Intel flooding the channel with DDR memory

Intel is busy stocking the channel with a new chip set capable of supporting DDR SRAM (double data rate synchronous DRAM) memory for the company's Pentium 4 processor, a source familiar with the company's plans said Wednesday.

Intel's 845-DDR chip set will give computer makers the option of using DDR in PCs running Pentium 4 chips. DDR memory runs faster than standard SDRAM memory, and is only slightly more expensive.

A spokesperson for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel said the 845-DDR chip set is scheduled to officially launch in January, along with Intel's 0.13-micron Northwood Pentium 4 processor, but was unable to comment on any shipping activity prior to the launch date.

However, in the same way that Detroit auto makers need to ship cars to dealer lots before making the models available to the public, Intel is currently in the process of shipping 845-DDR chip sets to manufacturers and re-sellers, a source said. Inevitably, some pre-launch sales of the chip set are also taking place, according to the source.

The 845-DDR chip set represents the second departure from Rambus-based memory for the Pentium 4 chip. Last August Intel released an 845-SDRAM chip set for the Pentium 4, enabling PC makers to use inexpensive, standard SDRAM in Pentium 4 computers. Rambus DRAM, more expensive than SDRAM or DDR, shipped on all previous PCs equipped with Pentium 4s.

Standing behind the performance value of Rambus memory, Intel still offers Rambus for Pentium 4 chips with the company's 850 chip set. But getting Pentium 4 processors into sub-US$1000 PCs has been one of Intel's missions throughout 2001, and making less expensive memory an option for PC makers has been part of Intel's strategy.

Memory pricing for the week of December 11 saw fluctuation across SDRAM, DDR, and Rambus, with 512Mb of SDRAM increasing by $20 to $77, 512Mb of DDR increasing by $11 to $108, and RDRAM falling by $14 to $164, according to Internet pricing Web site Sharky Extreme.

Also set to launch in January, Intel's Northwood processor will be the first Pentium 4 engineered to 0.13-micron relay architecture, according to Intel.

Northwood is expected to debut at around 2GHz, accelerating to 3GHz by the end of 2002.

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Dan Neel

Computerworld
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