Motherboards


Chipset

Pentium chipset

The second way in which motherboards differ is their chipset. The chipset is made up of a series of chips integrated onto the motherboard, which, together, control the system and its capabilities. All components, from the memory to the peripheral devices, communicate with the processor through the chipset. If you think of the motherboard as the physical hardware, the chipset is the logic that underlies it. It is the part that dictates how different components actually talk to one another and is the most important component on the motherboard.

Processor development and chipset design also go hand in hand - so much so that the chipset is built to support the facilities offered by a certain processor. There used to be a number of chipset vendors on the market, but the consumer market has now been pared down to just a few: Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) and VIA Technologies.

Because motherboards are designed around the capabilities of the chipset, users cannot upgrade the computer's chipset without upgrading the motherboard as well. Therefore the chipset and processor you choose will be crucial in deciding what motherboard is best for your system, and vice versa.

The chipset uses the DMA (Direct Memory Access) controller and the bus controller to organise the steady flow of data that it controls.

Alongside the DMA and bus controllers, the chipset's many functions include the memory controller, hard drive controller, PCI, PCIe and AGP bridges, RTC (real time clock), IrDA controller, keyboard controller, the USB interface and mouse controller. The chipset manages the interaction of the various connectors. Nearly all new chipsets have a bunch of extras added in - integral support for sound output, networking and FireWire for instance.

A chipset is usually (but not always) split into two main parts - the north and south bridges. The north bridge takes control of the major functions such as the memory, cache, and AGP connectors (more on these below), while the south bridge controls the non-core functions of the motherboard, such as the PCI bus, integrated audio, EIDE, SATA, serial and USB controllers.


Chipset manufacturers

Chipset manufacturers have produced a large range of chipsets, based on a variety of north bridge and south bridge types. The most recent, and most advanced, releases for Intel processors are the Intel 955X Express Chipset, the Nvidia nForce4, the SiS655 and the Via PT894.

For AMD motherboards, look for recent chipsets including the Nvidia nForce4, the SiS761 and the Via K8T890.

Below, we've included a list of many chipsets you might see appear in motherboards right now.

For Intel processors For AMD processors
AMD None AMD-8151, AMD-8132, AMD-8131, AMD-8111
Intel Intel 955X Express, Intel 925X/XE Express, Intel 915G/GV/GL/PL/P, Intel 875P, Intel 910GL, Intel 865G None
Nvidia nForce4 SLI nForce2, nForce2 Ultra 400, nForce2 Ultra 400GB, nForce2 400R, nForce3, nForce3 Ultra, nForce3 Ultra 250, nForce3 Ultra 250GB, nForce4, nForce4 Ultra, nForce4 Ultra, nForce Professional 2200, nForce Professional 2050
SiS SiS649, SiS656, SiS655TX, SiS655FX, SiS648FX SiS761GX, SiS756, SiS755FX, SiS755, SiS760GX
Via VIA PM800, VIA PT800, VIA PM880, VIA PT880, VIA PT880 Pro, VIA PT894, VIA PT894 Pro VIA K8T890, VIA K8T800, VIA K8T800 Pro, VIA K8M800

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?