Of course, it had help from parent Intel on that front. From the 845 with DDR support to last week's introduction of the 850E with its 133MHz bus support, Intel has done a good job of making sure that the Pentium 4's NetBurst architecture has been well fed.
Not that Intel is alone in this endeavor. In fact, Intel has more help than it even wants. Rival chipset maker VIA has, in spite of a lawsuit between the two companies over rights to the P4 bus, produced its own chipsets for the Pentium 4. First was the P4X266, with support for DDR SDRAM at a time when Intel's own chipsets supported only RDRAM or PC133 SDRAM. Next came the P4X266A, featuring greater performance thanks to an improved memory controller and ATA/133 support. Now, we look at VIA's third Pentium 4 chipset, and the third time really is the charm. The new chipset supports a 533MHz bus and DDR333 SDRAM, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Let's take a closer look at VIA's P4X333.
What's new with you?
In the case of the P4X333 chipset, quite a bit is new. It's obvious from the aforementioned new features that VIA has changed the north bridge to add support for DDR333 memory. What is less obvious, but also very important, is an all-new south bridge chip, as well as a new link between the north and south bridges. Both of the chips that make up the P4X333 chipset are pin-compatible with their older counterparts, so updating a P4X266A motherboard to support the new chipset should be a trivial matter.
There are enough new features in the P4X333 north bridge and the VT8235 south bridge that the easiest way to look at them is on a point by point basis:
As you can see, the new chipset makes the P4X266-to-P4X266A update look pretty minor in comparison. VIA has not only added the latest performance goodies in the form of the 533MHz bus and the DDR333 support, it's also prepared the P4X333 for the future, with forward-looking features like AGP 8X and USB 2.0. Now that we've got an idea of what this thing is capable of on paper, let's get to the benchmarking and see how it does in the real world.
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