Pentium 4 prices to fall even more with SDRAM chipset

Intel's current effort to get Pentium 4 processors into progressively less expensive PCs should be aided in August by the arrival of Intel's 845 chipset, code-named Brookdale.

Intel's new 845 chipset will use industry standard SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) memory instead of the pricier Rambus DRAM memory shipping with current Pentium 4-powered PCs, an Intel spokesperson said.

Intel's 845 chipset is expected to launch early next month, according to sources familiar with the chipmaker's plans.

The less expensive 845 chipset will help Intel immediately lower the cost of Pentium 4 chips for PC manufacturers such as Dell, Compaq, HP, and others. Rambus memory will continue to be an option for Pentium 4 systems, according to Intel.

However, industry experts question Intel's choice of SDRAM over the faster alternative of DDR-SDRAM (double data rate SDRAM).

SDRAM, also known as PC133 memory, is widely considered to be slow and outdated compared to newer DDR-SDRAM technology. Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices already ships DDR memory with many of its PC and server chipsets.

Recognizing the advantage of DDR-SDRAM, Intel plans to launch a DDR-SDRAM chipset for the Pentium 4 in the first quarter of 2002, a spokesperson for the chipmaker said.

Until then, experts say customers buying Pentium 4 PCs with the SDRAM chipset will be buying a thoroughbred strapped to a plow horse.

Testing performed by Tom's Hardware Guide, an independent technology benchmarking Web site, revealed that "it is not very hard to imagine that this slightly outdated and somewhat slow memory type -- SDRAM -- will have a major performance impact on the Pentium 4. The question is only how much of an impediment PC133 memory will be for the Pentium 4. PC133 is very inexpensive, but the price advantage over the more advanced DDR-SDRAM is shrinking daily and does not play a major role in cost considerations anymore."

An Intel spokesperson said, "For higher bandwidth applications, certainly Rambus memory will be faster [than SDRAM]."

Intel's commitment to the use of expensive Rambus memory has drawn criticism over the last several years by PC manufacturers both large and small who believe engineering requirements for Intel's PC chips have prevented them from using alternative memory technologies.

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Dan Neel

PC World
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