VIA pulls away from the pack
Six months ago, we would have grouped VIA with ALi and SiS -three chipset manufacturers that we didn't quite trust yet. Almost a year ago, we encountered an incompatibility problem with the ALI chipset and a Diamond Viper 550 TNT card. The problem hurt our perception of all third party chipset makers.
In the past year, VIA has done plenty to distance itself from ALi and SiS. The purchase of Cyrix and IDT's Winchip helped VIA gain a reputation as an upcoming player. Organizing the whole PC133 movement has helped VIA establish itself as a leader. Now people are starting to take VIA and the Apollo 133MHz FSB chipsets seriously.
For those who still aren't ready to trust VIA just yet, Tyan has a couple new motherboards based on Intel's new 820 and 840 chipsets. First, we have the S2133 Thunder 1800, a dual Pentium III Slot-1 setup based on the Intel 820 chipset. The Thunder 1800 board has one AGP slot with 4X support and six 32-bit PCI slots. The board supports the 100MHz and 133MHz front side bus speeds, and has four DIMM slots for up to 1GB of PC100 SDRAM (with unofficial PC133 support). That's right, this 820 motherboard only has support for DIMMS.
ATA-33/66 support, onboard sound (AC97 or Creative Labs PCI), onboard networking (Intel 559 10/100Mb), and Ultra2 SCSI support (Symbios 895) round out the rest of the features. Near the beginning of the year, Adaptec raised the prices of their SCSI chips to the point where buying the chip isn't much cheaper than the cost of the entire add-in board. This is the reason why Tyan and other motherboard manufacturers have chosen to use Symbios over Adaptec. There's virtually no performance difference; Symbios makes quality products (that might be why Adaptec tried to buy the company from Hyundai almost two years ago). In fact, LSI Logic, Symbios's new parent company, has a very good reputation in the high-end server market, where Adaptec's reputation is somewhat weaker.
This might actually hurt Adaptec because the company's hold on the mainstream SCSI market relies partially on the fact that laymen don't trust other SCSI controller manufacturers. Adaptec might lose market share by allowing Symbios to work with Tyan, a trusted motherboard manufacturer. The Tyan brand will extend over Symbios, and give Adaptec a stronger competitor. For Adaptec, increasing margins was more important than maintaining market share. (We're not talking about a small increase in prices either. We hear Adaptec upped price tags around %400)
If you have your heart set on RIMMs, you can go for the S2232 Thunder 2000 board. This dual Pentium III Slot-1 840 motherboard features four RIMM slots and supports up to 1GB of PC600/700/800 RDRAM. There's one AGP slot (1X/2X/4X/Pro), four 32-bit PCI slots, and two 64-bit/66MHz PCI slots. Note that if you use any of the 32-bit/33MHz PCI slots, the 64-bit slots also get knocked down to 33MHz. Apple has been using 64-bit/66MHz PCI slots for their graphics cards, but there aren't many 64-bit/66MHz PCI products for the PC yet.