October 2000 Industry Update

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Chipsets and Motherboards

Socket 370 and Socket 423

Intel found a problem in their i850 chipset, which turns out to be essentially a communication error between the ICH2 (I/O Controller Hub – formerly known as the South Bridge) and the MCH (Memory Controller Hub – formerly part of the North Bridge) of the i850 chipset. Intel was able to identify and fix the problem very quickly, preventing another i820-type disaster.

While some have indicated that there has been a delay because of this, Intel maintains that they have never claimed anything more specific than a Q4 release, which they say they will hit. The current expectation is that the chipset will be released during the last week of November.

Tier 1 motherboard manufacturers have already developed boards to support the Pentium 4, and have been hoping for a quick ramp. With only four to five weeks available after release, it doesn’t look like these hopes will be realized. In addition, with the transition from a 423-pin package to a 478-pin package around mid-year 2001, manufacturers may be a bit reticent to develop more than one or two motherboard models until they have a more solid footing, particularly with the recent drop in overall sales.

VIA has been sampling their PM266 chipset for Socket 370, with virtually every motherboard manufacturer of any size appearing to have a DDR based Pentium III motherboard in the works, with most ready to show at least a prototype at Comdex. This is probably too late to have any impact on the Christmas buying season, but manufacturers are anxious to get a DDR solution to the market this year, even if only for show. FIC and MSI and possibly one or two other manufacturers reportedly will be shipping their DDR boards in late November or early December.

The i815E chipset seems to be finally providing integrators and OEMs with a replacement for the i440BX chipset, which will be discontinued at the end of this year. The excellent memory performance, along with the apparent lack of problems, has proven that Intel can still design and manufacture a good quality product.

Socket A

VIA has also been sampling their KM133 chipset, which should provide integrators and OEMs with a solution for a wider range of the market, which should, in turn, help reduce their costs. Motherboards based upon this chipset will also apparently miss the Christmas buying season, with a few companies releasing products in late November or early December – at least a month later than originally expected.

AMD will be releasing their 760 chipset near the end of October. Only a few motherboard manufacturers, which includes FIC and MSI, will be initially offering product based upon this chipset. Most appear to be waiting until Q1 to produce and ship their products, though several may have prototypes available at Comdex.

It appears that no other chipsets for Socket A will appear this year, though ALi seems to have an outside shot at it. Some timing issues between chipsets and DDR modules seems to have delayed the actual release of motherboards using the ALi chipset, which may not be good for their reputation. SiS will likely not have any product available until at least Q1, however that may be just in time for the volume ramp of DDR products.

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