As a chipset, the Intel’s 820 solution isn’t a bad one at all. No major compatibility problems are caused because of the chipset, Intel has already released the major INF updates and patches for the popular OSes so that they will support the new chipset, and with the driver support, reliability, and performance we’re used to seeing from Intel in their chipsets, the i820 actually makes for a very stable platform.
There is one major limitation that is the Achilles’ Heel of the i820 – its exclusive support for Direct Rambus DRAM (RDRAM). You can even stretch it further to say that RDRAM isn’t that bad of a solution if it weren’t for its overwhelming cost. But the final result of all of this rationalization is that, for most users, the i820 platform simply isn’t a viable option because of the incredible cost associated with RDRAM.
If RDRAM were a 3D accelerator, and gamers were forced to pay anywhere from $500 up to $1000 a pop to get one of these miracle sticks, then as long as the performance was the best available, you could expect RDRAM to sell. But if it wasn’t the fastest performing thing on the market, then, of course, you would expect the exact opposite.
The latter scenario is the case right now, with RDRAM offering a very small performance improvement (if any at all) for most desktop users, the up to 400% price premium RDRAM holds over even the most expensive PC133 SDRAM just isn’t worth it and it’s a fact that’s definitely holding back the sales of Intel’s “flagship” chipset.
As we’ve mentioned in our i820 Review as well as our recently published January 2000 – i820 Motherboard Roundup, a solution to this problem was provided and although isn’t openly encouraged by Intel (they do prefer that you use RDRAM), it is being actively taken advantage of by motherboard manufacturers. Through the use of what Intel calls a Memory Translator Hub, or MTH for short, the RDRAM signals being sent from the i820’s Memory Controller Hub, or MCH, can be effectively “translated” into SDRAM requests thus allowing SDRAM to be used on an i820 motherboard.