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Intel's Broadwater chipset eases capacity crunch

Intel's new chipset for its upcoming Conroe processor will deliver support for faster memory and better video, but it has also brought some much-needed relief to Intel's factories.

The P965 chipset, code-named Broadwater, will connect the chip maker's upcoming Conroe processor to the rest of a PC's motherboard. Intel's chief salesman, Anand Chandrasekher, will announce Tuesday at Computex in Taipei that the P965 is shipping to Intel's partners about a month before Conroe is expected to launch.

The P965 has helped ease a painful capacity crunch for Intel's older factories that had an impact on its earnings late last year and early this year. All of Intel's older chipsets were built for 130-nanometer manufacturing technology, which is two generations behind the 65-nanometer technology used to build new chips like the Core Duo. But the only fabs left in Intel's arsenal that use 130-nanometer equipment also use 200-millimeter wafers. Its newer factories use 300mm wafers, which allow the company to cut more chips from each wafer and get more working products from the same production line. Intel was stuck building all its chipsets on 200mm wafers, leading to the capacity constraints in the second half of 2005 and early this year, said Steve Smith, vice president and director of Intel's desktop platform operations.

The P965 is Intel's first chipset designed specifically to work in the 90-nanometer factories, which means Intel can take advantage of the larger wafers to build the new chipsets. At the same time, as it builds more and more Conroe and Merom chips on 65-nanometer technology, it frees up space for chipsets on the larger wafers.

The P965 can designed for PCs that will use a separate graphics chip. It can support DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory running at 800MHz, and it comes with a new technology called Intel Clear Video Technology that is supposed to improve the clarity of videos downloaded to the PC. A version with integrated graphics will follow before the expected July launch of Conroe, Smith said.