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DFI LanParty KT400A: One of the most unique looking motherboards makes it's way into the test labs at VL. Can the LanParty's beauty be backed up by it's performance?
Date: July 23, 2003
Written By:

In most of the computer industry sectors the markets are constantly being flooded with new technologies every day, but the motherboard market hasn't really introduced new technologies save for chipsets. DDR, PCI, AGP, onboard IDE, LAN, RAID, sound, you name it, it has been integrated at one time or another. There are quite a few arguments that can be made about other technologies, but the truth is that if it can be thrown onto a PCI card, it's not motherboard innovation. I feel the true innovation has been the chipsets. Northbridges and Southbridges have been developing rapidly lately, and have a lot of credit to take for all of the new motherboards coming out, and with each new chipset has come another motherboard from today's leading companies - we've seen nForce2, Canterwood, Springdale, KT400A, and KT600 motherboards spring up as quick as ever in this market, and I won't be surprised to see the same rush to output new motherboards when the next big chipset comes to the plate. However, today I will be reviewing a motherboard that tries to defy my theory - it tries to innovate not only with the chipset, but also outside of the chipset.

With the release of the VIA KT600 and the plethora of nForce2 (Ultra and non-Ultra) 400 motherboards, why VIA released the KT400A is a question that almost boggles the mind. Regardless, VIA did release the chipset and DFI has released it's debut line of motherboards dubbed "LanParty," which utilizes the Intel 875P, nForce2, and KT400A chipsets. I will be reviewing the KT400A chipset version of this motherboard, let's see if it can stack up to the competition, or if DFI's KT400A is just too little too late.

DFI's LanParty KT400A motherboard can best be described as "unconventional," many of the features and idiosyncrasies of the board separate it from other boards in and outside of its class. But first, I must go into a spiel about the KT400A chipset itself, as this is Viper's Lair's first look at this VIA chipset.


Here we see the VIA VT8377A (KT400A Northbridge) coupled with the VT8237 Southbridge (Please note that the LanParty KT400A does not use this Southbridge.) Next to it's predecessor is the KT8337 (KT400 Northbridge) coupled with its Southbridge, the VT8235.

Visually, it is easy to see the differences between the KT400A and the KT400. The KT400 only supports 6 USB 2.0 ports natively, while the KT400A supports 8 (on the VT8237 Southbridge.) The added SATA support is also something to take note of. Other than that, the pictures seem pretty similar.

What I find pretty deceiving is that (according to VIA specifications,) the - Memory Type is defined as DDR200/266/333 SDRAM.

The VIA Apollo KT400A Chip (Northbridge)

The only real difference (in the Northbridge) that I can make out between the KT400 and the KT400A is a new memory controller that supports DDR400 memory. Both have the same FSB, AGP, Memory Capacity, and Northbridge to Southbridge link.

The Southbridge is where we'll find most of the changes that VIA made. Unfortunately I could not find a block-diagram picture of the VT8237, the VT835 block diagrams are the same for the KT400 and KT400A, as they are almost the same (the VT835 Southbridge used in conjunction with the KT400A chipset is dubbed C(D/E) to distinguish it from its predecessor.) VIA has a new audio driver, the sound chipset is still 6 channel AC'97 based sound, but now VIA has a partnership with Vinyl Audio that is aimed to produce rich, high quality sound from an AC'97 solution.

In addition to the Audio improvements, the KT400A VT8237 Southbridge supports SATA, and 2 more USB 2.0 ports. Other than that, the Southbridges are pretty much identical. Both have a built-in NIC, Sound, Modem, PATA, and the same PCI configuration.

Key Features

· Supports AMD Athlon™ XP processors
· 200/266/333MHz FSB settings
· 200/266/333/400MHz System bus settings
· Support for AGP 2X/4X/8X
· Supports up to 4.0GB DDR200/266/333/400 SDRAM
· 8X V-Link 533MB/s high bandwidth North/South Bridge interconnect
· Integrated 6 channel Surround Sound AC-97 Audio
· Integrated MC-97 Modem
· Integrated 10/100 Ethernet MAC
· Support for Serial ATA (up to 4 devices)
· Support for ATA 33/66/100/133 (up to 4 devices)
· Support for USB 2.0, 8 USB ports, UHCI compliant
· Advanced power management capabilities including ACPI/OnNow
· 664-pin BGA VT8377A North Bridge
· 539-pin BGA VT8237 or VT8235CE (pin to pin compatible) South Bridge

The 539-pin BGA Southbridge is something to note, it means that the VT8237 and VT8235C(E/D) can be pretty much manufactured on the same PCB, during manufacture the SATA header is simply removed, and the extra USB 2.0 connector is also removed, the Southbridge is connected to the motherboard, and it should work flawlessly.

VT8235CD Chip (Southbridge)

"Okay", you're saying, "what about the motherboard?" Fine, fine, I'll get to the motherboard.

Chipset KT400A / 8235
CPU Socket Socket A
Processor AMD AthlonXP
Overclock and Overvoltage CPU Vcore / North Bridge / FSB / DDR / AGP
System Bus (MHz) 266/333/max. 400
Memory DDR400
PCI Slots 5
LAN Dual Ethernet LAN (10/100)
AGP 8X x
6 Channel Audio x
RAID 0/10+1/1.5 x
Gigabit LAN -
Dual LAN x
IEEE 1394 x
USB 2.0 6 USB 2.0
Fluorescent Appearance x
Black PCB and round corner x
Ultra Red Dignostic LED x
Easy On/ Easy Touch x
Genie BIOS x
Overclock AP x
BIOS Live Update x
S/PDIF Bracket x
(1394/mic in/audio out/USB)
WinDVD & WinRipBundle x
Round Cable x
PC Transpo x
Case Badge x
Thermal Paste x

As you can see, DFI didn't skimp with features on the LanParty. Despite not using the VIA 8237 Southbridge, DFI has put SATA on the motherboard, as well as a RAID controller, Firewire, and dual LAN controllers among other things.

Next Page - The DFI LanParty Motherboard

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