April 1, 2003 12:59 PM PST
Intel ships prelude to desktop overhaul
The major desktop overhaul for spring, however, will start later this month with the release of Canterwood, a chipset for Pentium 4 computers, and the subsequent release of Springdale in mid-May, according to sources close to the company. A 3.2GHz version of the Pentium 4 will also come out in the same time frame, according to the sources, a release expected to prompt a wave of price cuts.
If microprocessors are the CEOs inside PCs, chipsets are the chief operating officers, managing input-output functions, ensuring memory works with processors and creating paths for data to circulate from one component to another.
Springdale and Canterwood will come with an 800MHz system bus, the data conduit between the processor and memory, faster than the 533MHz and 400MHz bus that now comes with Pentium 4 computers. The chipsets also feature Serial ATA, a faster and relatively new way to connect the hard drive to the rest of the computer, and a faster bus, called AGP 8X, for connecting the graphics chip to the processor. AGP 8X now only comes with workstations.
Additionally, the two forthcoming chipsets will feature two channels, rather than one channel, of memory. This increases the amount of data funneling toward the processor at any single moment.
Many companies will use Springdale as a launch pad to tout Intel's hyperthreading technology for the business market, a feature in Pentium 4s running at 3GHz and faster that allows a single chip to handle more functions at one time.
Although hyperthreading came out last November, most manufacturers only turn it on for consumer PCs. Corporate PCs and workstations with 3GHz Pentium 4s have shipped with the function turned off. In late January, representatives at IBM and Dell Computer said that they would begin to ship their business PCs with the hyperthreading function turned on when the new chipsets arrived.
Corporate customers want to digest all the changes at once, according to Howard Locker, chief architect of the PC division at IBM.
While some manufacturers will come out with Canterwood-based PCs, most are planning to sell larger volumes of Springdale models, according to sources.
Additionally, Springdale and Canterwood PCs will feature 400MHz double data rate (DDR) DRAM, a faster version of the 266MHz DDR DRAM that comes in today's PCs.
Springdale and Canterwood, from a manufacturing perspective, are the same. Canterwood chipsets, however, will exhibit faster internal speed paths, a difference called Performance
Whether or not a chipset exhibits these faster speed paths, which will improve performance, is determined in the testing phase of manufacturing, according to Intel executives. Making chips is often like baking cookies. The recipe for a given batch might be identical, but all the cookies will be slightly different.
Not to be outdone, AMD will boost the bus speed on its Athlon processor to 400MHz in the next few months, sources say.