LANParty KT400A from DFI - HotHardware

LANParty KT400A from DFI

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The "LAN Party" KT400A from DFI
A Different Approach from DFI

By: Jeff Bouton
June 11th, 2003

There is a healthy rivalry brewing between AMD chipset manufacturers VIA and NVIDIA.  These companies have been competing for the top spot in the AMD chipset market for some time now.  When VIA introduced the KT400, NVIDIA stepped up with their nForce2 and have since won the hearts, and dollars, of many users.  Unfortunately for VIA, the KT400 simply could not compete with the performance of the nForce2.  So, motherboard makers seemed quite content adopting NVIDIA's newest chipset.  This in turn sent VIA back to the lab for some changes.  For anyone who has been watching the hardware market for the last few years, this is typical of VIA with virtually every release of a new chipset being followed by a revision ?A? soon thereafter.  While this hardly seems to be an effective trend, to VIA's credit, they usually get it right the second time around.  Now that the KT400A has been released, VIA is aiming to take back some of the market share they relinquished to NVIDIA. 

Another company that has its sights set on market share is DFI.  We?ve been reviewing their hardware for a number of years now, with each product often leaving us with a positive experience.  While they don't generally have a reputation for producing the fastest motherboards on the market, we?ve often felt their stability was excellent.  However, offering bland but stable products alone is not going to bring increasing amounts of revenue year after year.  So, in an effort to garner the attention, and envy, of the enthusiast crowd, DFI created a completely new product line like we?ve never seen from them before.  Dubbed ?LAN Party?, DFI has created a complete package that offers more extras, great looks and top notch performance.  It is obvious that DFI is trying to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd and our initial impressions are that they may be on to something.
 

Features of the DFI LAN Party KT400A Motherboard
Raising The Bar



 

PROCESSOR
AMD Athlon XP 266/333+MHz FSB (max. 400MHz), AMD Athlon 266MHz FSB

CHIPSET
VIA® KT400A and VT8235CD

SYSTEM MEMORY
Supports up to 3GB memory (unbuffered DIMM)
Uses PC1600 (DDR200), PC2100 (DDR266), PC2700 (DDR333)or PC3200 (DDR400) DDR SDRAM DIMM,
2.5V type
Three 184-pin DDR SDRAM DIMM sockets
L2 cache memory
- Athlon XP / Athlon processor: built-in 256KB Level 2 pipelined burst cache

BIOS
Award BIOS, Windows® 95/98/2000/ME/XP Plug and Play compatible
Genie BIOS provides:
- CPU/DRAM overclocking in 1MHz stepping
- CPU/AGP/DRAM/Chipset overvoltage
4Mbit flash memory

ENERGY EFFICIENT DESIGN
Supports ACPI specification and OS Directed Power Management
Supports ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
Wake-On-Events include:
- Wake-On-Ring (external modem)
- Wake-On-LAN
- RTC timer to power-on the system

DAMAGE FREE INTELLIGENCE
Monitors CPU/system temperature
Monitors 12V/5V/3.3V/CPU/VBAT(V)/5VSB(V)/DDR/AGP voltages
Monitors CPU/chassis fan speed
Automatic chassis fan on/off control - this prevents system overheat and prolongs fan life
Read back capability that displays temperature, voltage and fan speed
CPU Fan Protection function monitors the CPU fan during system boot-up
CPU Temperature Protection function monitors CPU temperature during system boot-up

AUDIO FEATURES
AC'97 2.2 S/PDIF extension compliant codec
Supports Microsoft® DirectSound/DirectSound 3D
AC?97 supported with full duplex, independent sample rate converter for audio recording and playback
6-channel audio output

LAN FEATURES
Uses VIA VT6103 Phy chip
- Integrated IEEE 802.3, 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX compatible PHY
Uses RealTek RTL8101L fast Ethernet controller
- Integrated IEEE 802.3, 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX compatible PHY

ATA RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk)
RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 1.5
Two independent IDE channels support 4 hard disk drives (UDMA modes 33/66/100/133 or EIDE)
Supports PIO modes 0/1/2/3/4, DMA modes 0/1/2 and UDMA modes 0/1/2/3/4/5/6

PCI IDE INTERFACE
Supports ATA/33, ATA/66, ATA/100 and ATA/133 hard drives
UDMA Modes 3, 4, 5 and 6 Enhanced IDE (data transfer rate up to 133MB/sec.)

SATA IDE INTERFACE
Uses Marvell 88i8030 chip
Supports one SATA (Serial ATA) interface which is compliant with SATA 1.0 specification
(1.5Gbps interface)

IEEE 1394A INTERFACE
Uses VIA VT6306 chip
Supports three 100/200/400 Mb/sec ports

PROCESSOR SOCKET
Socket A
Equipped with a switching voltage regulator that automatically detects 1.100V to 1.850V

ACCELERATED GRAPHICS PORT (A.G.P.)
Supports AGP 8x up to 2132MB/sec. and AGP 4x up to 1066MB/sec. bandwidth for 3D
graphics applications

REAR PANEL I/O PORTS
4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 RJ45 LAN ports
2 DB-9 serial ports
1 DB-25 parallel port
1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
3 audio jacks: line-out, line-in and mic-in

I/O CONNECTORS
1 connector for 2 additional external USB 2.0/1.1 ports
3 connectors for 3 external IEEE 1394a ports
1 connector for 1 external game/MIDI port
1 connector for external line-out and mic-in jacks
2 internal audio connectors (AUX-in and CD-in)
1 4-channel audio output connector
1 S/PDIF-in/out connector
1 connector for IrDA interface
2 RAID IDE connectors
1 connector for serial ATA interface
2 IDE connectors
1 floppy connector
2 ATX power supply connectors
1 Wake-On-LAN connector
3 fan connectors for CPU, chassis and second chassis fans

EXPANSION SLOTS
1 AGP slot that supports 8x/4x AGP
5 PCI slots

PCB
4 layers, ATX form factor
30.5cm (12") x 24.5cm (9.64")


The KT400A Chipset

The DFI LAN Party KT400A motherboard obviously is built around VIA's KT400A chipset.  The KT400A comes in two flavors, one with the VT8237 Southbridge, which is still in development, and the other with the VT8235CE Southbridge.  The main difference between the two Southbridges is that the VT8237 will support SATA natively as well as 8 USB ports, while the VT8335CE on the other hand, doesn't support SATA and offers a total of 6 USB ports.

On the surface, the KT400A Northbridge is not all that different from the KT400 with the most notable alteration being support for a 400MHz memory bus.  This was essentially VIA's response to the nForce2's DualDDR Memory Architecture.  While the nForce2 is a DualDDR capable chipset with separate memory controllers, VIA took a different approach by adding their FastStream64 Technology.  FastStream64 uses a series of prefetch buffers to reduce latency which should have a direct affect on memory performance.  In the end, the memory can offer bandwidth of up to 3.2GB per second at 400MHz. and VIA claims their single memory controller solution is as fast as NVIDIA's Dual-Channel solution.

Before we get into the mix with performance testing of the "LAN Party" KT400A motherboard, there are a lot of other things to see first.  The "LAN Party" comes with one the most impressive packages we've ever seen, so let's take a look at what comes in the box and then we'll take a closer look at the board itself.

 

 

The Bundle and The Board

 

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