After a very embarrassing delay in November of last year, the i820 chipset finally saw the light of day towards the end of 1999.  Even after its release and on into the start of the new year, finding motherboards based on the chipset was a very difficult task.  While at last year’s Fall Comdex, a number of manufacturers showcased their i820 based solutions, but very few of those motherboards are actually available to the public. 

The reasons behind this i820 disappearing act are mainly a result from a simple lack of demand for motherboards based on the chipset.  As you are most likely aware of, the major downfall of the i820 chipset was in its exclusive support for Direct Rambus DRAM (DRDRAM, commonly known as RDRAM) as a memory standard.  Not only did the i820’s RDRAM implementation offer very little of a performance improvement over the current PC100 standard supported on BX motherboards but the incredible cost of RDRAM is keeping the modules from quietly making their way into the market. 

The yields on RDRAM have also been troubling the standard as memory manufacturers are having difficulty producing RDRAM in high enough quantities at the top 400MHz speeds (356MHz and 266MHz parts are somewhat easier to produce because of yield issues). In essence, we have a chipset that supports a memory standard whose current implementation offers very little (if any) performance improvement over SDRAM, boasts a significantly higher cost for the end user, and features noticeably low yields on the memory chips themselves, driving the cost of manufacturing up even more. 

Needless to say that the i820 platform isn’t something that most manufacturers and OEMs have been jumping up and down to adopt.  However, the fact of the matter is that there is a demand for i820 based motherboards out there, and the interest in these motherboards is growing as time goes on.  Therefore in our first motherboard roundup of the new year, we will be taking a look at 7 of the top i820 based motherboard solutions that are either currently available or will shortly assume that status. 

The motherboards we will be taking a look at are the AOpen AX6C, AOpen AX6C-L, ASUS P3C-2000, Gigabyte GA-6CX, Iwill DS133R, Supermicro PIII-SCA, and the Transcend TS-ACA1.

The Chipset


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