Currently, Intel is far from the most popular CPU manufacturer among the enthusiast community.  During the days of the Pentium II and Celeron, when AMD's most fierce competition was the AMD K6-X line of processors, the community was definitely much more appreciative of Intel processors.  In fact, looking at the stats from our System Rigs Database for AnandTech Forums users we see that there are still 13% more users running Intel CPUs than there are with AMD CPUs. 

This isn't to discredit what AMD has been able to do with the Athlon.  Had the Athlon not been the success it is today, that 13% gap would have widened considerably.  Combined with the weakened Intel product line towards the end of 1999 and the lackluster performance of the Pentium 4 in today's applications and benchmarks, it isn't surprising that AMD has been the choice of many lately. 

At this year's Spring Intel Developer Forum Conference the tone was of a completely different nature than what we have seen at IDF for the past few sessions.  Within the course of this article you will not only learn about some very interesting technology from Intel for use in the server market, but you will also see their plans for DDR SDRAM and RDRAM, a chipset with 6.4GB/s of memory bandwidth, the return of the Memory Translator Hub and much more.

A different type of IDF

If you remember this time one year ago, there was a lot of activity at IDF as the Pentium 4, then going under the codename Willamette, was first revealed to the public.  We got the chance to see the first glimpse of what a 1.5GHz processor looked like and we were shocked by the fact that the Willamette's Integer units would operate at twice that frequency: 3GHz. 

Later that year, the Pentium 4 was released and although it offered clearly advanced technology on paper it would not perform well in any of today's applications and games.  A lower clocked Pentium III or Athlon would easily trump the Pentium 4 even while the latter was running at a 25% higher clock speed.  However passing judgment on the Pentium 4 wasn't as simple as we had originally thought. 

There isn't a doubt about it that the performance of Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) on the Pentium III platform was poor at best.  Realizing that the Pentium 4 actually benefited from RDRAM helped us understand exactly why Intel pushed for RDRAM so early, even though the Pentium III couldn't offer the performance improvement both Intel and Rambus were promising.  The Pentium 4 is a completely different beast, its 100MHz Quad-pumped FSB keeps the processor fed with data and coupling it with an equally bandwidth powerful memory bus is necessary to keep its performance levels high enough.  We have already illustrated this not too long ago in our review of the VIA KT133A chipset in explaining why the performance improvement gained from DDR SDRAM on the AMD 760 isn't as great as we'd like to think. 

At this IDF, the tone was definitely more sedated.  There was much less marketing hype surrounding the show and more of an idea of looking towards the future.  The Pentium 4 has been released, and Intel will be ramping up production of it faster than they ever have in the past.  And for the first time since AnandTech has been visiting IDF we really got a chance to see Intel focus on the future rather than trying to explain why current performance is the way it is.

There's less hype for the press to write about, but there's actually worlds more information and technology to digest. Let's get started.

"Putting an end to the Performance Debate"
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