December 11, 2001 2:55 PM PST

Intel quietly releasing new P4 chipset

Intel is planning the stealth introduction of a chipset that will let computer makers connect the Pentium 4 to speedy DDR (double data rate) memory.

Intel will allow PC makers to quietly begin taking orders for computers fitted with a new version of its 845 chipset Dec. 17, CNET has learned. The official announcement of the chipset and the corresponding fanfare won't come until early January.

Intel declined to comment.

The new chipset, a variation on the Intel 845 introduced in September, is a significant move for the company. DDR SDRAM is a faster version of synchronous dynamic RAM, the standard system memory used in desktop PCs.

Like standard memory, DDR SDRAM costs less than memory based on designs from Rambus, called RDRAM.

RDRAM was, at one time, the only memory available for the Pentium 4. The 845 chipset introduced in September has been an incredibly popular substitute.

When it came out, 845/SDRAM combination shaved about $100 off the cost of a Pentium 4 computer, allowing PC makers to offer desktop/monitor combinations for about $850. PCs equipped with 845/DDR SDRAM should start around the same price or just a bit higher, sources said.

Computers that use chips from Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices already can use DDR SDRAM.

The upcoming 845 chipset will support the two most popular forms of DDR-SDRAM, called PC 1600 and PC 2100.

According to component-tracking Web site, 128MB modules of SDRAM were selling on Tuesday for about $10. At the same time, 128MB modules of PC 2100 DDR SDRAM were going for about $20 and 128MB modules of RDRAM for about $33.

Intel began the shipments a couple of week ago to coordinate PC makers, motherboard makers and other companies that will sell the new chipset, sources said.

Intel follows chipset makers such as Via Technologies and Acer Labs in introducing DDR SDRAM for the Pentium 4. The Via chipset, however, is the subject of several lawsuits between Intel and Via.


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