An entire year has passed since we last rounded up the latest SDRAM memory modules available online for a head to head comparison, and in the past year quite a bit has changed.
Our last memory roundup took place during the reign of Intel’s BX chipset as the platform of choice for most users. The introduction of the BX chipset brought the need for SDRAM that could actually run at the 100MHz FSB frequency the chipset provided. Prior to the introduction of the BX chipset there was little order established in the SDRAM market because of the incredible variation between the designs from one module to the next.
Since motherboard manufacturers couldn’t possibly test their boards with very single memory module available on the market, they had to rely on following the motherboard design guides and the limited number of SDRAM modules they could get their hands on before their board’s release in order to make sure all the compatibility issues were worked out.
Intel attempted to remove these SDRAM compatibility issues by creating their own PC100 SDRAM specification which outlined, in a very detailed manner, the requirements for a memory module to be classified as PC100 which would make it fit for use on a BX motherboard running at the 100MHz FSB.
Although the PC100 specification wasn’t followed down to the last dot, most manufacturers followed it closely enough that stories of SDRAM compatibility issues were relatively scarce among BX motherboard owners.
At the time of our last PC100 SDRAM Roundup we weren’t sure as to what the future of SDRAM would be because Intel’s “Camino” chipset hadn’t hit the streets yet. One thing was very clear, by the end of 1999 there would be a definite shift towards 133MHz FSB platforms, but what type of memory would they use?
Since it turned out that the mysterious “Camino,” now known as the i820 chipset, wasn’t a good match for SDRAM at all and with Intel’s heavy push away from SDRAM and towards RDRAM it became quite clear that Intel wasn’t going to be the first to establish a PC133 memory specification, or even establish one at all.
Not willing to pursue RDRAM as a memory option for their chipsets, not at this stage at least, VIA stuck to SDRAM as the memory of choice for their 133MHz FSB VIA Apollo Pro 133/133A platforms. But in order for VIA to take full advantage of the 133MHz FSB frequency their chipset would require an equally fast pathway to the memory which gave birth to the need for the 133MHz memory bus.
Since Intel refused to acknowledge the need for PC133 SDRAM, after all their 133MHz FSB chipset solutions relied on RDRAM or PC100 SDRAM, VIA was put in a position where they had to take the initiative to create a standard if they wanted PC133 SDRAM to be adopted by the industry. So, preceding the release of VIA’s Apollo Pro 133A chipset was the announcement that VIA had been working with the leading DRAM manufacturers on developing a PC133 memory standard.
And PC133 SDRAM is here to stay, for this year at least. While the rest of the market transitions towards higher bandwidth solutions such as DDR SDRAM and RDRAM, the fact that PC133 SDRAM is pin compatible with current motherboards gives it a major advantage over more expensive emerging technologies. At this year’s Spring IDF, Intel stated that they were finally going to be revising the PC100 specification for PC133 SDRAM in preparation for their first PC133 chipset solution, the i815 which is due out towards the end of Q2-2000.