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Acer eyes Rambus chipset market

Asking mobo makers how it can beat Intel's 850

Acer Labs has formed an R&D team to produce Rambus-based chipsets and has already begun consulting mobo makers about what they would like to see in the company's RDRAM products.

So claim sources cited by DigiTimes. Acer Labs is one of the few companies to have a licence from Rambus to develop RDRAM-based chipsets.

Does the world need another Rambus chipset though? Certainly Intel's Pentium 4 price cuts have led to an increase in demand for Rambus-based motherboards, but since that market is well catered for by Intel's 850 chipset, and with SDR and DDR SDRAM chipsets coming for the P4, demand for RDRAM chipsets seems unlikely to grow significantly.

Until the P4 price cuts started to bite, Taiwan's mobo makers were putting the development RDRAM-based boards on hold, to focus on P4/PC-133 boards based on Intel's 845 chipset (aka Brookdale).

So will anyone actually want an Acer Labs RDRAM chipset? Presumably that's the first question the R&D team will try and answer. So too will how it can differentiate its product from Intel's chipset.

A low-end chipset seems unlikely. DigiTimes notes that Taiwanese mobo makers don't expect RDRAM prices to get anywhere near those of PC-133 SDRAM before Q3 2002, at which point there will still be a 15 per cent difference between them. By then, Intel will have not only shipped the DDR version of the 845 but may also have launched Tulloch, the follow-up to the 850.

Tulloch is expected to require far less complex (four layers as opposed to six) mobos that the 850, which will certainly win it strong support among motherboard makers. Tulloch is said to contain a single RDRAM channel, compared to the 850's two. Again, that suggests a focus on getting the price down and pushing RDRAM down into the mainstream. That said, we've also heard it too will provide a dual-channel memory bus (for 1066MHz RDRAM), so the jury's clearly still out on this one. ®

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