Choices in the marketplace (part 2)
In our VIA P4X266 preview, we discussed how the lack of platforms on the Pentium 4 prevented the processor from gaining widespread acceptance. Initially, only a handful of motherboards were available for the processor and the price of these products (along with the RDRAM memory required to run alongside the processor and motherboard) was relatively expensive in comparison to component prices for Pentium III and Athlon processors.
Since its launch, Intel and its partners have taken steps to reduce the cost of ownership for Pentium 4: motherboard prices have fallen dramatically over the course of this year, as has the price of Pentium 4 processors and RDRAM. This has resulted in increased demand for Pentium 4 products, but alternative platforms from companies such as VIA, SiS, ALi, and eventually ATI could be the catalyst that swings the Pentium 4 past its predecessor.
These new platforms bring with them a variety of unique features, resulting in increased choices for consumers and ultimately increased competition. Just what is the net benefit to you, the consumer? For one thing, products will be loaded with more features and configurations than ever before; and at price points that range from top to bottom. Hang on to your wallets folks, because the Pentium 4 is about to become more tempting to your pocketbook than ever before.
Enter the SiS DDR chipset for P4
One such product that we feel looks very compelling is the SiS 645 DDR chipset. Like the VIA P4X266 chipset we discussed in August, the SiS 645 brings support of both SDR SDRAM and DDR SDRAM to the Pentium 4 platform. Intel's own 845 chipset also supports conventional SDR SDRAM, but DDR memory support isn't expected to be added until the beginning of 2002. In terms of features one aspect that the SiS chipset offers that isn't matched in P4X266 or 845 however is support for the upcoming DDR333 memory type. With modules slated to hit retail shelves at the end of this year, this gives the SiS 645 chipset a unique edge on its competitors.
Another important distinction SiS owns over VIA is its license to produce Pentium 4 chipsets. Intel and VIA are currently engaged in a legal war that neither company plans to lose. As a result, motherboards utilizing VIA's P4X266 Pentium 4 chipset are few in number and will possibly have a difficult time in retail channels. You see, not only is Intel suing VIA, but it's also suing those who manufacture motherboards based on its chipsets. Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer ECS is so far the sole example.
So with Intel's blessing and DDR memory support, the SiS 645 appears to be a solid alternative to Intel's offerings. But what other features does it support? Read on to find out!