Acer Labs unveils Pentium 4 DDR chip set

Acer Laboratories Inc. (ALi) unveiled a new chipset for Intel Corp.'s Pentium 4 processor Monday that uses DDR SDRAM, a move that should help lower costs for computers using that type of high-speed memory, one industry analyst said.

ALi has begun offering samples of its Aladdin-P4 chip set to manufacturing customers, the company announced. ALi plans to begin volume production of the chip set in October, priced at US$31 each in large quantities, according to a statement.

ALi joins Taiwan's Via technologies Inc. to become the second provider of DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) chipsets for the Pentium 4, a move which should help lower the price of some Pentium 4 PCs for end users, according to Martin Reynolds, a research fellow with analyst firm Gartner Inc.

Until recently, computer makers had no choice but to use Rambus Inc.'s more expensive Rambus DRAM chips in their Pentium 4 PCs, because Intel's latest processor supported nothing else. DDR SDRAM is not only cheaper than Rambus DRAM; it is also faster than the SDRAM memory type used in most mainstream PCs today, offering data throughput speeds of as high as 2.1G bytes per second.

Having two vendors in the market providing DDR chip sets for the Pentium 4 should boost competition and help drive down the cost of components used to build Pentium 4 computers, Reynolds said.

"ALi is a large manufacturer that will help drive costs down," Reynolds said. "The more low cost chip sets there are, the faster the P4 will come to market."

Intel has said it will introduce its own DDR chipset for the Pentium 4 early next year. ALi typically charges manufacturers less for its components than Intel, Reynolds said. "Intel is the premium manufacturer, and they charge a premium price," he said.

Either way, the arrival of additional suppliers of DDR chip sets could further help further reduce prices. Ahead of Intel, the third supplier of DDR is likely to be Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SIS), which is also licensed to produce DDR chip sets and has set late August as a launch date for its chip.

Using DDR memory with the Pentium 4 has been a controversial topic, particularly since Via launched its Apollo P4X266 chip set supporting the standard earlier this year. Intel has said that Via needs a license to make the product and has hinted at possible legal action against the Taiwanese firm.

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Ashlee Vance

Computerworld
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