Intel Takes On Via?

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XBit Labs provides some more details on Intel’s Shelton chip.

It tells us that Shelton is really a cache-strated Banias chip which will operate as an embedded chip in a micro-ITX form factor 845GV motherboard.

It also tells us that HKEPC.com has tested one, and found it pretty much beats up an equivalent Via chip.

Who Should Care

If you’re looking for a speed demon, bat-out-of-hell box, this is definitely not for you.

If you like the idea of having a fairly cheap, very portable PC capable of average computer work, keep looking.

If you like the idea of a fairly cheap, very portable, potentially very overclockable PC capable of average computer work, pay close attention.

The Shelton is a Banias chip running at 1GHz. Intel has Banias chips running at up to 1.7GHz, default. This seems to tell me that, other factors permitting, anybody overclocking it ought to have at least 70% overclocking room for the chip.

Even overclocked, this won’t be any Doom III machine, but if a 1GHz Shelton beats up a Via chip, what might a Shelton running at 1.7Ghz do? It certainly ought to do enough to keep most Joe Sixpacks happy.

I’m of course being very conservative here. Anyone making a serious overclocking effort could probably get the CPU to 2GHz or a bit better, or 100%.

What The Catch?

There’s a few.

First, we don’t know what these things will cost. They’ll have to be in the same ballpark as the Vias CPU/mobos to be of great interest.

Second, we know that Intel is making this CPU/motherboard combo. We don’t know if Intel is going to let anybody else get in on the act, namely, the Taiwanese mobo makers.

This is important because Intel motherboards from Intel are, to put it mildly, not designed for overclocking.

Third, this is an embedded chip. That means you can’t remove the CPU. If the CPU goes, so goes the mobo (and this might also be an indicator Intel does want to keep this to themselves).

Fourth, cooling a highly overclocked chip in a mini-ITX case could be difficult. While the Banias family of processors don’t chew up a lot of power (24.5W at 1.7Ghz, and that includes cache which a Sheldon won’t have), there’s not a whole lot of room for coolers, or perhaps more importantly ventilation.

Mini-ITX machines also have small power supplies. An extra 20 watts CPU power is nothing for a desktop, but it could strain the punier, smaller PSUs.

The first two factors could be killers if we get the wrong answers to our questions. The other two are rather more solvable problems.

What About AMD?

Yes, what about AMD? They promised something along these lines a bit over three months ago with a revamped Geode NX series of processors.

We thought they were interesting at the time, but at least insofar as anything folks like us can buy, they haven’t been heard from since.

(In all fairness, this may end up happening with the Shelton, too. Generally, you’ve never been able to buy embedded CPU platforms at places like Newegg. It says something about the CPU industry that CPUs in that class are now powerful enough to be considered a reasonable desktop substitute).

An Addendum to White Box Builders

Perhaps the group that ought to most keep an eye on this are mom-and-pop white box builders. If you want to offer people something different than the typical big white box that they probably can get cheaper at Best Buy or Dell.com anyway, this could have some potential. If people are supposed to be buying LCD screens to save space, why wouldn’t a smaller computer be at least as appealing to the same folks? Especially a relatively tiny one.

If not now or soon, sometime in the next couple years, I think this idea will take off.

Ed

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