Pricing and availability
If you have been shopping for a DDR chipset for the Pentium 4 recently, you've probably noticed how few products are available in the market, and of those, how difficult they are to find in stores. While websites such as us aren't having problems obtaining these chipsets, clearly the situation isn't the same for the consumer. VIA's P4X266 chipset is a good performer with a solid feature set, but VIA's legal dispute with Intel over the status of their Pentium 4 bus license has scared away most motherboard manufacturers from producing a P4X266 motherboard. With the exception of ECS (which has also been sued by Intel as a result of their P4X266 product), all of the larger motherboard producers have stayed away from P4X266.
With Intel now producing its own DDR chipset for the Pentium 4, every motherboard manufacturer has jumped onboard 845, even those companies who are also producing motherboards based on P4X266. While it may seem a bit surprising to produce both, even the most courageous of motherboard manufacturers realizes how large the market is for Intel's 845 chipset, whether it's built for DDR memory or SDRAM. Intel's pricing on 845 is the same, regardless of memory type. This should allow for competitive pricing on 845 DDR motherboards. Combine this with the low price for DDR memory modules and the volume of chipsets Intel is producing and we have a feeling 845 will really take off in DDR form. But what about motherboards based on the other chipsets?
As we discussed earlier, VIA's P4X266 chipset has been on the market for quite awhile, but legal conflicts have prevented it from becoming a mainstream product. VIA has attempted to rectify the situation by taking matters into their own hands and selling their own VIA-branded motherboards, but distribution of these products still can't touch the likes of a Tier 2 motherboard manufacturer, much less a company like ASUS or MSI. VIA has also developed a follow-up to the P4X266, P4X266A, and while Shuttle has announced a motherboard based on this chipset, it still has been slow to take off.
SiS's 645 chipset offers excellent performance and a strong feature set, and most importantly, Intel's blessing. But despite all this, availability is limited. A month ago we were told that the first SiS 645 motherboards should be introduced during the month of December. But it appears as if that date isn't going to happen. Since stealing the spotlight from VIA with it's 735 chipset last year, SiS has had a nagging problem supplying demand. Once again it appears ECS will be one of the first manufacturers with a product, we're just unsure when it will be released. As far as chipsets from ATI and ALi are concerned, products are still in development, putting them a few months from public release.