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Intel Officially Releases i845 Chipset

As expected, Intel Corp. has unveiled its Intel 845 chipset for Pentium 4-based desktop PCs using PC133 SDRAM memory technology. PC vendors are rushing to offer systems using the new chipset, betting that a lower purchase price will more than offset the performance hit caused by pairing the Pentium 4 with SDRAM instead of its formerly only option, RDRAM.

Intel vice president and desktop products group general manager Louis Burns states that the company's i850/RDRAM platform "continues to provide the maximum Pentium 4 processor performance," but that the i845 "broadens the Pentium 4 processor family by delivering support throughout the mainstream market segment," adding that Intel expects it "to become the next high-volume mainstream platform for IT departments" worldwide.

Priced at $42 in 1,000-unit quantities, the 845 chipset combines an Intel 82845 memory controller hub -- which supports a 400MHz system bus giving three times the bandwidth of Pentium III platforms, as well as wider data paths, a write cache, flexible memory refresh technology, and a 1GB/sec AGP 4X graphics interface -- with an Intel 82801BA input/output controller hub, including two USB and dual Ultra ATA/100 controllers.

Looking to the fast-bootup features of Microsoft Windows XP, Intel has also announced an application accelerator software package designed to deliver faster operating system load times and hard disk data transfer rates, while supporting hard disks larger than 137GB. The company will also offer the i845 in two complete desktop motherboards, the ATX form factor D845WN and micro-ATX form factor D845HV.

Virtually every current Pentium 4 PC vendor is expected to offer systems based on the new chipset. Dell Computer Corp. jumped the gun by announcing its i845-based Dimension 4300 desktop, available with 1.5GHz, 1.6GHz, or 1.7GHz Pentium 4 power, late last week; a Dimension 4300 with a Pentium 4/1.5 processor, 128MB of SDRAM, 20GB hard disk, and 17-inch monitor costs $979, while one with a 1.7GHz CPU, 40GB hard disk, 32MB Nvidia GeForce2 MX graphics card, and 17-inch monitor is $1,419.

MicronPC is using the i845 in its new ClientPro CR desktop for managed network environments; a 1.5GHz system with 17-inch monitor and 20GB hard disk starts at $999.

Similarly, Gateway's new E-3600, starting at $1,199, combines 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz Pentium 4s with network manageability and security features. The Gateway Performance 1500CS, a consumer desktop with 20GB hard disk and 17-inch monitor, starts at $999.

Eric Grevstad is managing editor of sister site, HardwareCentral.