In this third part about Intel's indispensable future products you'll find information about the future desktop chipsets as well as about the pretty impressive stuff that's going to happen in the notebook arena.
We are running our high performance systems on BX-platforms for about a year now and it will still take a few months until there is going to be a change. In the low cost sector there has recently been the launch of the i810-chipset, but nobody in the business seems too amazed about it, as I could find out when I spoke to motherboard manufacturers at Computex. The future doesn't look too 'intoxicating' as well really.
I820 Alias Camino
Haven't we heard really tons about 'Camino' already? The intoxicating miracle chipset, the first to support RDRAM or 'direct Rambus RAM', the first to support the great AGP4x, and almost the first to support 133 MHz front side bus!! Well, we've also heard about the downsides, particularly about the missing PC133 SDRAM support. At first there was no sensible SDRAM support altogether and then there were problems with the RDRAM at higher Rambus speeds. It seems a matter of fact that hardly any Intel chipset produced as much press as i820 ever before. Now what's the real deal?
Camino And RDRAM
Well, Camino will use RDRAM RIMMs in the first place. This memory type has got a very highly clocked serial interface, that can only transfer 16 bit of data at once, but it does that at 300 to 400 MHz with transfers at the rising as well as the falling edge of the clock. The high frequency of the Rambus interface enables very fast burst-accesses, but the serialization of the commands increases latency. This has the following effect. Software that needs to read large amounts of continuos data out of memory will benefit from Rambus, applications that only require small portions from different areas won't benefit from Rambus, the L2-cache might actually cover the fact that the (memory) performance of those applications will even decrease slightly. Unfortunately there's only a minority of applications that do indeed benefit from fast burst-accesses, the majority (3D games, business apps) won't. If you remember my Computex-article , you'll also remember what I was told by the few motherboard makers who had their Camino-platforms up and running at 400 MHz RDRAM-interface speed. "It's running fine, but the performance is identical to BX" was what I heard from everybody that I asked.