Taiwan-Based Motherboard Makers Prepare For Intel, AMD Push

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Motherboard manufacturers in Taiwan are preparing products in an effort to be ready when Intel and AMD release new processors and a number of vendors release new chip sets during the second half of the year.

Several manufacturers took advantage of the Computex 2002 exhibition, held here this week, to show off new motherboards, some of which are ready for production as new processors become available, and some of which are still pre-production samples.

Intel has been showing the vendors a processor road map calling for 2.88GHz Pentium 4 processors in the third quarter, and 3.08GHz by year-end, said Scott Thirlwell, marketing manager for the product marketing division of DFI.

This was confirmed by other motherboard vendors, mainly off-the-record, at the show. One said Intel will release a new chip set, code-named Springdale, with Rambus support in conjunction with the 3.08GHz processor.

Thirlwell said he expects AMD's K8 processor, code-named Clawhammer, to be available by the end of the year, despite AMD's assurances that it could be available earlier. "Everything depends on when the CPU proves stable," he said.

Meanwhile, VIA Technologies introduced its 1.0GHz C3 processor at Computex, said Paul Hsu, special assistant to the president at VIA. The processor, expected to be in production in August, fits the Socket 370 motherboards. Socket 370 allows motherboards to be built less expensively than the processors required for the latest Intel CPUs, Hsu said.

VIA also has several new chip sets coming to market, including the KT-400 which supports 400MHz DDR memory. However, many motherboard vendors are avoiding VIA because of patent disputes between the company and Intel.

Even more important in relation to VIA, said DFI's Thirlwell, is the question of "ownership." He said the vendors working with VIA do not publicly shout about the partnership because of the legal issues, so no one is taking responsibility for the marketing. Those issues are causing motherboard vendors to take their names off boxes supporting the VIA processors, confusing both consumers and integrators.

On the chip set side, several vendors are looking forward to Intel's launch in September of its 845GE chip set, which is that company's first ever to officially support DDR memory at 333MHz as well as integrated 4X AGP graphics. Intel is also expected to release the 845PE, a similar chip set but without the integrated graphic support, at about the same time as the 845GE.

Thirlwell said vendors such as DFI already support 333MHz DDR on their Intel motherboards via modifications to the motherboards' circuitry

Intel plans to follow the 845 series with a chip set, code-named Granite Bay, which is aimed at the workstation space and includes support for dual-DDR memory and integrated 8X AGO, Thirlwell said.

On the AMD side, Taiwan-based chip set vendor Sis will launch its 648 chip set which supports 400MHz DDR memory and integrated 8X AGP graphics, said Rockson Chiang, specialist in product planning at Giga-Byte Technology.

First International Computer (FIC) plans to ship a series of Pentium 4-based motherboards with on-board RAID capabilities, a company executive said. The RAID chip can connect to up to eight IDE hard drives, the executive said. FIC also has AMD K8-based motherboards ready to go when AMD releases the Clawhammer processor, he said.

Instead of on-board RAID, ASUSTek Computer will integrate a hard-drive controller on-board for use with serial ATA hard drives, a company executive said.

Iwill, one of the smaller vendors, plans to keep its emphasis on higher-end motherboard by focusing on dual-processor models.

Adam Chou, general manager of the company's U.S. office, said Iwill expects to release a new dual-processor motherboard based on AMD's K7 processor. The company also plans to offer dual-processor Intel-based motherboard with two 64-bit PCI slots in July.

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