Consumer Electronics Show 2004 Day 1: Motherboards at CESby Anand Lal Shimpi, Kris Kubicki and Wesley Fink on January 9, 2004 4:48 AM EST
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Before we dive into discussions of chipsets and model numbers that honestly even started giving me a headache, I'd like to take you through an overview of the releases that are coming in the next few months.
2003 has come and gone and as is plainly obvious, Intel did not launch Prescott - the long awaited follow-up to the Northwood Pentium 4 core. Contrary to what once was popular belief, Prescott will be branded as a Pentium 4 processor and will actually work in most current 800MHz FSB Socket-478 motherboards. What's almost certain however is that the higher clocked Prescotts that will hit the streets later this year (closer to 4GHz) may not be backwards compatible with older Socket-478 motherboards. But what we're really here to talk about is when we can expect Prescott, and from what the motherboard vendors are telling us Intel is looking to launch Prescott either at the end of this month or sometime next month.
Assuming Prescott hits no later than February, March will be the calm before the storm that is April. What is April bringing us you ask? Well quite a bit.
On the Intel side of things, April will bring the launch of the first LGA-775 Socket Prescott CPUs. In order to deal with increasing pin densities, Intel has moved the physical pins off of the chip and onto the socket itself with LGA-775. The bottom surface of LGA-775 CPUs, where the pins would normally be, is now basically flat with some capacitors sticking out of the center. There are a series of contact points on the chip itself that actually touch the pins on the socket.
The first LGA-775 motherboards will be based on Intel's two new chipsets - Alderwood and Grantsdale - also being launched in April. Alderwood and Grantsdale, as we've reported in the past, support DDR/DDR-II, PCI Express and a few other features in addition to support for the full range of Prescott CPUs. The difference between Alderwood and Grantsdale is that Alderwood has Intel's Performance Accelerating Technology (PAT) while Grantsdale does not.
Although both of the major GPU vendors are waiting until April to release their PCI Express video cards, SiS and VIA will be enabling PCI Express in their chipsets this quarter to get a leg up on Intel.
AMD is also planning to have a fairly productive April as they will introduce their first Socket-939 CPUs that month. Along with the introduction of Socket-939 we will see the Socket-754 platforms be pushed into the value segment, eventually driving out Socket-A from AMD's roadmaps.
Throughout this year AMD will actually be juggling three distinct CPU sockets with Sockets 754, 939 and 940. Although 754 and 939 will remain the most popular in the desktop market, AMD will support all three at least through the end of this year.
Now with the 'when' in mind, let's talk about what's coming out in more specifics...