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Posted: May 20th, 2002
Written by: Tuan Huynh
Last week Intel finally launched their 6th generation Celeron processors for the budget market. Usually when Intel launches a budget processor, there always seems to be a chipset that supports the new processor with embedded graphics released shortly after. The last time the Celeron was launched, we saw the i810 chipset, which provided a cheap solution for companies such as eMachines to sell cheap systems based on Intel processors. While the i810 was a sub-par performer, it really lagged behind in current games. It’s been a while since Intel has released a competitive graphics core which could compete with mainstream graphics cards such as the SiS Xabre and GeForce 2 MX.
While the i810 and i815 chipsets integrated the ancient i752 graphics core which was a great performer during the days of the Voodoo 2, it really couldn’t keep up anymore. There was also the i830 chipset which featured a refreshed graphics core, but that was mainly for the mobile market. With the recent release of the Celeron Willamette-128, Intel has finally sought the need of an integrated chipset for their Netburst based processors.
While VIA and SiS has been producing integrated chipsets for quite some time now, it was only a matter of time till we’d see an Intel branded solution with embedded graphics. Previously known as the Brookdale-G, Intel’s integrated chipsets are named i845G and i845GLL respectively.
Since the release of the Pentium 4, it was the first time where there was such a variety of chipsets that supported the processors. With the prices of the SiS650, 645DX, P4X266A, and P4M266 being relatively cheap, you might wonder where Intel would market the i845G/GL chipsets. Truth to be told, most business’s and system integrators refuse to use VIA or SiS chipsets as they’ve had problems with them in the past. This is where the i845G/GL chipsets come in. While companies are skeptical at using VIA and SiS solutions, they always feel safe when dealing with an Intel solution, as the majority of Intel chipsets have been extremely stable, with the exception of the i820 + PC133 memory.
Businesses contribute to the majority of PC sales in a year; most businesses choose to go Intel as they’ve proven to be a stable solution in the past. Intel’s main positioning for the i845G/GL is mainly towards business users who need a computer for working on spreadsheets, word documents, as well as home users who go out to buy a brand named PC from the likes of Dell who only needs a system for web browsing, email, and word processing. They’re also aiming the educational market as well. Since schools tend to buy Compaq’s as their brand of choice for PC’s, they usually end up buying iPaq’s for everything. Take my school for example; we use iPaq’s for our CAD, Rhino, and keyboarding classes. The current systems being used have Celeron 633’s coupled with the i810, the i845GL with a Celeron 1.7 GHz would be more then adequate for the tasks in an educational environment, as the schools don’t have $3000 to shed per a computer system. Though the i845GL might not provide the capabilities of an ATI Fire GL8800, the pricing of it makes much more sense.
Just to sum things up, the i845G/GL is positioned towards corporations, business, home, and schools.
There’re two versions of Intel’s Brookdale-G chipset, one named the i845G and the other i845GL. The difference between the two chipsets are minimal, the i845GL is essentially an i845G with support for only a 400 MHz FSB and no external AGP slot. This makes the i845GL more attractive to system integrators such as eMachines as the chipset will be slightly cheaper and easier to design a board for as not having to route traces to an external AGP slot makes things relatively simpler. The i845G/GL also features Intel’s new “Extreme Graphics,” but we’ll talk more about that later on.
Compared to the other chipsets, the i845G and i845GL are similar in aspects of features. All 5 chipsets feature support for PC100/133 and PC1600/2100 DDR, support for Intel’s Netburst 400 MHz FSB, and shared memory architecture for a frame buffer. While Intel recently released their Netburst 533 MHz processors, only 2 chipsets support the faster FSB, those being the i845G and ATI IGP330.
With all that said and done, the i845G/GL boasts one feature that the other chipsets are yet to offer. Being launched at the same time as the i845G is also Intel’s long awaited ICH4 south bridge, which connects to the i845G/GL via Intel’s Hub-Link architecture, which features a 266 MB/s link between the north and south bridge. While SiS is soon to release their 962 south-bridge with USB2.0, it isn’t out as this article was written.
Since all the P4/Celeron Willamette-128’s embedded graphics utilize SMA (shared memory architecture), memory bandwidth has to be sacrificed to be used for the graphics frame buffer, unlike the nForce, which utilizes a Twin Bank memory architecture and is able to supply the embedded graphics with it’s on memory channel. The performance sacrificed for the integrated graphics won’t be noticeable to the average business or home PC user, which is what the i845G and i845GLL is aimed towards.