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   Review : Pentium 4 Chipset Roundup »  
 

 

 Pentium 4 Chipset Roundup - Preamble
   
 Date  : Apr 2nd, 2002
 Category  : Chipset
 Manufacturer   : Various
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
Earlier this year, Intel introduced the first 0.13-micron process based Pentium 4, based on the "Northwood" core. Prior to this, Pentium 4s were based on the 0.18-micron process "Willamette" core. The die shrink accomplished several important goals : reduce the 217mm^2 surface area of the Willamette (by upwards of 70%), power consumption and heat (due to small, faster switching transistors), and finally cost price per unit. What's more important is that the new cores have fantastic overclocking potential, surely catching the attention of performance users, as the Pentium 4's performance rests heavily on its ability to reach higher clock speeds than the competition (a direct consequence of its "deeper" pipeline architecture). With the planned increase of the Pentium 4's quad-pumped FSB, and the implementation of Hyper-Threading technology, the future certainly looks bright for the Pentium 4 platform.

Barring the future improvements however, what can an end-user do if he or she wants to get a top performing Pentium 4-based solution today? The performance of the P4 is critically dependant on memory bandwidth, which was why the P4 was launched on the RAMBUS memory platform. Although RAMBUS offered an incredible amount of bandwidth, it had a higher latency, causing its performance to be mixed rather than clearly superior. Coupled with the high price of RAMBUS RIMMs, and the P4 platform looked very unattractive. Intel tried to alleviate this with the i845 SDRAM chipset. Although the costs decreased dramatically, the use of SDRAM left the P4 starved of memory bandwidth, hurting its performance. Performance pundits criticized Intel the lack of P4 DDR support, and VIA promptly responded with their legally controversial P4X266 chipset., the very first DDR chipset. Intel finally bowed to market pressure, releasing the i845 DDR chipset several months later, and also granting use of the P4 bus to SiS, who launched the SiS645 chipset, a DDR-333(!) chipset.

So as it stands, the competition really boils down to this : i845DDR, P4X266 or SiS645? Join us as we take a close look.

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