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New Intel chipsets pump up PCs

The processor giant updates its chipsets with support for faster memory and other features. The move promises better performance for a wide range of desktop PCs.

Intel updated its chipsets on Monday, a move that promises better performance for a wide range of desktop PCs.

The company said that the chipsets will add support for faster memory, while one chipset in particular is expected to improve graphics performance. The changes also make it possible for PCs to be built with the upcoming 3GHz Pentium 4 with hyperthreading, a technology that is said to boost performance by about 25 percent.

While a processor can be seen as the brain of a PC, a chipset is its nervous and circulatory system, managing data that flows between the processor, memory and other system components.

Intel's new 845PE chipset lets PCs use faster 333MHz Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM). The chipset is an update of Intel's current 845E chipset, introduced last May.

The chipset will be used in so-called mainstream desktops that use Pentium 4 processors and graphics boards from companies like ATI Technologies or Nvidia. PCs using the new chipset are likely to sell in configurations priced in the $1,200 to $1,500 range.

Dell Computer will use the 845PE in its new Dimension 4550 desktop that includes a 2GHz Pentium 4 chip and sells at $869. Buyers will also be able to upgrade the machine with 2.4GHz, 2.66GHz and 2.8GHz Pentium 4 chips.

Improvements to Intel's 850 chipset will help to boost the performance of top-of-the-line Pentium 4-based PCs. The 850 can only work with memory based on designs from Rambus (RDRAM). While it's not as popular as DDR SDRAM, Rambus memory can offer better performance, analysts have said. The new version of the 850, the 850E, can be paired with 1066MHz Rambus DRAM, otherwise known as PC1066. Earlier versions only worked with slower versions of RDRAM.

Dell will use the 850E in an update to its Dimension 8200 PC. It will include a 2.66GHz Pentium 4 and PC1066 memory for a starting price of $1,379. A 2.8GHz Pentium 4 and eventually a 3.06GHz chip, when it ships, will be available as options, the company said.

Computer makers will likely pair both the 845E and 850E with the 3GHz Pentium 4.

Intel's new 845GE, which replaces its 845G, will add DDR SDRAM and faster graphics capabilities for use in less expensive PCs. The chipset incorporates its own graphics processor, in this case a faster 266MHz version of Intel's Extreme Graphics engine, letting manufacturers cut costs by eliminating a graphics board.

The 845GE is likely to be the most popular of the new chipsets, because it can be used in a wide range of desktops, from a $399 Celeron PC to a fairly expensive Pentium 4 PC. Many business PCs use these chipsets.

A new 845GV will replace Intel's current 845GL chipset. The 845GV cannot be hooked up with DDR SDRAM and is geared for the lowest price computers.