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Graphics chipsets now a trend

Taipei-based Silicon Integrated Systems introduced a Pentium chipset that integrates 3D graphics chips, a precursor to more such products.

Taipei, Taiwan-based Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) introduced a Pentium chipset that integrates 3D graphics chips, a precursor to more such products from Intel and others.

The move demonstrates manufacturers' response to PC vendors trying to wring cost from system components, in order to meet demand for low-cost PCs while making money on these systems.

SiS is offering built-in 3D graphics acceleration for "Socket 7" (Pentium-class) processors such as the Pentium MMX and Advanced Micro Devices' K6. Besides graphics capabilities, the chipset will enable system bus speeds of 100 MHz, better than older designs with a 66-MHz bus.

Socket 7 refers to the design of the receptacle that a processor plugs into. Pentium II processors can't be used in these older-style sockets, somewhat limiting the market for the chipsets, but the new product signals the start of an industrywide trend toward integrating more functions onto the PC's main circuit board.

"It's fairly clear that at least low end of the market, this is the direction people are headed," said Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research. "New ways of doing things have to be used to let vendors make a profit--that's what integrated chipsets are all about," he added.

Intel, for example, will release a new chipset, code-named Whitney, that integrates the graphics accelerator chips for use in Celeron-based low-cost PCs in the first half of 1999, McCarron said. Intel is the dominant supplier of motherboards to PC makers, in addition to supplying them with the PCs main processor.