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

Motherboard Update

The interesting statistic out of my survey of motherboard offerings is the number of models for each processor socket type. As should be expected, Socket 370 (175) holds the top spot, with Socket A (86) in second and Slot 1 (12) in third. There are also four (4) offerings that have both a Slot 1 and Socket 370 connector not included in those numbers. There is a tie for fourth place between Socket 423 (3), Socket 7 (3), Slot A and Slot 2 (3). Note that ASUS i850 board is not included here (nor are any of their other offerings).

Since the Socket 423 is so new, it is expected that the number would be relatively small, though it is a little surprising that no other manufacturers even have plans to build one for at least the next 3 months. However, it is very interesting that Socket A boards comprise 30% of the total. What is even more significant is that every manufacturer except AOpen, Gigabyte and MSI (who have not commented) has hinted or outright specified at some point during the past three months that their number one seller is a Socket A board.

Socket 423 Boards

There isn't currently much to say about this new platform, except that the offerings are very limited and manufacturers are not overly enthusiastic about the prospects for these boards. One manufacturer showing me their product at Comdex showed me their PIII DDR boards first, and then mentioned their i850 board almost as an afterthought. Upon presenting the board, he smiled and said "but you know, we don't expect it to be very popular" and promptly moved on to other products. Upon further questioning, this representative indicated that they believe the upcoming Brookdale chipset, and the VIA P4 chipset, would provide a much more compelling reason for users to switch, primarily because of the memory supported. The comment provided was "As you know, Rambus memory isn't very popular right now".

Socket 370 Boards

As shown in the stats above, Socket 370 boards still make up the largest percentage of offerings, however it is obvious that this is changing fairly rapidly. With the current 1GHz limitation for PIII processors, the enthusiasm seems to be waning a bit for both manufacturers and users in favor of the Socket A platform. Though the low-end market is supposed to be the fastest growing, the number of offerings that use the low-end Intel chipsets is somewhat small (24 are using i810 variations, while 38 are using i815 variations). Many manufacturers are adding such things as onboard RAID, Firewire and other features in an attempt to spur interest.

It seems, however, that the DDR capable Apollo Pro266 chipset should change this situation, as there were 18 models being shown using this chipset at Comdex (or in company catalogs). Most manufacturers indicated that they will not be shipping DDR boards based upon this chipset until January or Februrary.

Socket A Boards

Early this year, ASUS had predicted that by mid-year 50% of their motherboards shipped would be supporting the Athlon. I don't have any statistics about whether this actually has occurred, however consider the percentage of Socket A offerings overall (30%), and the fact that most manufacturers are claiming that their number one seller is a Socket A board. Given these facts it seems feasible that the number of Socket A boards shipped by 3rd party motherboard manufacturers will approach 50% by the end of this year.

Obviously, the most anticipated event is the official release of DDR capable motherboards using either the AMD or ALi chipsets. These should begin appearing in early December, though most manufacturers believe they may not make it before Christmas. The majority of these offerings will be using the AMD 760 chipset, however there are ALi chipset based boards from such prominent manufacturers as ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte.

Next: Processor Update

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