SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Intel Corp. will unveil a new core-logic chip set lineup next year to fill in product holes caused by its belated decision to support PC133 and double-data-rate PC266 SDRAM, according to industry sources who were briefed recently by the company.
"[Intel will] cover all the bases with its new chip set roadmap," said Charles Glavin, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. "Unless Intel openly supports a variety of [memory] alternatives, it could have boxed itself into a corner. We now believe that the remaining gaps in Intel's chip set products will be filled."
Details emerging from sources last week indicated Intel's new chip set road-map will include:
The Intel 815, or Solano, which is expected to sample in January and will succeed the popular 440BX as the company's mainstream chip set. The Solano will support PC133 SDRAM, an AGP 4X graphics port, and external graphics cards with frame-buffer memory of 32 Mbytes and possibly more. The device will be Intel's answer to Via Technologies Inc.'s rival Apollo Pro 133, which is now on the market.
A double-data-rate (DDR) chip set for desktop PCs. Sources say the device could represent an upgrade to Solano's support of single-data-rate PC133.
A yet-to-be-named DDR PC266-enabled chip set for servers that will sample late in 2000 for an early 2001 launch. It will trail by at least six months a rival DDR-enabled server chip set from Reliance Computer Corp.
An Intel 870 server chip set that is in development as a DDR SDRAM-based successor to the Profusion chip set for high-end four- and eight-processor systems. According to sources, the 870 may also be the chip set that supports the upcoming 64-bit Itanium (formerly Merced) processor and DDR SDRAM.
Intel last week confirmed that the Itanium has always been slated to support SDRAM, dismissing published reports that it had only recently switched to an SDRAM interface after dropping Direct Rambus DRAM from its 64-bit processor roadmap.
Continued support for the Intel 820 and 840 that now support Direct RDRAM in high-performance PCs and workstations, respectively. As Rambus battles PC133 and PC266 for the desktop-PC market, Intel will provide either the 820/840 or Solano chip sets according to customer demand.
Continued support of the Intel 810 and 810E integrated core-logic/graphics chip sets for the value-PC market.
Integration of logic-, graphics-, and memory-controller functions into the single-chip Timna "computer-on-a-chip," which is slated to be unveiled next summer. Sources said Intel recently switched the Timna's initial memory interface to SDRAM from Direct RDRAM to meet cost considerations.
Asked to comment, an Intel spokesman last week reiterated the company's long-standing policy of not discussing unannounced products.
According to sources, the Solano chip set is expected to anchor Intel's new chip set lineup. Although designed originally as an offshoot of the value-end 810/810E family, Solano eventually added all the performance features needed to compete from the low end to the high end of the PC market, sources said.
For example, Solano will serve the midrange and high-end desktop segments by connecting Coppermine and other Pentium III processors with external high-performance graphics cards, an AGP 4X graphics port, and a large-capacity, dedicated SDRAM frame buffer-something Intel 810/810E chip sets don't do.
Sources said Solano will accomplish this by interfacing to a new socket that can use either an AGP 4X card or a new AIMM (AGP Inline Memory Module). The Solano's integrated core-logic/graphics controller connects Pentium processors equipped with a 133-MHz frontside bus to PC133 SDRAM. An AGP 4X card, which includes a separate graphics controller and dedicated single-data-rate or DDR SDRAM, can then be used, essentially bypassing the Solano's integrated graphics core.
Alternately, the AIMM card can be used in the socket in conjunction with the integrated graphics engine. In this configuration, the AIMM card would control a portion of the PC133 main memory for graphics, video, and texturing. SDRAM chips with densities of 128 or 256 Mbits would provide enough memory capacity to support high-quality graphics using the AIMM card and Solano's internal graphics capability, sources said.
Solano will also adopt some of the features found in the Intel 820/840 chip sets, such as interfaces to an I/O Controller Hub and Firmware Controller Hub. Since Solano will only support SDRAM, the extra Memory Translator Hub that allows Rambus-enabled 820/840 motherboards to use SDRAM won't be needed.