Intel offers glimpse at new chips

The chipsets will be used in stylish "lifestyle PCs" and in entertainment PCs.

John G. Spooner
John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
3 min read
Intel on Thursday offered an early look at its latest processors and chipsets at a pair of events in New York and San Francisco. The chipmaker's preview of its Intel 915 Express and Intel 925 Express chipsets, along with a bevy of new Pentium 4 processors, comes just ahead of their official debut in desktop PCs on Monday.

As reported earlier, the processors and the chipsets mark an integral rewiring of the innards of PCs because they incorporate a variety of technological enhancements, such as improved video capability. Not only will the new features add performance, but their use will allow PCs to come in smaller sizes.

"This is the most significant platform in 12 years," said Bill Siu, general manager of the Intel Desktop Platforms group.

Among brand-name PC makers, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are likely to be first out of the gate with machines using the chipset. While consumer-oriented systems are likely to arrive first, many business desktops using the Intel Express 915 will also be introduced. Some of the manufacturers may begin advertising their new desktop models this weekend.

Most of the PCs will take traditional forms, such as towers, and will be designed for general-purpose computing or gaming.

But Intel has also been working to help create new kinds of desktops, including so-called entertainment PCs for distributing video and pictures, and more stylish desktops for traditional computing tasks that the company calls "lifestyle PCs." At least a few of these PCs will come out based on the new chipsets. Smaller desktops for businesses will emerge as well.

Desktops based on the 900-family chipsets are expected to start at the top end of the market, meaning that their prices will begin at about $1,200.

The 900 series chipsets will include new features designed to increase desktops' performance. Those features include:

• DDR2 memory, a speedier yet less power-hungry successor to today's standard DDR SDRAM (double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM).

• PCI Express, a higher-bandwidth interface for add-in cards, which will initially serve to replace the graphics card port.

• Higher-performing graphics. Another version of the 915 Express, the 915G, will come with the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900, an improved graphics engine Intel says can handle video games.

Later, these PCs will also serve as wireless access points, eliminating the need for a wireless router. The optional feature will start to appear in PCs later this year and in greater volume in 2005.

The release of the 900-family of chipsets will also coincide with the launch of a new 775-pin socket for attaching Intel's processors to the motherboard, or main circuit board of a PCs. Five new 775-pin Pentium 4 chips will be identified by numbers assigned under Intel's number-based naming system.

They will include a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 520, 3GHz Pentium 4 530, 3.2GHz Pentium 4 540, 3.4GHz Pentium 4 550 and 3.6GHz Pentium 4 560. Intel is also expected to add a 775-pin, 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor for gaming systems and several new Celeron chips.