Some memory-module makers this week said they were shipping PC133 SDRAM devices to Intel Corp. for testing, but it was unclear what Intel's motives are for evaluating a memory it has so steadfastly shunned.
Module companies exhibiting at PC Expo in New York this week said they fervently believe Intel is planning to change gears and support PC133 memory when its new 810e chipset, with a 133-MHz frontside bus (FSB), is unveiled this fall. Other exhibitors, including PC OEMs with close ties to Intel, claimed the company is testing PC133 modules simply to size up the new memory against Direct Rambus DRAM, the high-speed memory Intel is strongly supporting.
Intel reportedly tested PC133 modules from Dane-Elec Corp., Irvine, Calif.; SuperPC Memory, Westminster, Colo.; and Transcend Information Inc., Taipei, Taiwan; and PC133 motherboards from Asustek Computer Inc., also based in Taipei. This information was provided by executives of those companies.
An Intel spokesman declined to say whether the company has been testing PC133 modules. He reiterated Intel's long-standing roadmap that shows the company's chipset-memory support moving from PC100 straight to Direct RDRAM.
With or without Intel in their corner, PC133-module makers said they are signing quantity orders from most PC OEMs for servers and desktop models to be introduced this fall. Bill Lee, senior product marketing manager for Gateway Server Products, confirmed that the company would introduce PC133 memory in a new line this fall.
Module makers said PC133 core-logic chipsets would be available at that time from Taipei-based Via Technologies Inc. for desktops, and from Reliance Computer Corp., San Jose, for servers-regardless of what Intel does.
Adrian Proctor, general manager of Dane-Elec, said most PC companies will be selling systems equipped with PC133 main memory, using either third-party core-logic chipsets or what he expects to be a PC133-compatible chipset version that Intel will ultimately roll out. Intel denies such a device is in the wings.
Still, the big PC133 launch is largely waiting for Intel to come out with its 133-MHz FSB in September, at which point the chipset will match the SDRAM's clock speed. The Intel 133-MHz FSB will be introduced with the 820 Camino chipset for Pentium desktop PCs and the 810e chipset for Celeron systems.
Clarence Chan, OEM sales manager for Transcend Information, said once Intel clears the way with its 133-MHz FSB, then any independent chipset vendor is free to connect PC133 memory to the Intel interface. An Intel spokesman agreed this was possible.
Via had tried to jump the gun this month by introducing its Apollo Pro133 chipset, which included a 133-MHz processor bus and support for PC133 memory. As previously reported, the Taiwanese company agreed to hold back the chipset when Intel objected that it hadn't officially granted Via a license to the 133-MHz processor bus.
Dean Hays, director of marketing for Via's U.S. operations, said in earlier comments that the Intel license covered Via chipsets referred only to the PC133 memory portion and did not cover the 133-MHz FSB.
For the time being, motherboard designers can connect PC133 memory to Intel's existing 100-MHz FSB, but Dane-Elec's Proctor said the clock-speed mismatch curtails much of the advantage gained by using a higher-speed memory. Even so, he expects new sub-$1,000 PCs with integrated core-logic and graphics chipsets to connect PC133 to the 100-MHz FSB to boost the memory bandwidth for graphics applications.