Intel delays launch of 820 chip set again

The indefinite postponement could cause some PC makers to reschedule their own product plans.

Intel for the second time has delayed the introduction of its 820 chip set. The company had scheduled to launch the chip set Monday, but has now delayed it indefinitely. The 820 chip set is significant because it will replace the 440BX chip set used with Pentium II and Pentium III processors.

Intel says the 820 will eliminate or reduce many PC system performance bottlenecks, such as memory performance and graphics performance, and increase overall system performance. It will also offer "headroom" for transitions to new operating systems, such as Windows 2000, and newer applications.

In tests of the chip set, Intel experienced memory errors when specific configurations of the chip set were run under heavy strain. Intel decided to delay the introduction while it works to identify the causes of the errors, sources said.

PC makers were informed of the delay Thursday night. They say, however, that Intel did not specifically state the reason for the pull back.

Compaq, for example, had planned to announce support for the chip set Monday and introduce systems with it in October. "All that's up in the air now," a spokesman for the company said. "If Intel delays, we have to delay... and it's not just us. It's everybody who was going to have the chip set in their machines," he said.

A Dell spokesman said that the PC maker will not ship 820 chip set-based PCs in the near future, "because we don't believe that the technology is to production level."

Intel would not comment on the situation. However, an 820 chip set briefing tentatively scheduled for today with ZDNN has been cancelled.

Intel, sources said, will go ahead with its plans to introduce its Intel 810E chip set and 533MHz and 600MHz Pentium III chips that support a 133MHz bus.

The 820 chip set had been slated for a June introduction, but was pushed back due to problems getting the Rambus Direct RAM memory technology into volume production. Rambus, which is new memory technology that offers much higher data bandwidth than the synchronous dynamic RAM being used in today's PCs, is a controversial technology. Many analysts and PC makers say, however, that the technology lacks bang for the buck at this point.

It appears, sources said, that the latest delay is for a similar reason.

The 820 will step up performance by adding a 133MHz bus, 4X AGP along with support for Rambus Direct RAM and the ATA66 disk drive interface. The 440BX supports a 100MHz system bus, 100MHz synchronous dynamic RAM and 2X accelerated graphics port (AGP). AGP can help speed up performance by allowing a PC's graphics system to tap into its main memory.

ATA66 is a newer disk drive interface that will transfer up to 66MB of data per second. It's twice as fast as the ATA33 standard used with 440BX.

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