December 1999 Industry Update

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As expected, Comdex provided some good information regarding the trends in the industry. VIA and ALi are working hard to combat Intel, and seem to be making inroads. We were also told that Intel is not pressuring motherboard manufacturers to keep them from making Slot-A boards – but they are pressuring them in another way. Of course, Intel is now making the big marketing push for DRDRAM, but there is also some interesting news on this front. So, without further ado, on with the show…

Chipset Update

Intel re-released the i820 chipset on November 15 – the first day of Comdex. As indicated last month, memory support is officially limited to either 2 RIMM or 2 DIMM slots. The initial benchmark results we have seen show that SDRAM is substantially slower with boards using this chipset vs. the i440BX chipset, apparently due to the Memory Translator Hub (MTH) required to support SDRAM.

VIA indicated that they have moved up the release date of the KX-133 chipset to December, with a number of motherboard manufacturers already designing motherboards. With the success of the Apollo Pro133 and Pro133A chipsets, they believe that the KX-133 provides the greatest potential for additional market share. This chipset will allow manufacturers to build Slot-A boards using 4-Layer PCBs, and will include 4x AGP – an absolute necessity in today’s market.

VIA had a Micron system with DDR SDRAM on display at their Comdex booth, which was based upon the Shark chipset developed by Micron. Though this chipset design has been made available to manufacturers, VIA has their own DDR chipset in the works that will likely debut in Q2 of next year.

ALi recently announced their Socket 7 based Aladdin 7 chipset, which integrates ArtX’s 3D graphics accelerator. Earlier this year, ALi had released the Aladdin TNT2 chipset, which is a Slot 1/Socket 370 chipset for Pentium II/III and Celeron processors. Both of these chipsets make use of the M1535D South Bridge, which has integrated audio, software modem interface, four USB ports and UDMA/66 capability.

VIA also believes that integration is the future for consumer PCs, with plans to include video, audio and LAN support in their Socket 7 chipsets. Even more interesting is their plans for the IDT processor core (code named Samuel), which will be integrated into the North Bridge of a future chipset intended very low-end PCs and perhaps some mobile products, to compete against Intel’s Timna chipset.

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