Pentium III could act up with new chipset

PC makers who try to combine Intel's high-end Pentium III processor with an upcoming chipset designed for low-cost PCs could run into problems, an Intel official acknowledged today.

The chip maker played down the significance of the issue, and at least one analyst agreed that it shouldn't be a big deal.

The trouble stems from a glitch in the Pentium III processor, which Intel disclosed earlier this year. The glitch -- or "erratum" as Intel prefers to call it -- has been called MaskMovQ, and relates to the processor's SIMD multimedia instructions, Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said.

Intel has developed a workaround for the glitch, but the fix wasn't tested to work with Intel's new 810 chipset, which is due out this month.

"When the Intel 810 is used with the Pentium III processor you could run into unpredictable system behaviour, such as a system hang," said Intel spokesman Dan Francisco.

Intel notes that the 810 chipset was designed for use in low-cost PCs running Intel's Celeron processor and isn't intended for use with the Pentium III, used in more costly, high-performance desktops. Among other things, the 810 includes an integrated graphics controller to help reduce system cost.

At least one analyst understood why Intel didn't bother to validate the Pentium III fix for use with the 810 chipset. Few users or PC makers would try and pair the two together, said Nathan Brookwood, principal with US-based consultancy firm Insight 64.

"There are going to be instances of people who try to do this but they'll be people off the beaten path," Brookwood said. "But you're unlikely to see a mainstream PC maker do it.

Still, Intel acknowledged that a PC maker trying to build a rock-bottom priced Pentium III system could try to pair its top of the line desktop processor with the value-segment Intel 810 chipset.

"People sometimes don't follow our advice," Francisco said.

Intel said future versions of its 800 series chipsets will work with the Pentium III.

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James Niccolai

PC World

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