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Intel says replacement for faulty chip ready soon

After recalling nearly 1 million computer motherboards because of a faulty component, the chipmaker is saying a revamped part should be ready next quarter.

Two weeks after recalling nearly 1 million computer motherboards because of a faulty component, Intel is telling computer makers that a revamped part should be ready next quarter.

Intel said May 10 that a glitch could cause crashes or data loss among computers that have a memory translation hub (MTH), a chip that allows Intel's 820 chipset to connect to standard memory.

"We're in the process of testing and validating a new version," Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said this week.

Once the new component is available, Intel plans to resume making the 820 again available for use with standard memory. The 820 chipset was designed for use with high-speed Rambus-based memory and has continued to ship in that configuration.

While a crush in demand for the 820 with standard memory is unlikely, getting a working MTH is important because Intel is counting on a similar hub for Timna, a new low-end processor set to debut later this year. Timna, a chip that integrates graphics and memory controller functions, was originally designed for Rambus-based memory.

By integrating the graphics functions and memory controller on the same piece of silicon as the processor, Intel can reduce the overall material cost for PC makers. Currently, these two functions are handled in the chipset.

But with the price of Rambus memory far too high for a low-cost PC, Intel decided to combine the chip with standard memory using an MTH.

Even with the added MTH component, Timna should be somewhat cheaper than a traditional low-end system using an Intel Celeron processor.

The 600-MHz Timna, for instance, is expected to cost $7 to $10 less than if PC makers use a 600-MHz Celeron with a chipset containing integrated graphics.

Such a discount could reduce the retail price of PCs by $30, noted one analyst.

Intel still does not have an estimate as to how much the MTH problem will cost, Francisco said. Last week, Intel reduced its first-quarter earnings by 1 cent per share to cover sales that were reversed and inventories of the defective product. A further charge for the cost of the replacement is expected.