Unlike the AMD Athlon processor, the Intel Pentium 4 has received a considerably colder reception. This was mainly due to the fact that one could obtain an AMD Athlon Thunderbird processor that was faster, yet much cheaper than the Pentium 4. Intel have worked to rectify this problem by continually reducing the Pentium 4's price. However, Intel's biggest hurdle was their use of RAMBUS. Intel's current flagship Pentium 4 chipset, the i850 requires the use of RAMBUS memory modules. These cost almost double the price of an equivalent DDR module and triple the price of a similar PC-133 module. It is because of this that many consumers have not been able to purchase a Pentium 4 based system and have opted to go with an AMD based system or a lower range Intel alternative (e.g. Pentium !!! or Celeron).
VIA, a large Taiwan based chipset manufacturer realized this and set out to produce a DDR chipset for the Pentium 4. They called this chipset the P4X266. Just as the P4X266 chipset was released, Intel filed a law suit against VIA, claiming that they did not have a license to produce a chipset for the Pentium 4. However, VIA purchased S3 and in theory acquired an Intel Pentium 4 license that S3 previously signed with Intel. This was to form the basis of VIA's counter argument. In order to not sour relations with Intel, many of the larger motherboard manufacturers (e.g. Asus, Abit, etc) have opted not to produce motherboards based on the P4X266 chipset until Intel give them the green light. This left a huge chance for the smaller motherboard manufacturers to gain a small market share by releasing P4X266 chipset based motherboards as there was no competition from the larger manufacturers. At the time of writing this review, three motherboard manufacturers have produced P4X266 based motherboards that are for the consumer market. These are ACorp, Azza and Shuttle.
Some people believe that Intel should not have filed a law suit against VIA because the P4X266 chipset would largely increase Pentium 4 processor sales. Intel was actually quite logical in doing this because they have a DDR Pentium 4 chipset of their own being released in the first quarter of 2002, called the i845-D. If Intel manages to eliminate the P4X266 they will have a monopoly over Pentium 4/DDR sales.
Recently, Intel have taken a step in the right direction by releasing their i845 chipset that combines the Pentium 4 with the rather slow, yet cheaper SDRAM. This solution was found to be quite inadequate because SDRAM does not offer enough bandwidth to make the Pentium 4 excel. Read on as we determine if RDRAM's huge amount of bandwidth is necessary or if the cheaper DDR alternative is more than adequate.
* Table taken from the VIA website.
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