Intel plans PC-on-a-chip

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Intel plans PC-on-a-chip

Intel Corp. is planning to develop an all-in-one PC-on-a-chip, which is targeted for release late next year.

The as-yet unannounced “Timna” chip will be manufactured in .18-micron technology and will include a Pentium-II class processor, a graphics controller, 128 kB of L2 cache, and a Direct Rambus memory controller.

Already, Intel’s plans are causing speculation that the chip maker will use the Timna processor to enter the graphics and memory market. If Timna succeeds, it could drive Rambus DRAMs into the mainstream.

Intel’s use of RDRAM in the upcoming chip has several potential advantages. Using integrated RDRAM could lower overall memory costs, since it takes less memory to deliver adequate performance. In addition, it is possible to increase the chip’s bandwidth without increasing pin count dramatically.

However, manufacturers worry that RDRAMs will be hard to integrate. RDRAMs are 50 percent more expensive than SDRAMs and require special equipment for testing. The higher level of integration demanded by Timna will yield a larger die size, which in turn increases manufacturing costs.

Finally, Intel will have to battle against a common disadvantage of all-in-one processors, which historically have trouble keeping up with features demanded by the market. In particular, consumers who want the ability to upgrade their video cards may find Timna’s features limiting.

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