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COMDEX/Fall '99 - Motherboard Manufacturers Report Part 2

Afterthoughts

There are a number of interesting motherboards coming soon to us, based on the various chipsets, and through my talks with the various companies; I have come to a few conclusions.

Although i820 based products are supposed to become the new mainstream motherboard, the main marketing push seemed to be behind the i810e based motherboards. No matter where I went, the i820 platforms seemed to be reluctantly talked about, while much of the attention went to the i810e boards or newer generation BX based platforms. It is almost as if motherboard manufacturers expect that the i820 platforms are going to fail, so they would rather show something that will sell enough to make them money. We also shouldn't forget that Intel expects the motherboard-makers to sell a lot of i810. It's an old story that Intel likes to sell their products 'bundled'. In 1998 motherboard-makers had a strong reason to sell i740-based graphics cards, because they wouldn't get chipsets unless they'd buy a nice amount of this rather uninteresting 3D-chip. It wouldn't be surprising if Intel sells i820 and particularly the still very successful BX-chipset only in 'bundles' with i810. Now the Taiwanese motherboard-makers would love the press to review their i810 and i810e-products, but who in the retail business really cares about these products? i810e is a 133 MHz-FSB chipset with PC100(!!!)-SDRAM support and integrated i752-'3D-deccelerator'. It runs Coppermine really well! So well that you wouldn't even notice that you've got a really expensive high-end CPU in your system, because the i810e-chipset makes sure that your system-performance stays mediocre. Poor motherboard-makers! After painful i820-delays, launch cancellation and design recalls, they must be ready to toss their arms up in the air in frustration having to sell slow-motion i810e-platforms or i820-products that just don't fit into the market right now.

Consumers are going to avoid the i820 boards like the plague. With Coppermine parts and RDRAM at their current pricing and availability, people will not be happy campers paying almost $2,000 just for a CPU, motherboard and memory, when they can get nearly the same thing from a new BX motherboard setup costing less than half that. Even going with an i820 and using PC100-SDRAM with the MCH will be avoided due to the horrible memory performance that it offers at the higher price tag.

Athlon support from the motherboard manufacturers is finally coming around and it should help relieve the need for motherboard support. I know many of you mail us asking what, when and where we will see things happen so I am telling you right now, companies are working on it. The thing to keep an eye out for will be the VIA KX133 based motherboards coming out next year with PC133 and AGP 4X support. With AMD working closely with VIA, things might just come together for Athlon owners.

Altogether we should see exciting issues unfold next year with various chipsets fighting for mainstream and AMD trying to capitalize on what I feel are big mistakes made by Intel. I am extremely interested in seeing how Intel will redeem itself at this point. They know what is wrong and competition is not going to sit around and wait for them any longer.