It's time for a new Slot1-platform. Intel's BX-chipset is out for about a year now, and whilst nobody is really complaining about its performance, the technology has to step ahead to create new business in the chipset and motherboard area. At the beginning of 1999 we still expected `Camino', Intel's upcoming 820-chipset, to be released by June of this year, but due to the exorbitant price of the memory type that's needed by Camino, Intel delayed the launch to the end of September. Camino will provide a new CPU `front side bus'-clock of 133 MHz and it will use the new and proprietary RDRAM or `direct Rambus RAM'. RDRAM is using a completely different memory interface than EDO or SDRAM and it's supposed to offer a memory bandwidth of up to 1.6 GB/s. It has to be plugged into the new `RIMM'-sockets and due to the fact that it's no open technology, every memory manufacturer has to pay license fees to Rambus for each sold RDRAM RIMM. Unfortunately RDRAM is currently several times as expensive as SDRAM and it is rather questionable if it will offer us a substantial performance gain. However, since Camino will also bring us AGP4x, offering an AGP-peak-bandwidth of about 1 GB/s, more memory bandwidth is needed to feed AGP 4x properly. The current peak-bandwidth of PC100 SDRAM is just about 800 MB/s, which is even less than the AGP 4x-bandwidth, so that AGP 4x wouldn't make much sense running on a platform based on the current memory technology. Still it's questionable if it will indeed take RDRAM to satisfy the requirements of new software and future AGP 4x hard and software. Camino is also supposed to support SDRAM, but it will take a special converter riser-card to translate the serial Rambus memory interface into the parallel SDRAM memory interface, let alone the latency issues it would cause. All in all, Camino doesn't look too promising right now, since it will increase system costs one way or another, if it should be a very high price for RDRAM or a still respectable price for a riser card that will only bring you very moderate performance.
Preview of VIA's upcoming Apollo Pro+ 133 Chipset
By Thomas Pabst