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COMPUTER PROCESSORS

Where's Alviso?
By: DMOS
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    2004-08-30

    Table of Contents:
  • Where's Alviso?
  • Intelís History, and Dothanís Promise
  • So, Did Intel Learn Anything from That?

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    Where's Alviso?


    (Page 1 of 3 )

    Unlike ďWhereís Waldo?Ē, this is one question Intel probably doesnít want us to be asking, let alone attempt to answer. That, our friends, is exactly what we plan to do today.

    Before we start our search for Alviso, letís start with what might be a common question: what is Alviso?

    Alviso is one component of the Sonoma platform that comprises the latest "Centrino" designation for mobile computers in Intel's lineup. As you might know, Centrino is comprised of three parts:

    • One is the Pentium M processor, previously code named Banias. Its new 90nm revision is known internally as Dothan.

    • Next in the Centrino is its Wi-Fi ability. Currently, Centrino makes use of the 802.11b standard. In Sonoma, thatís being upgraded to 802.11g.

    • The last is the topic of our discussion -- Alviso is the replacement for the i855, and is based around DDR2 memory, has faster FSB capabilities, and has updated features such as HD Audio. Unfortunately, while all the other parts of the Sonoma platform are ready, Alviso is no where to be found.

    Laptops are just the same as desktops once you pull them apart. The motherboards, for example, are very much like any m-ITX you'll find in an SFF system. The same components are there, just shoved onto an even more PCB efficient layout. You still need a processor, and some devices to connect it to the outside world. In an Intel-based system, that connection is done entirely through the North and South Bridges (NB and SB, respectively). In other modern systems from IBM, AMD, and Sun, the processor possesses its own memory controller, and has another link to other processors, but that is neither here nor there.

    Getting back on track, that new NB and SB are what comprise the missing Alviso. The NB and SB make up the part of the computer that attaches the disk drives, memory, USB, audio, LAN, and the varied devices hanging off the PCI bus together. In order to add new connectivity, users need an updated chipset. This item is also configured for optimal performance with a specific processor, in this case Dothan. While Banias and Dothan are very similar, they aren't identical.

    Sighting this, Intel knows it has history to contend with. Every time the company has released a new core revision upon the world, there's been a new chipset to accompany it. By their own advertising, people have been led to believe that nice new processor will be crippled without its nice new chipset to pair alongside it. I can't really blame Intel for going that way, since they've made a mint off the accompanying chipset sales, and for all intents and purposes own a monopoly there as a result. However, that leads to expectations -- ones that currently aren't being met.

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