January 2000 Industry Update

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Though the i820 chipset was officially re-released on Nov 15, there are very few motherboards available as of this writing. The reason for this is that DRDRAM prices are preventing users and OEMs from taking a serious look at this solution. In addition, reviews of the Intel CC820 motherboard (PC100 SDRAM support using the Memory Translator Hub) claimed that the memory performance was actually worse than i440BX based boards. Most manufacturers and vendors I have spoken with say that they are seeing performance that is actually very close to BX based boards when the MTH is used, however this certainly does not justify the higher price-tag that an i820 based board carries.

Though the Pro133A chipset has been very popular in the OEM market, there have been very few motherboards available in the DIY market. Part of the reason is that OEMs generally use S3 or nVidia based graphics cards, which this particular chipset was initially qualified for. When manufacturers obtained early samples and tested with other graphics chipsets, they became very concerned about the AGP support. This has resulted in a very slow acceptance of the chipset for use in the DIY arena.

VIA has indicated that they believe all AGP issues have been resolved, however almost all manufacturers I have spoken with are still somewhat wary of the chipset. It almost appears as if they are all waiting for the ‘other guy’ to jump into the water first so they can be sure there aren’t any ‘killer whales’ lurking about before everyone takes the plunge. A few manufacturers have indicated that they are ready to ship samples, but are somewhat reluctant – preferring to try and push their i820 solutions instead.

On a positive note for AMD, it appears that there are quite a number of KX-133 based boards ready to be ‘officially’ announced in January. Wide availability of these boards combined with Fab 30 processor shipments in Q2 should give AMD an opportunity to grab some market share from Intel. Several manufacturers I have spoken with have some concerns of AGP support here as well (same core as the Pro133A), and plan on a more conservative approach by waiting until late January or early February.

It remains to be seen whether all manufacturers will actively market their Slot A boards, considering the specter of Intel retaliation still looms overhead. It is almost comical to hear about product announcements and specs appearing on and disappearing from manufacturer sites from week to week.

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