Intel: Rambus memory will debut November 15

The giant confirms it the release date of its 820 chipset, a debut that will permit computer makers to finally come out with PCs that take advantage of speedier memory.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
Intel confirmed it will release a much-awaited chipset on November 15, clearing the way for computer makers to debut PCs that take advantage of a speedier memory technology.

The chipmaking giant has finished testing its 820 chipset, code-named Camino, and will unveil the delayed product on the first day of Comdex, the weeklong computer extravaganza in Las Vegas, according to Intel spokesman Dan Francisco.

The 820 will come with a 133-MHz system bus, faster than most Intel chipsets and able for the first time to let processors "speak" to Rambus-style memory chips. Chipsets serve as a communications conduit for the PC.

As reported last week, several major PC makers, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Micron, and Dell Computer are expected to release business and/or consumer desktops containing high-speed memory chips based on a speedy Rambus design.

Rambus has been one of Silicon Valley's most talked-about companies, thanks in part to Intel's endorsement. Rambus memory promises to be faster than the current standard, called SDRAM, but costs more and has been bogged down by delays, glitches, and marketing snafus.

A recent surprise delay in the release of the 820 chipset, for instance, resulted in destroyed motherboards and embarrassment for companies like HP and Dell, which were already touting Rambus systems. Motherboard is an industry term for a computer's main circuit board.

Accordingly, many companies taking a cautious approach. Some manufacturers will release new Pentium IIIs containing the 820 chipset but will fill the systems up with standard SDRAM. Performance is not as good with this solution, Intel executives and others have said.

Rambus computers will contain a motherboard with only two memory slots, with a maximum memory capacity of 512MB. Earlier, Rambus/820 motherboards contained three memory slots, which caused technical problems.

The lack of a third memory slot will dent some of the capabilities of these machines, according to Shawn Willett, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group. With a third slot, system designers or IT managers can tweak memory configurations to optimize specific types of performance.

IBM is expected to release a Rambus-based PC for around $1,300 and a workstation with Rambus memory and the 820 chipset for close to $2,000, according to sources close to the company.