May 20, 2003 9:00 PM PDT

New PCs debut with latest Intel chipset

Dell Computer, Gateway and others will release PCs on Wednesday featuring new chipsets and processors from Intel that are expected to enhance the desktop experience.

The 865 series of chipsets, formerly code-named Springdale, accelerates the flow of data between the processor and various computer components, leading to richer graphics and better performance from applications such as audio- or video-editing programs.

A similar chipset, the 875P, was released in April, but only in a small number of high-end PCs. The new systems will be far more widespread and will start around $799 with a monitor included. Price cuts accompanying the release of the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 will drive further discounts.

Dell and IBM are putting the new chipsets in PCs that are around 60 percent smaller than standard desktops. Later this year, they will appear in PCs using Prescott, Intel's next big chip.

"As far as chipsets go, this will be Intel's big piece of news for the year," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Among other benefits, the 865 chipsets let PC makers build desktops with two channels of DDR DRAM memory, a workstationlike feature that increases the volume of data the processor can obtain at once.

"You're getting performance bumps all over the place with dual channel," McCarron said. "For the end user, the thing they will notice the most is the dual-channel memory."

Additionally, the 865 family's system bus, which connects the processor to memory, runs at speeds up to 800MHz, faster than the 533MHz bus on current Pentium 4 PCs. Similarly, the Serial ATA link speeds data transfer between the processor and the hard drive and requires less space inside the PC. These computers also work with 400MHz DDR DRAM, faster than the 266MHz DDR DRAM found on existing Pentium 4s.

Chipset shipping

PCs are now featuring Intel's 865 chipset, which allows everyday users to take advantage of hyper-threading.

Codename:
Springdale

Models:
865G (integrated graphics); 865PE (performance); 865P (budget)

Bus speeds:
400MHz to 800MHz

Features:
Dual-channel memory for 400MHz DDR DRAM; Serial ATA hard drive connection

Noteworthy:
The chipset brings hyper-threading to the mainstream.

So what?:
Cumulatively, Springdale's features will boost performance.

The new chipsets will also let Intel bring its hyperthreading technology to a wider audience. Hyperthreading lets a microprocessor perform two functions simultaneously, resulting in increased performance.

Although formally released last year, the technology isn't widespread. It is available only on 3GHz Pentium 4 computers, and most computer companies, such as IBM, have not shipped PCs or workstations to the business market with the hyperthreading function activated, because corporate customers wanted to absorb all of these changes at once.

IBM, among others, is now enabling hyperthreading, although Dell's new business PCs come with the function turned off. (Customers, though, can order it turned on at time of purchase.) On top of that, Intel is shipping three new Pentium 4s--running at 2.8GHz, 2.6GHz and 2.4GHz--that bring the Springdale benefits and hyperthreading down toward more moderately priced PCs. These new chips will cost $15 more than the existing Pentium 4s that get matched with older chipsets.

There are three different versions of the 865 chipset. The 865G, for corporate PCs, comes with integrated graphics, an 800MHz bus, Serial ATA running at 1.5gbps, two memory channels, eight USB 2.0 ports and hyperthreading.

The 865G will also usher in a technology called the corporate stable-image program. Formerly called Granite Peak, the program will ensure that the software image--software burned on company PCs--won't have to change for six quarters, even though the processor has become faster. Nowadays, information technology managers merely buy last year's machines to avoid changing the software image.

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The 865PE is the same, but it doesn't come with a built-in graphics chip. Instead, it comes with an 8X advanced graphics port (AGP) for connecting to graphics boards. Until now, most desktops have come with a 4X AGP.

The 865P, meanwhile, runs at only 533MHz or 400MHz but has the other features.

Dell will initially use the new chipset in the Dimension 4600C, which is about 60 percent smaller than ordinary desktops, and the Dimension 4600. The 4600C will start at $999, while the 4600 will start at $799.

Gateway will insert the 865G chip into its Gateway 500 desktop line, the company's midrange model. A 500S with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 with hyperthreading (called the 2.4C Pentium 4), 256MB of memory, a DVD ROM drive, a CD-RW drive, an 80GB hard drive and a 17-inch monitor will cost $999.

 

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