Computex: Intel embraces DDR, SDRAM with new P4 chipset

The chip maker introduced the new 845 chipset at its showcase here at the Computex Taipei 2001 trade show, which opened Monday. Included in the showcase were 63 PC motherboards built with the 845, which will go into systems expected to ship in September, according to Timothy Chang, a Taipei-based senior field sales engineer at Intel. The motherboards on display here included ones made by Taiwanese manufacturers Acer, Mitac, Gigabyte Technology, First International Computer, Tatung, AOpen and Asustek Computer.

The motherboards on display Monday used a version of the 845, due to be released in the second half of this year, that can support SDRAM. A version that will support both SDRAM and DDR is scheduled to become available in the first quarter of 2002, said William Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, after his keynote address at the show Monday. During the keynote, Intel demonstrated the 845 chipset.

Until now Intel, as a staunch supporter of Rambus' proprietary memory interface, has only offered its 850 chipset for use with the Pentium 4. The chipset doesn't allow PC makers to use cheaper SDRAM or DDR-DRAM memory chips and has caused controversy in the PC industry because of the higher price of chips based on the Rambus technology.

Intel introduced the 845 in order to give system vendors a choice of memory technologies, Siu said during the post-keynote press conference. RDRAM remains its intended technology for the most high-performance systems.

"We believe that the people who demand the maximum performance from the Pentium 4 processor platforms will continue to favour RDRAM solutions, but we're providing the customer with a choice depending on the level of memory performance they desire. We think that the consumer choice will ultimately set the dynamics of memory usage for the new platforms," Siu said.

Siu said the price difference between RDRAM and its alternatives has and will continue to narrow.

In addition to the likely lower prices of machines based on the new chipset thanks to the cheaper memory they will use, systems may also be physically smaller. The 845 features a smaller "thermal," the casing around the CPU (central processing unit) that holds the heat sink. The smaller casing will allow for smaller end systems, Chang said. Intel may later introduce another chipset with the smaller thermal that will support Rambus.

Computex continues through Friday.

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Stephen Lawson

PC World
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