Intel's portable Timna to debut at 700MHz, (Part I)

Intel's upcoming chip for cheap PCs and portables will offer improvements for low-cost PC makers -- and possibly consumers

Intel's first Timna chip for mobile computers will be a 700MHz version released towards the end of the first half of next year, sources said. The news suggests that Intel's delayed plans for delivering Timna to reduce the cost of low-end PCs are back on track.

Timna, the first integrated Celeron chip, combines several features on a single chip including a processor core, graphics engine and memory controller. The aim is to help computer makers by removing costs from the manufacturing bill of goods for low-end PCs. Savings could also be passed on to consumers.

PC makers are getting little if any money from their low-cost PC lines. "There are cheap PCs out there ... and right now nobody is making any money on them, or if they are, the margins are pretty thin," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research Systems.

Timna will debut in desktop PCs in the first quarter of 2001, according to sources. The 700MHz mobile version of the chip will roll out in the second quarter of 2001, sources said.

However, it is possible the chip will be more quickly adopted in mobile applications than on the desktop side at first because of several of its characteristics.

Timna includes on the same chip a processor core, a graphics processing engine and the Intel I/O Controller Hub 2 (ICH2). The overall package, consisting of four chips, will be somewhat smaller than a stand-alone or discrete Celeron chip with Intel's 810 chip set. Timna will be about 10 to 15 percent smaller, and will also consume less power. Timna will use 15.2 watts, sources said, compared with the 19.8 watts consumed by the Celeron/810 combination.

Smaller size and lower power consumption make for a more desirable notebook PC.

A Timna "kit" will include the combined CPU, graphics and memory controller, and it will cost more than a discrete Celeron chip. However, analysts estimated that the total bill of goods for a PC using Timna would be about $30 (£20) less than a PC using a discrete Celeron chip and 810 chip set.

Many manufacturers will pocket the cost savings, while others would be able to pass along the savings to buyers. However, the reduction in the price to consumers would be well below $100.

"A quarter is a big deal in this market. For a system that's selling for $600, $30 is a lot of money," McCarron said. "It could result in some savings (passed along to customers)."

Low-cost desktop PCs start at about $600 range. However, it is unlikely, that PC makers will reduce prices much further.

Assuming the chip is free from further delay, Timna chip will debut for desktop PCs as previously planned at 600MHz and 667MHz. It will quickly catch up to the discrete Celeron chips, meaning it will ship at 700MHz, 733MHz and 766MHz speeds, before it catches up with Celeron later in 2001, sources said.

Timna's expected 2000 debut was delayed following Intel's 820 chip set Memory Translator Hub problems, which lead to an expensive recall of motherboards based on the 820.

This was because Timna was designed to work with Rambus's Rambus direct RAM (RDRAM) technology. It was designed with a memory controller for RDRAM. However, due to RDRAM's much higher cost and lower availability, when compared with synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM), Intel prepared to ship Timna with the Memory Translator Hub.

Intel said at that time Timna would ship in the first half of 2001 with a redesigned version of the Memory Translator Hub. Intel has now re-named the Memory Translator Hub the Memory Protocol Translator, and will use it to allow Timna to work with 100MHz SDRAM memory.

The Memory Protocol Translator and a firmware hub, which stores a PC's BIOS software, complete the Timna kit, making it necessary to use four chips in a PC. A discrete Celeron and 810 chip set would also use four chips.

Take me to Part II

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