There's still 2 1/2 months to go until Intel will launch the new i820-chipset, also known as 'Camino'. However, the early days in the life of Camino are long over. People who closely followed Intel's roadmap in the last 9 months know that Intel pushed the release of Camino from June 99 back to September 5, 1999, because the price of the RAM used in combination with this chipset (RDRAM) was not coming down as quickly as expected. Thus it shouldn't be a surprise that Intel has already finished the 'B0'-stepping of i820, which normally is the first release silicon.
RDRAM, the Controversy-Memory
We've already heard tons about the 'Camino-controversy', which mainly goes on about Camino's focus on a new memory type, known as 'direct Rambus RAM' or RDRAM. This RAM has the advantage of a very high peak bandwidth, but the disadvantage of a high latency at the same time. We also know that Intel does not believe that the next type of SDRAM, known as PC133 SDRAM, is going to be a feasible thing, resulting in a lack of support of this new SDRAM-type in all future Intel products.
Camino adds some other nice features, one of the less impressive ones is the support of the new ATA66-EIDE standard that's already realized in Intel's integrated i810-solution. The most anticipated new feature is Camino's introduction of AGP4x. This new AGP-standard can transport double the amount of data to the current AGP-standard, which makes most sense in combination with a high bandwidth system memory, but we still shouldn't expect too much of it. So far it's difficult to see any difference between AGP1x and AGP2x products, let alone the lack of AGP-support in the well-performing 3D-graphics solutions from 3Dfx.
First of all, an i820-platform should provide a better performance than the well-known BX-chipset, since this is the chipset that Camino is supposed to replace. Memory performance does not have that much of an impact on overall system performance as one might think, most software doesn't even make much of a difference between SDRAM running at 66 MHz versus PC100 SDRAM, but there should still be some improvement in performance of Camino over BX, since Camino's 400 MHz PC400 RDRAM has exactly twice the bandwidth of PC100 SDRAM. However, let's not forget that the CPU can only take advantage of 33% more memory bandwidth, and this only in case if the CPU runs at 133 MHz FSB. The other thing that should improve more or less significantly is the graphics performance, but as we know it already from AGP2x, only very few gaming applications do really take advantage of the AGP-bandwidth.