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Intel "persuades" hardware makers to shift to one kilo BTX heatsinks

It's Mission Improbable, Mission of Must
Tue Mar 02 2004, 07:47
SEEMS TO US that whenever Intel's strategists come up with plots to try and muscle, sorry outflank its competitors to be bystanders, not players in their own right, - the general modus operandi seems to end up being an attempt to convince the world that Intel's way is the only way.

Let's call it "Mission Must".

We hear that Intel's very latest active mission includes spinning around the independent hardware manufacturers in Taiwan - its predominant targets being the heatsink, mainboard, power supply and system chassis makers - with the objective of trying to enlist, one way or another, co-operation and support to move the planet to Intel's next PC form factor.

In conjunction with this briefing and cajoling of the Taiwanese infrastructure manufacturers, and as part of Intel's "Mission of Must", it seems it is also presently briefing i the largest system integrators and hardware vendors, at least in Europe.

With an air of confidence, it is telling these integrators and vendors that they must prepare for the coming of The Next Big Thing. Then there's what it's telling Her Majesty's Press.

Early cheeps from the press, and consequently their readership, might then drive the system integrators and hardware vendors to query initial ‘availability' - perhaps that should read "demand", of the hardware manufacturers and their distributors, who might then think that everything they've been told by Intel about the need for change - Intel's need for change remember - just might be true.

This is what's happening as Intel attempts to shunt all of us into its BTX railyard.

LGA-775, or Socket-T is set to be launched with the - unimpressive to date - Prescott core, but it is part of the the prevailing plot to drive widespread adoption of all the supporting components that are needed for Intel's BTX form factor.

The reference heatsink for the first LGA-775 Prescott Pentium 4 will be reminiscent of the "sunflower" heatsink supplied with earlier Northwood core P4, but it's larger, and heavier, and now features split-fins. This bi-fin design increases the fin surface area in order to accommodate the higher thermal dissipation requirements of the high frequency LGA-775 Prescott in an ATX chassis.

Does Intel see the first LGA-775 Prescott processor - the P4 3.6GHz - as the last it can viably cool with an affordable, and reasonably low noise active heatsink in an ATX chassis?

Intel's BTX form factor will introduce passive heatsinks, and we can exclusively reveal that current protoypes weigh in at around a hefty one kilogram apiece!

Will these heavy heatsinks have to bolt through the mainboard and attach to the system chassis backplane? We think that's likely. If so, what challenges will this create in a production environment for Intel's system integrator customers?

Aside from a major redesign of mainboards, Intel's BTX will need a new system chassis which - unlike the AT to ATX transition that Intel also pushed - most case manufacturers will have to build at their own cost. From scratch.

BTX will also require new power supplies that must provide 28Ah, and the large passive heatsinks will probably require new system fan designs that provide a focused and fairly narrow flow of air from the front of a BTX chassis directly across the heat sink to exhaust hot air directly out of the back of the chassis.

Our intelligence is that Intel has been working on a new design of fan precisely for this purpose.

In a nutshell, it seems that Intel is trying to drive the whole industry towards yet another of its form factors or preferred technologies.

But what's new here? Word has it that this time round, the Taiwanese heastink, mainboard and PSU manufacturers - and quite a lot of them it would seem - are being rather less than enthusiastic or co-operative, about the sweeping changes and support that Intel is asking, nay demanding, of them.

Some of the biggest mainboard manufacturers are openly dismissive of LGA-775.

Some engineers are saying that while the "pin-less" Intel processor is less susceptible to damage through poor handling, the J-Pins within the LGA-775 socket can be easily damaged, which of course means that return of products would shift from Intel to the mainboard manufacture.

Furthermore, we understand, even some Intel engineers are somewhat unconvinced that the present format of LGA-775 is absolutely the way to go.

LGA-775 and the concerns of mainboard manufacturers aside though, it seems that the other manufacturers that complete the BTX form factor jigsaw are equally or more unwelcoming.

It's down to the cost the manufacturers must bear, and the time limits Intel is imposing on the makers to show their "commitment".

This same commitment is being asked of the major system integrators.

Intel says that its customers should "commit"‘ by May of this year, and secondly that it's Intel's desire to have 40% of all new systems Intel BTX ready by the end of the year. Is this achievable?

Not unless it does a better job of convincing its partners. Intel simply can't move forward without BTX mobos. The adoption of the BTX form factor is utterly critical for Intel.

In the face of increasingly stiff competition from AMD and its 64-bit processor head start, Intel needs to shift the industry in the direction it wants.

It's smacking of the proprietary.

Our own recent overclocking antics with a Tualatin core Pentium-S show that a large cache Pentium M could well be a killer chip, and on a clock for clock basis, even the Tualatin with its PIII core offers very impressive levels of performance relative to current desktop Pentium 4 processors.

Right now, AMD seem to be just keeping an eye on what is going on with Intel and BTX. It says that its cooler running processors have no immediate need for a drastic change of infrastructure. How long this lasts remains to be seen.

Intel says on its BTX page in its huge website: "A change to the system form factor is ultimately of little benefit if it does not reduce overall system cost.” We can't see Intel's BTX form factor reducing overall system costs, at all. Quite the opposite. But we can see which company stands to really benefit from the BTX form factor. µ


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