Intel's Pentium M on the Desktop - A Viable Alternative?by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 7, 2005 4:00 PM EST
- Posted in
Problem #1: Can't Use Desktop ChipsetsAlthough the Pentium M uses the same bus as the Pentium 4, there are two limitations that prevent you from using the Pentium M on regular desktop motherboards or chipsets. The first limitation is that the Pentium M's pin-out is quite different from that of the Pentium 4, despite the similarity in number of pins and socket layout to the Socket-478 Pentium 4s. So, even if the Pentium M could fit in a desktop Pentium 4 board, it still wouldn't work - it's like plugging a USB cable into a FireWire port; even if you could make it fit, you're not going to be transferring anything over that cable.
What about a simple converter that modifies the pin-out of the Pentium M to be compatible with a Pentium 4? The reason why a Pentium M to Pentium 4 converter can't be reliably made is explained by the second limitation: the I/O buffers on the Pentium M operate at relatively low voltages (1.05V) while the I/O buffers on a Pentium 4 operate at the CPU's core voltage (1.3V+). In order to work properly with a Pentium M, the North Bridge (MCH) must be able to operate at similarly low voltages, which none of the current desktop chipsets are able to do. There is also additional drive circuitry that is present on the chipset to help deal with operating at such low voltages, which aren't present on desktop Pentium 4 chips.
The problems resulting from these two limitations are three-fold:
- Desktop Pentium M motherboards must use mobile chipsets, which are $10 more expensive on average than their desktop equivalents, leading to more expensive motherboards.
- Current desktop Pentium M motherboards are about 6 - 12 months behind the design schedule of mobile Pentium M motherboards, meaning that they are all using Intel's 855GME chipset, unfortunately, and not the latest mobile 915 chipset. The biggest implication here is that this means that all current generation desktop Pentium M motherboards feature only a single channel DDR333 memory controller.
- The upgrade path for desktop Pentium M motherboards will be quite limited. The problem is that you're pretty much guaranteed only to be able to upgrade to faster 90nm Dothan based Pentium M processors, which aren't going to get many speed bumps between now and when they are replaced by Yonah (which won't work in current motherboards). Remember that the Pentium M is designed with a clock speed limit in mind and that limit is very low, so don't expect too many speed bumps between now and the end of the year (our roadmaps indicate only one new speed this year, that's all).