Here’s where we stand:
Now reasonably cost-effective for new systems with current Crucial DDR pricing.
Offers somewhat more performance than current SDRAM system, generally more so for games.
Potential performance gains are not big enough to make it a must have; particularly for people who have KT133A systems.
No ideal overclocker’s platform has emerged yet, all alternatives have tradeoffs.
Has been long delays, Via platform still not fully deployed. PC2100 will be superceded by incompatible PC2600 next year, will not have long-life as king-of-the-roost.
At the moment, this one’s easy. Crucial is both cheaper and better than the other guys. I doubt that will last forever,
but that’s the case right now.
If a high memory benchmark is important to you, looks like increasing FSB has a disproportionate effect on scores, so keep that in mind.
You have three contenders:
AMD 760 series
Good points: Been around a while, are generally considered pretty stable by recent standards, perform a little better at the moment than the competition.
Bad points: Tends to be expensive, AMD doesn’t want to be making them for much longer, are generally not overclocking friendly, usually only two DDR slots.
Asus A7M266: Generally considered solid, 6-layer board, but expensive, no multiplier adjustment, Asus apparently plans to phase out in favor of A7A266.
FIC AD11: A good deal cheaper than the A7M, multiplier adjustment (but that via jumper), but only a 4-layer board, limited FSB options, not a lot of people have it.
Gigabyte 7DX: A bit cheaper than the A7M, but no serious overclocking options (no voltage, multiplier or real FSB options).
Good points: Been around a while, BIOSes are finally coming around, can support both SDRAM and DDR, more overclocking friendly and cheaper than AMD solutions, probably will be end up cheaper than Via, too.
Bad points: Ali has at least a reputation for poor quality and performance, performance still considered shaky.
IWill KA-266-R A pioneer, and it got arrows in the back, mainly due to initial faults with the Ali chipset. As it’s been improved, matters have gotten better.
Asus A7A266, Soyo SY-K7ADA: Recent additions to the list, some reviews indicate they have some promise.
Good points: Will end up making most DDR boards, will probably continue to tweak chipset (hardware and BIOS) longer than AMD, will probably be more overclocking friendly than AMD.
Bad points: Long delayed and maybe still not really ready yet, MSI debut not a promising sign, unlikely it will be much better, might not even as good as AMD boards.
Asus A7V266: OCWorkbench says they just got one. Won’t see that in the stores for quite a while, but nice to see it even exists. Apparently 2 SDR, 2DDR memory slots.
Abit KR7: Nothing about them yet, but people will buy them, so . . . .
After the events of the last week, I can hardly give even an implicit endorsement to “where do we put the resistor today” MSI.
There is a Gigabyte and Soltek Via board out there someplace.
The impression I’m getting is that the Via can at least theoretically do a bit better than the AMD system. Whether it can do so stably is quite a different matter. We just don’t know yet.
A Likely Future
There isn’t going to be any significant difference between the boards. There really isn’t now. Other issues will decide this.
The AMD boards will probably remain the most solid of the three.
Simply due to the level of effort being thrown at them, the Via boards will eventually (and eventually may take a while) end up being a bit better and almost certainly have more features and be more versatile.
The Ali boards will probably be cheapest, and may give Via a good run for its money in the other categories.
If you have to buy right away, I think you have to ask yourself what’s more important, stability or flexibility? If overclocking features and ease of overclocking matter, consider an Ali board. If stability is more important than overclocking friendliness, look at AMD. If you can wait, wait and see what Via can do.