Intel’s i845 (SDRAM) Chipset

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i845 and P4 Market

So what is the market for the i845 SDRAM P4 chipset and the P4? There are two indicators: Read the Intel press briefings and the info posted on Intel’s site, then actually run some benchmarks and see what the strong points are. First lets look at two quotes from Intel’s press briefings (they were sent out with the CPU) that seems to sum it up:

The Intel 845 Platform: Extends the Pentium 4 processor family of platforms into the most price sensitive mainstream market segments.

Pentium 4 Processor for Consumer: PERFORMANCE for an awesome DIGITAL MEDIA experience (caps are as per Intel).

So what do those quotes mean? In regards to the i845 chipset, I feel they intend this as a chipset geared toward the market where price counts – the "Value market". It also uses tried and proven technology in regards to memory, which is the same PC133 SDRAM we’ve been used to for quite some time now. As for the P4 CPU, I feel it is the next generation CPU, but it is an evolutionary change and not a revolutionary one. It is also optimized for newer generation applications, such as multimedia, and upcoming operating systems, such as Windows XP. Seems like just what the market would want.

The i845 chipset uses the same 400MHz FSB the i850 does, but uses PC133 SDRAM running at 133 MHz instead of PC800 RDRAM. So what does that mean? In a nutshell the PC133 SDRAM has a peak bandwidth of 1.1GB/s and the PC800 RDRAM has a peak bandwidth of 1.6GB/s… when using a 400MHz FSB the PC133 just can’t keep up with the FSB so you have a performance loss. You can especially see it in the Winbench CPU Mark 99 and 3D Winbench CPU test results above.

First lets look at the CPU pricing, it is the first clue that maybe using the P4 2.0, as above, is the wrong approach for testing (or building) the i845 based Mainboards.

What I’ve done is use the P4 1.5GHz CPU as a base, and then shown the percentage difference between its cost and other P3 and P4 CPU’s as of 9/10/01. Why the P4 1.5? Simple, it’s the lowest priced P4 (478 pin) available and since we are looking at a chipset that is designed for the lower end of the price market, that only makes sense. Notice that the P4 1.5 is priced right in the same range as the P3 800 / 866, so shouldn’t we be comparing an i845 SDRAM mainboard to a P3 in it’s price range and not the high end P3 1.2 Tualatin or the even higher end P4 2.0 with RDRAM and the i850 chipset? I think so.

So what about the price spread of the i815EP (P3), i850 (P4 RDRAM) and i845 (P4 SDRAM) mainboards? Well, the only pricing I have right now (for all three from the same manufacture) is from the Intel line, toward the upper end in quality and product price.

Mainboard Price Difference

Here we see the i845 in the middle, but closer to the i850 than the i815. But we are only talking about less than $40 from the highest to the lowest, whereas in the CPU comparison we are looking at a spread of over $450 from the highest to the lowest.

Memory is the other issue. Currently RDRAM costs over three times what PC133 does. Even though memory is at an all time low, and RDRAM doesn’t cost that much, it does add up when building a system to a budget price. Today, 256MB of PC133 cost about $60 less than the same amount of RDRAM (you have to buy 2×128 to install 256MB).

So you can build an i845 P4 1.5GHz based system for pretty close to the same cost as you can build an i815 and P3 800 (within $40 or less, and I’d expect that to get even closer). Seems pretty good to me. As a reseller I could offer a 1.5GHz (‘faster’ than any current AMD CPU) system at a price that is just slightly above the 800MHz P3 systems I had been selling, and on top of that it has the next generation CPU – what else could I ask for? As a end user I can buy a 1.5GHz system with the latest technology for not much more than the 800MHz system I had been looking at before, so which do you think I’ll buy?

Well, first I do want to make sure the performance is up to par, and the ‘price vs. price’ is also on par. So let’s now take a look at the i845 and a P4 1.5 and compare to a i815 and P3 800, which is a more ‘fair’ comparison in my mind with regards to pricing.

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