Quo Vadis Intel? The Latest Roadmap

The Brookdale Chipset

Some of the more experienced readers will now say 'What is his problem? Doesn't he know that Intel will finally launch a Pentium 4 chipset with PC133 and DDR-SDRAM support? " Yes yes, I am actually aware of that. However, Intel is deliberately delaying this alternative platform until it has ensured that RDRAM will be the widely accepted memory type for the 'net-bursting' Pentium 4.

According to the latest roadmap Intel will release the code named 'Brookdale'-chipset in Q3/2001, but at this time it will only support the good old PC133 memory, which offers only a third of the memory bandwidth found in the current i850-chipset with its dual-RDRAM channel configuration. Hardly anyone with performance in mind will be interested in this PC133-Brookdale chipset by then. Finally Brookdale will actually get DDR-memory support, but not before the first quarter of 2002, which is more than one year after the release of the first DDR-memory supporting chipset for AMD's Athlon processor. It seems preposterous to think that Intel isn't able to finish the design of Brookdale a little bit earlier. Remember the more or less secret agreement between Rambus and Intel. In two following quarters Intel has to sell more RDRAM-chipsets than chipsets with support of alternative memory types and it gets Rambus shares worth hundreds of million dollars. Is there any easier way to achieve that than by delaying alternative platforms for Pentium 4? Intel does not necessarily offer what is best in terms of performance, it sells what is best for its business, even if it doesn't seem to make sense. Remember the, on the first look pointless, release of i820 and i840. We know now that Pentium III is simply unable to benefit from RDRAM. I can't imagine that Intel's engineers were unaware of this. Why would Intel release a chipset that hinders the performance of its processors?

'Brookdale's' preliminary specs:

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Intel 'Brookdale' Pentium 4 Chipset - The Pentium 4 Value Chipset
ProcessorPentium 4 'Northwood', Socket 478
FSB400 MHz (quad-pumped 100 MHz bus)
Memory Support3 DIMMs, PC133 SDRAM (Q3/01), DDR-SDRAM (Q1/02), up to 3 GB
AGP-SpecAGP4X 1.5 V
Integrated GraphicsMost likely
USB6 USB Ports, USB 2.0 Spec
NorthbridgeNo name, xxx mBGA
SouthbridgeICH3, 421 mBGA
ReleasePC133 September 2001, DDR Q1/2002


It is pretty well known to most of you, that the current Pentium 4 processor will soon be replaced by a more advanced version. You will also be aware of the fact that this new version won't be compatible with current Pentium 4 platforms, making current Pentium 4 systems anything but future proof.

The upcoming Pentium 4 is found in Intel's roadmaps under the code name 'Northwood' and is supposed to start replacing the 'old' Pentium 4 in Q3/2001. Besides other performance enhancements it will come with 512 kB second-level cache and therefore twice the L2-cache of today's Pentium 4. Northwood will be produced in 0.13 micron process and it will have a new package for a new socket called mPGA478, for it will have 478 pins, quite a few more than the 423 pins found in the Pentium 4 of today.

Please always keep 'Northwood' in mind when considering the purchase of a Pentium 4 system today. This system will be old news without an upgrade path once 'Northwood' starts replacing 'Willamette' in the second half of this year.

The Future Of Pentium III - Coppermine / Coppermine-T / Tualatin

Enough talk about Pentium 4! Pentium III is still found in the most systems out there and Intel sees Pentium III still as the 'volume leader' in 2001. Right now, Pentium III is suffering from two (partly only theoretical) problems. In terms of clock speed it can't reach AMD's Athlon, which will soon be available at 1333 MHz, and in terms of price it lags behind its competitors from AMD as well. Intel is planning to move the pricing of the currently known Pentium III models into the 'Mainstream 1' segment, which is one step above the 'value' segment. In other words, Pentium III will become less expensive and this seems like a wise decision, because it is hard to find a reason for the purchase of this processor right now.

The next-generation Pentium III goes by two different code names. The real new version of Pentium III is called 'Tualatin'. It will be produced in 0.13 micron process and reach clock speeds of 1.26 GHz and possibly beyond. 'Tualatin' will utilize lower voltages and be incompatible with current Pentium III platforms. Besides 'Tualatin' there is 'Coppermine-T'. This processor-model is still made in 0.18 micron process, but it is compatible with Tualatin. It doesn't seem clear if 'Coppermine-T' is simply a 'Coppermine' that can run at the new voltages of 'Tualatin' or if it will indeed be a new processor design.

As 'Coppermine-T' seems rather nebulous right now, I prefer to concentrate on Tualatin. The interesting thing with this new Pentium III core is the fact that it will exist in two versions, one with a 256 kB L2-cache and one with 512 kB L2-cache and thus twice the second level cache size of current Pentium III processors. In the current roadmap you can find Tualatin with 512 kB L2-cache only in two segments. The mobile Tualatin for notebooks will actually come with the larger second level cache and then there seems to be a desktop Tualatin for dual-processor systems that will also have the 512 kB L2-cache. All the normal desktop Tualatin Pentium III processors are supposed to only have the ususal 256 kB L2-cache.

There isn't much known about Tualatin's specs, besides the second level cache size, the lower voltage and the different manufacturing process, but rumor has it that Tualatin will actually use a faster front side bus, possibly the quad-pumped 100/400 MHz bus of Pentium 4, enabling it to benefit more from high bandwidth memory. This rumor seems rather sketchy however.

Almador Only For Notebooks?

Fact is that Tualatin will require a different chipset north bridge to accommodate the changed interface. The so called 'B-step'-version of i815 will be able to run with Tualatin and probably Coppermine-T. In previous roadmaps used to be also the 'Almador' chipset for Tualatin, but the latest roadmap doesn't list it in the desktopn section at all. It does turn up in the mobile roadmap however, as 'Almador-M' or 830M chipset. It seems as if Intel dropped the Almador chipset in its desktop plans.

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Intel 830 'Almador' Pentium III Chipset
ProcessorMobile Pentium III with 'Tualatin ' or 'Coppermine-T ' core
FSB133 MHz
Memory SupportPC133 SDRAM, possibly DDR-SDRAM ???, 3 DIMMs, up to 1.5 GB
AGP-SpecAGP4X 1.5 V
Integrated GraphicsYes
USB6 USB-Ports, USB 2.0 Spec
Northbridge82830, 625 mBGA
SouthbridgeICH3, 421 mBGA

It is not yet known if i830 will indeed support DDR-SDRAM, but it seems rather likely. Besides this feature and the new ICH3 south bridge there isn't much difference to the already known i815 chipset. Almador / i830 will also come with integrated 3D-decellerator.