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Reviewed by: Trevor Flynn [08.19.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

Manufactured by: Gigabyte
Est. Street Price: $80-95

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Overclocking... Or Lack Of

This section could also be entitled "How to easily piss off a tweaker". Let me explain:

First off, unlike the nForce2, the KT600 DOES NOT lock the AGP/PCI bus. What this means is that as you increase the CPU Front Side Bus you will also be increasing the AGP/PCI busses as well based on the AGP/PCI divider. This historically was a problem when overclocking in AMD chipsets before the nForce2. In order to compensate manufacturers would include the ability to change the AGP/PCI divider to allow those buses to run as close a possible to their specified speeds. Otherwise, when run out of spec, the PCI bus especially would cause great instability and be a serverely limiting factor when overclocking.

We took our concerns to Gigabyte and were told unfortunately that they were unable to provide either aj AGP/PCI bus lock or the ability to manipulate the divider values due to the limitations of the KT600 chipset. The divider value is calculated based on the default value detected from the installed CPU upon boot up. Shame on you VIA!

Now things were looking bleak for our 133mhz Tbred 2100+, but here was still a single ray of hope.  If we could set the BIOS to detect our chip as having either a 166mhz or 200mhz FSB then the divide would auto set as needed right? Sure, maybe if we were given that option within the BIOS...

Once detecting our CPU as a 133mhz chip we were never given the option of setting it as anything above 165. Apparently if you use a Barton core or above you are allowed to increase the FSB up to 250mhz. But really, whats the fun in running a fast chip a little faster when you can run a slow chip a lot faster. So what's the point of my endless ramblings? If you are a hardcore overclocker, hug your nForce2 motherboard, make it feel like the special board it truly is.

On a side note, we were able to increase the FSB above 165mhz to 172mhz within windows using Gigabytes Easy Tune 4 overclocking utility. However with a locked in divider of 2/4 at 172mhz the PCI bus was running at 43mhz, and the AGP bus at 86mhz, both way too high to expect any type of stability.

One of the things that has made the nForce2 one of the most popular chipsets ever has been its ability to be endlessly tweaked. Admittedly VIA has never been one to cater to the enthusiast market, and they've never had to as previous to the nForce2 they were the only high end game in town when it came to AMD chipsets. If the nForce2 has proven anything though, I think it's that there is a growing movement in the industry away from prebuilt OEM machines to component driver user self builds.

People are no longer as intimidated by computer hardware. After purchasing an OEM white box for their first computer, they now want not only to build their own, but tweak it to the maximum possible speeds. VIA has obviously missed the boat on this trend, and until they start offering more value added features will, I believe, continue to trail behind chipset makers that do.

It would seem that Gigabyte in their wisdom has realized this and have created their KT600 line of motherboards accordingly. By not including the extra features that we've grown accustomed to seeing, Gigabyte is obviously marketing this board toward budget end users who want only the highest performance at the lowest price along with native SATA support. And let's face it, those are the only people who might find boards built on this chipset appealing. Even then though, for around the same price you can pick up a similarly spec'd nForce2 board.

There is hope though. VIA is down but obviously not down and out. Perhaps now that they've been able to once again match the raw speed of their competitors they will be able to start working on those little extras that have so endeared the nForce2 chipset to enthusiasts all over the world. As for Gigabyte, it would seem they are making the best of a bad situation and should be complimented for that.

  • Finally some true socket A chipset competition
  • Native SATA support
  • FastStream64 technology
  • Low Price

  • No AGP/PCI bus lock
  • Can't change AGP/PCI divider
  • Motherboard Layout Issues
  • No Extras...
  • The same price as a budget nForce2
  • Terrible overclocking performance

Final Score: 78%