Intel pushes 845D DDR chipset over PC133 predecessor
Plug your P4s into the new chipset, not the old one
Intel appears to be working hard to wean motherboard makers and system integrators off its SDRAM-based 845 chipset and on to the part's DDR-based successor, the 845D.
The 845D has been shipping for some weeks now, we hear, in preparation for its official launch early next year - though boards based on the part are likely to appear much sooner, on 16 December, mobo-maker sources have said.
Intel initially gave the 845D the same price tag as the 845, but in response to motherboard companies' worries that such a move would make it difficult to position their 845- and 845D-based products, the chip giant is said to have considered adding a five per cent price premium to the 845D.
Such a move seems unlikely, since the whole point of the 845 was as a stop-gap ahead of the full DDR product while Intel's agreement with Rambus forbade it to do ship the 845D. With the Rambus barrier removed - thanks, no doubt, to a big pay-off, sorry, licensing agreement - Intel is free to push DDR, a memory technology far better suited to the Pentium 4 than is SDRAM.
That that's Intel's plan is shown by mobo makers' attempts to run down stocks of 845-based products, as reported by DigiTimes, which also claims that the chip giant has told PC builders that they should add Socket 478 P4s to 845D-based boards first and 845-based mobos second. If that's not a push to promote DDR over SDRAM, we don't know what is.
And while supplies of Socket 478 P4s remain tight, Intel's guidance is a powerful incentive to use the 845D, even if Intel isn't giving priorty to customers who want to do so, as some sources have hinted.
The shift toward DDR has another couple of interesting aspects to it. First, it puts Intel in a position to compete directly with VIA's controversial P4X266 chipset and its derivatives. Intel clearly doesn't want its main rival getting ahead of it, so it's no wonder it was very annoyed when VIA launched a DDR chipset in the same timeframe that it was launching an SDRAM part. Intel's P4 bus licensees were trying to do the same thing, but the chip giant can exercise some control over them through the certification process. It has no such hold over VIA.
Instead, it used the law courts. Intel's writs haven't stopped VIA, but they have put mobo makers off buying the VIA part. Come Q1 2002 and 'official' DDR chipsets will be readily available from Intel, SIS and Acer. We wouldn't be surprised if the VIA action is also settled, now that the Taiwanese company doesn't have the DDR P4 chipset market to itself.
The shift to DDR will also increase demand for that type of memory. DDR production currently fairly limited - at least in comparison to SDRAM. Mass demand for DDR while supply is tight is likely to drive up prices while memory makers ramp up DDR production. All of this is dependent on strong uptake of new PCs, but it will still help the memory business shift from ultra-low cost SDRAM to higher-margin DDR, which will become one more motor powering the market's recovery.
Will demand for new PCs increase? Intel hopes so, driven by its 0.13 micron 2.0GHz and 2.2GHz P4s, due to ship at the start of the new year, the price cuts coming on 27 January and the arrival of chipsets with the memory bandwidth needed to make the most of the Socket 578 P4's 400MHz frontside bus. ®