDR333 memory with new offerings from Via and SiS, boosting the speed of high-performance systems
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Via Technologies and Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) are to step up their offerings for AMD-based PC processors next month with the release of their next-generation chipsets; Via's KT333, using faster memory than is available now, and the SiS745. The chipsets will give buyers of computer systems based on AMD chips access to faster technology, and will determine whether Via can hold onto its dominant position in the market for AMD-compatible chipsets.

The KT333 will launch in the second half of next month, ahead of the CeBIT 2002 electronics show in March, according to sources. It will be Via's first offering to allow AMD Athlon chips to use DDR333 memory, which potentially ups overall system speed for PCs using the fastest processors: current Via chipsets use DDR266.

Soltek has announced a KT333-based motherboard, the SL-75DRV5.

Last week Via launched the ProSavage KM266 chipset for AMD's Athlon XP, featuring an integrated graphics core. A chipset allows the processor to communicate with other PC components, including memory and peripherals.

Meanwhile, SiS's chipset, also arriving in late February, will replace the SIS735 and will offer improved performance and will also use DDR333.

Besides the benefits they will offer consumers, the chipsets will play an important role in the heated competition between Via, which currently holds about 70 percent of the AMD-based chipset market, and SiS. The SiS735 allowed SiS to up its market share to 20 percent, at Via's expense.

Via is facing difficulties in selling its Intel Pentium 4-compatible chipsets because of a licensing dispute with Intel, so the revenues from the AMD market are more important than ever, according to analysts. AMD relies on third parties for its chipsets -- unlike Intel, which manufactures its own -- and therefore AMD licences are less expensive and profit margins are higher.

In addition, the AMD market is increasingly important as the smaller chipmaker itself gains against Intel. "They continue to gain share," said IDC analyst Andy Brown. "It has to do with AMD doing things right."

Via and SiS are also expected to launch new, more competitive graphics cores later this year. Via is said to be working on a new core using a 0.15-micron manufacturing process and a dual-pipeline structure, which will be built into the Intel-compatible P4M333 chipset in the second half of 2002.

SiS's offering will be the graphics chip SiS330, which is expected to make its debut in the Pentium 4-based chipset SiS660 in the third quarter of this year, according to industry speculation.

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