Sunday, March 9, 2008

Intel Prepares Its Own Mini-ITX Platform

A few days ago Intel announced their new Atom and Centrino Atom brands. As we know, they will be offering Silverthorne and Diamondville codenamed processors under their Atom brand name that will be targeted for use in ultra-portable and pocket electronic devices and will also be used in ultra-budget computer market.

No wonder that both Intel processor lineups will pose a serious threat to the Taiwanese VIA Company in the first place, because they are currently focusing on platforms and processors for these particular type of devices. Now that a powerful player like Intel is entering thins market segment, the situation is going to get even worse for VIA, which has been going through some hard financial times already lately. Moreover, Atom is also a cause for concern for another Taiwanese chip maker – Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS).

The thing is that Intel hasn’t been offering enough budget chips for the past three years already.

When they started transferring the production of their system logic to 90nm process in 2005, they first used ATI chipsets and after the latter merged with AMD signed the same contract with SiS. That is why budget Intel mainboards use third party chipsets in them. A great example here would be Intel Desktop Board D201GLY on SiS662 chipset with embedded Celeron 215 processor.

However once Atom processors arrive into the market, SiS may lose some of the Intel orders. It will happen because Intel is preparing their own miniature economical platform aka Little Falls for their Diamondville processors. It will be based on i945G? chipset with integrated Intel GMA950 graphics core. The same solutions will also appear in the product range of the leading mainboard manufacturers like ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI.

Typical mainboards with embedded Diamondville processors will be built in Mini-ITX form-factor (170mm x 170mm). They will provide guaranteed support for DDR2-800 SDRAM (one DIMM up to 2GB). Besides the integrated graphics, these mainboards will also support 4 USB 2.0, LAN, IDE and 2 SATA ports. This complete platform is expected to be priced at no more than $50-60 in retail.

Little Falls platform should appear in the market in Q2 2008. Its first modifications will be equipped with a single-core Diamondville processor working at 1.87GHz, featuring 512KB L2 cache and supporting 533MHz bus. In Q3 we should see a refreshed Little Falls 2 platform with a dual-core Diamondville processor. It will have the same characteristics as the single-core model, but the maximum TDP will increase from 7.5W to 12W.

Intel and mainboard makers expect Little Falls to enjoy very good market demand from the manufacturers of miniature PCs, TV-consoles and home media systems.

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