Rambus, the memory standard Intel has tried so hard to force into first place past existing memory technology, took a blow yesterday when Intel announced it will ship a chipset for Pentium 4 PCs that will take current memory chips.

Intel yesterday met the demands of system manufacturers and unveiled a new chipset, the 845, that will allow the P4 processor to be used with DDR-DRAM (double data rate dynamic random access memory) and SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) chips rather than more expensive Rambus DRAM chips.

The chip maker introduced the new 845 chipset at its showcase at the Computex Taipei 2001 trade show in Taiwan. Until now Intel, as a staunch supporter of Rambus' proprietary memory interface, has only offered its 850 chipset for use with the Pentium 4.

The chipset doesn't allow PC makers to use cheaper SDRAM or DDR-DRAM memory chips and has caused controversy in the PC industry because of the higher price of chips based on the Rambus technology.

In addition to the likely lower prices of machines based on the new chipset thanks to the cheaper memory they will use, systems may also be physically more compact. The 845 features a smaller 'thermal', the casing around the CPU (central processing unit) that holds the heatsink. The smaller casing should make for smaller PCs.

Also in Taipei, Intel demonstrated working prototypes of small consumer PCs based on the P4, including two that feature the upcoming 2GHz P4 processor. The 2GHz chip is set to ship in mid-August, according to David Wang, an Intel technical support engineer based in Taipei.

The new PCs have limited expansion capabilities but are designed to sell at a price attractive to consumers, most likely below £1,000. Although the systems lack internal expansion ports, users will be able to add capabilities to them through multiple USB (universal serial bus) interfaces.

The systems featured stylish cases and model names, including the Beacon Rock PC by Yeong Yang and the Groom Lake (pictured) by Chenbro Micom. The Beacon Rock uses the 2GHz P4 and the Groom Lake uses the currently available 1.7GHz P4.