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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | Industry Update: March 2000 ]

Motherboard Update

Demand for i820-based boards is still extremely low, according to motherboard manufacturers I have spoken with. The main reasons are that OEMs are afraid of the MTH/SDRAM problems, and the cost of DRDRAM is prohibitive at this point. In fact, demand is so low, Intel discontinued the CC820 and VC820 chipsets--an unprecedented move for Intel!

i440BX-based boards are still very popular, but are quickly losing ground to the VIA Apollo Pro133A boards because of cost and availability. As mentioned on the chipset page, it appears that Intel may be trying to force manufacturers to the i820 by making the BX chipset scarce, but the strategy seems to be backfiring at this time.

Even though many motherboard manufacturers claimed to have motherboards ready for the January rollout of the KX133 chipset, most have pushed their introduction date into March and April (with a few even as late as May). To date, only one major motherboard manufacturer has actually begun shipping a KX133-based board, and quantities have been limited.

It is unclear whether this is because of limited chipset supply, the clock chip issue or simply because the potential market for Athlon boards is limited by the supply of Athlon processors. If the latter is the real reason, we can expect to see many boards introduced in Q2 when AMD announces availability of the Thunderbird, their next-generation chip.

One particular situation that deserves a mention is that motherboard manufacturers are trying to push their Slot 1 motherboards very heavily right now. This is because they have been warned by Intel that Slot 1 will be phased out fairly quickly, in favor of FC-PGA Socket 370 processors. This is a cost saving measure by Intel, as well as an effort to get manufacturers (and OEMs) off of the i440BX chipset. While the apparent intent is to push manufacturers to the i820 chipset, it may very well provide the necessary impetus to propel VIA to the front of the chipset market.

Next: Processor Update

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