In what may prove to be an industry landmark, all the systems in the three PC Advisor desktop PC charts feature processors from just one manufacturer for the first time.

When the February issue of the magazine hits retailers' shelves this time next week (20 December) all 30 PCs from our Power, Budget and Superbudget categories, will show off an AMD processor.

Even a year ago it would have been unthinkable to see an Intel-less desktop PC chart.

Intel, however, is planning to hit back next month when it unleashes the first chipset for its Pentium 4 processor capable of supporting DDR (double data rate) RAM.

The processor giant is hoping to hit AMD where it really hurts.

The pairing of AMD's Athlon range with the fast but cheap DDR RAM has enabled PC manufacturers to churn out systems that perform consistently well in PC Advisor lab tests.

With the arrival of the 845-DDR chipset for the P4, Intel will be hoping to muscle-in on the market for sub-£800 PCs.

DDR RAM runs faster than standard SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), but costs only a fraction more.

It is also considerably cheaper than Rambus-based memory, which Intel has traditionally advocated as the best partner for P4 processors.

The 845-DDR chipset represents the second departure from Rambus-based memory for the Pentium 4 chip.

Last September Intel released an 845-SDRAM chipset for the Pentium 4, enabling PC makers to use inexpensive, standard SDRAM in Pentium 4 computers.

So far, however, the pairing of P4 and SDRAM has made little headway.

January will also see the arrival of Intel's Northwood processor — the first Pentium 4 engineered to 0.13 micron relay architecture.

Translated into English, this means faster internal clock speeds, lower power consumption, and cooler operating temperatures.

Northwood is expected to debut at speeds of around 2GHz, accelerating to 3GHz by the end of 2002.

PC Advisor readers get on their soap box:

Adam Cherry Thu, 13.12.01 12:25 GMT

In order:

Intel’s chances?... none.
Intel’s fightback?... will only work if they reduce prices.
Good for consumers?... yes, if it makes Intel drop its prices.

Peter Wilkinson
Thu, 13.12.01 13:39 GMT

Intel’s chances? Pretty good — its current i845 chipset is rock-solid so if they build on that it shouldn't have the bugs that the VIA KT266/a chips have had.

Intel has realised that RDRAM was a mistake — hence it’s gone DDR RAM, which is almost as fast at a fraction of the price.

This will be good for consumers as it will mean price drops - as no need fo RDRAM — but there could be confusion over the advantages/disadvantages of either system.

The end of Rambus? Definitely — and PC133 is nowhere near as fast as DDR RAM, which runs at 266MHz unclocked — and RDRAM runs at 400MHz — quad pumped.

More bandwidth equals faster speeds, but way too expensive — DDR RAM prices are only about £5 more than PC133 at the moment anyway for the same size module.

Roger Preisner
Thu, 13.12.01 14:10 GMT

Intel’s bowing to the inevitable.

I do not think there is any other choice if the Pentium is to survive. A huge investment in DDR RAM has been made by the major memory chip manufacturers, and it is competitively priced.

The world economy is slowing down, which makes marketing computers much more difficult.

Private consumers and businesses are spending less. I also consider it likely that standard computer memory requirements may quadruple within the next three years. I do not see how Rambus can compete with DDR RAM under these circumstances. It is just too expensive.

Matthew Ogborne
Thu, 13.12.01 15:47

Intel has the 'name', but AMD has the power performance.

Any battle between companies, especially AMD and Intel, is bound to be good for all of us.

What do you think? Will Intel hit back next year? Could this be the end of the line for Rambus?