Intel i820 Chipset Review


Since our last dealings with the 'Camino' or i820 chipset it is clear that Intel was able to clean up some of their performance. In all of our tests the i820 was able to keep pace with the i440BX based platform, sometimes even outperforming it. A lot of new features and increased bandwidth have been squeezed into this newer chipset. Unfortunately, most of today's software and hardware don't take advantage of it and I dare to ask for the benefit of RDRAM. I guess the answer will be the same marketing-hype we're used listening to for years: "You may not see any advantage yet, but future software will make a difference."

I wonder how long we'll have to wait for that, possibly longer than the short life span of Intel's CPUs and chipsets. So far I'm still waiting to see a decent amount of software that takes advantage of the oh-so-wonderful 'Streaming SIMD Extensions' or even MMX. It could be that as time passes, some of the increased bandwidth will start to show through in the new HUB architecture. As new USB devices become popular, such as USB networking, some of the bandwidth advantages will become apparent. It's about time that the PCI bus got relieved from the I/O-traffic between the chipset's north and south brigde. I also like AGP4x, which I consider the most if not the only meaningful advance of i820.

Camino or 'i820' will make its way, once the latest problems got resolved. It certainly isn't any great hardware the world has been waiting for. Intel tries to push us into a new direction called 'RDRAM' and the majority of the computer using sheep will obey, forcing the critical rest to follow. Do we need i820? Well, we need it just as urgently as SSE, breast implants and hair transplantations. As long as marketing wins over intelligence, people will follow Intel's lead, will pay a premium for a Pentium III 600 over a Pentium III 550 although it only offers an unnoticeable 3% performance gain and they'll pay lots of money for i820 and RDRAM. The show must go on, and the computer industry has gone Hollywood long ago.