February 2000 Industry Update

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News in the chipset and motherboard arena is somewhat sparse this time around, as there has been very little activity. Processor news is much more exciting this month, as you will see, mostly because of speed ramps and ‘leaks’ coming out of both Intel and AMD. Regardless of whether you are an Intel advocate or an AMD fanatic, you have to like this current rivalry – there is no lack of interesting developments! The memory market seems to be moving along in a predictable manner – no DRDRAM to be found, no DDR to be found and PC100 still essentially owns the market…

Chipset Update

Intel Chipsets

The i820 chipset is still getting quite a lukewarm reception in the marketplace, primarily because there appears to be no compelling reason to upgrade. Tests have shown that the performance is essentially on par with the i440BX chipset at best, even when using DRDRAM (and worse when using SDRAM). Combine that with the availability and cost issues associated with DRDRAM, and even the OEMs are finding it difficult to justify.

i820E (Camino-2) is scheduled to be released in early Q2 – most likely April. This chipset will include the “2+2” memory configuration that was supposed to be available on the i820 when it was released back in July…err…Sept…uh… November… and will also include ATA/100 support via the ICH-2.

It looks like the i815 (Solano) will be replaced by the i815E (Solano-2) effective immediately. In fact, the most recent roadmap shows both being released at the same time. The i815 has AGP 4x and PC133 memory support, while the i815E includes ATA/100, built-in LAN support and USB 2.0. Intel has indicated that the release date is April, but according to some manufacturers, volume shipments will probably not happen until June at the earliest. These manufacturers believe they won’t have sufficient quantities for the DIY marketplace until September.

According to the latest Intel roadmap, the only other two chipsets being introduced this year are the Timna (mid-Q3) and Tehama (early Q4). It also shows the i440BX chipset being discontinued early in Q2 – about the same time that the i815E is introduced. One has to wonder about this strategy, as there is still essentially no effective replacement for this chipset. The official statement from Intel is that the i440BX continues to be seen as the ‘best of class’, but that the i820 will continue to ramp quickly. No offense to Intel PR, but I sense some tap-dancing happening here.

VIA Chipsets

Demand for the Apollo Pro133 and Pro133A chipsets are still very strong with OEMs, though the DIY market is still skeptical about the performance and AGP compatibility issues. With Intel apparently dropping the i440BX chipset, however, this may change quickly.

VIA officially announced volume shipments of the KX-133 chipset on January 10, with twenty manufacturers apparently making motherboards. Unfortunately, it appears that they are ramping slowly, causing many manufacturers to delay their motherboards until March or April. VIA also has a DDR enabled chipset planned for release in Q2, with an official unveiling planned for Computex. Four manufacturers will reportedly show motherboards based upon this chipset.

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