I recently purchased an Abit KT7A motherboard and an AMD Duron processor for a new system I'm building. It's my first foray into the mysterious woods outside of Intelworld. But before I continue and take those steps outside the safe confines of the world that Intel built, I think it's worth a look back at two of their best creations: the BX chipset and Slot 1 processors.
I was one of those people who bashed Intel when the Slot 1 interface was announced. How dare them create a proprietary new interface that stifled competition. If you wanted to upgrade, you had to buy a new processor AND motherboard. The "gotcha" was that only Intel produced them both. There was no competition from anyone else. The LX chipset was the first chipset designed specifically for Slot 1 processors (I don't count the 440FX). Unfortunately, it was a weak attempt. It lacked AGP2X support and had power problems with the newer AGP video cards. It was quickly replaced with the BX chipset.
My first BX board was Abit's excellent BX6 that I equipped with a P2-333. Over time, I replaced that with a P3-450. I eventually passed that system down to my kids and went with another Abit board, the BF6 and a P3-600. The chipset was easily overclockable which allowed major performance increases with a little FSB tweaking. It seems like I've had BX boards forever. And that is really the key; the BX chipset is a survivor.
Intel has tried to replace the BX chipset for awhile now, however, each attempt has been unsuccessful. Why? These new chipsets don't perform as well as the venerable BX chipset. The various forms of i810, i815 and i820 all come up short. Even the competition, while making worthy competitors (i.e. VIA's Apollo Pro 133), can't unseat the champ. Companies like Abit helped extend the life of the BX chipset by building boards with Ultra 66 and more recently Ultra 100 controllers onboard. They have even added official support for a FSB speed of 133MHz when the BX wasn't designed to run that fast. If only they could have found a way to add AGP4X to the boards. If this is beginning to sound like an eulogy...in a way it is. The BX's days are numbered.
Intel can't keep producing so many different chipsets. In the past year, manufacturers have complained of shortages of BX chipsets. Also, the competition now has weapons that will ultimately slay the BX beast. VIA's KT133 and KT266 chipsets are worthy competitors. The new Pro266 with its DDR SDRAM support may be the final blow. With DDR prices about the same as PC133 memory and AMD's Thunderbird considerably cheaper than Pentium 3's, it won't be long now. In addition, the 10X multiplier required to run a 1GHz processor at a 100MHz FSB borders on the ridiculous.
It might sound cheesy, but I appreciate Intel's efforts with the BX chipset. It was an excellent engineering effort and brought stability to the market. I bow to you humble BX - thanks for the memories.