Pentium III could clash with new chip set

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www.computerworld.com –

PC makers who try to combine Intel Corp.'s high-end Pentium III processor with an upcoming chip set designed for low-cost PCs could run into problems, an Intel official acknowledged today.

The chip maker played down the significance of the issue, and one analyst agreed that it shouldn't be a big deal.

The trouble stems from a glitch in the Pentium III processor, which Intel disclosed earlier this year. The glitch -- or "erratum" as Intel prefers to call it -- has been called MaskMovQ, and relates to one of the processor's multimedia instructions, Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said.

Intel has developed a workaround for the glitch, but the fix wasn't tested to work with Intel's new 810 chip set, which is due out this month.

"When the Intel 810 is used with the Pentium III processor you could run into unpredictable system behavior, such as a system hang," Francisco said.

Intel noted that the 810 chip set was designed for use in low-cost PCs running Intel's Celeron processor and isn't intended for use with the Pentium III, used in more costly, high-performance desktops. Among other things, the 810 includes an integrated graphics controller to help reduce system cost.

One analyst understood why Intel didn't bother to validate the Pentium III fix for use with the 810 chip set. Few users or PC makers would try and pair the two together, said Nathan Brookwood, a principal at the consultancy firm Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif.

"There are going to be instances of people who try to do this, but they'll be people off the beaten path," Brookwood said. "It wouldn't make sense to go and spend all that money on a Pentium III ... and then try to nickel-and-dime yourself with the graphics capabilities in the 810.

"You're unlikely to see a mainstream PC maker do it," he added.

Still, Intel acknowledged that a PC maker trying to build a rock-bottom-priced Pentium III system could try to pair its top-of-the-line desktop processor with the value-segment Intel 810 chip set.

"People sometimes don't follow our advice," Francisco said.

Intel said future versions of its 800 series chip sets will work with the Pentium III.

In the third quarter, the company is expected to release the Intel 820, code-named Camino, designed for use with the Pentium III, according to sources. The chip set will support a high-speed memory interface from Rambus Inc. that operates at up to 1.6G byte/sec. The Intel 820 is also expected to support a faster, 133-MHz system bus, up from 100 MHz today.

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