What You Need to Know About Chipsets

Is the chipset? What is its function? Is it important? What impact on computer performance? In the post this time, we will try to discuss it.
The chipset is the name given to a set of chips (so-called chipsets) that is used on the motherboard.
In early-generation PC, the motherboard uses a variety of integrated circuits. So need a lot of chips to make the necessary circuits so that the computer can work. In the first picture below, you can view pictures from a PC XT motherboard.

Figure 1: Motherboard PC XT

After some time the company began to chip manufacturers to integrate multiple chips into a larger chip. So, instead of using many small chips, now a half-dozen motherboards can use a larger chip.

The integration continues and around the mid-1990s motherboard uses only two or even one large chip. In the second picture you can see the motherboard 486 circa 1995 using two large chip with all functions needed to power the motherboard.

Figure 2: 486 motherboard, this model only uses two major chips.

With the release of the PCI bus, a new concept, which is still used up to now, can be used for first time: the use of the bridge. Usually the motherboard has two large chips: the north bridge and south bridge. Sometimes there are several manufacturers chip that combines the north bridge and south bridge chips into a single course; In this case, the motherboard will only have one large integrated circuit.

With the use of bridges can be easily standardized chipsets.

Chipsets can be made by several companies, such as Uli (the new name for ALi), Intel, VIA, SiS, ATI and NVIDIA. In the past there UMC and optimistic.

The problem generally is to combine the chipset from the motherboard manufacturer from the manufacturer. For example, a motherboard uses a chipset made by Intel, so it does not mean Intel is making his board. ASUS, ECS, Gigabyte, MSI, DFI, Chaintech, PCChips, Shuttle and Intel also is an example of some motherboard manufacturers are present in the market. So buy a chipset from the motherboard manufacturer, chipset manufacturers and build it. There are actually a very interesting aspect of this relationship. To build a motherboard, the manufacturer may follow the standards of the project from the chipset manufacturer, which is also called "reference design", or it can also create their own projects, modifying a few things in order to provide performance or better features.

North Bridge

North Bridge chip is called MCH (Memory Controller Hub) is connected directly to the CPU and has a function:

* Memory controller (*)
* AGP bus controller (if available)
* PCI Express x16 controller (if available)
* Interface for data transfer with the south bridge

(*) Except for the CPU socket 754, socket 939 and socket 940 (AMD CPU like the Athlon 64), because at this CPU, memory located within the CPU itself, not on the north bridge.

Some of the north bridge chip also controls PCI Express x1 lane. On the other PCI Express chipset South Bridge is the job of controlling the PCI Express x1 lane. In this discussion we will assume that the south bridge is the component that is responsible for controlling the PCI Express lane, but be aware that this can have many variations depending on the model of the chipset.

In Figure 3 you can see a diagram that explains the duties of the north bridge on the computer.

Figure 3: North Bridge

As you can see, the CPU does not have direct access to RAM memory or video card, north bridge is in charge of access to such equipment. Therefore, the north bridge chip has a vital task in computer performance. If the north bridge chip has a memory controller that is better than the other north bridge, then the overall computer performance would be better. That's why you can have two motherboards that have the same processor type and produce different performance.

As mentioned, the Athlon 64 CPU, memory controller embedded in the CPU and therefore there is almost no performance difference between motherboards of this platform.

Since the memory controller is located on the north bridge, then this chip that limits the type and maximum amount of memory that you can have in the system (on the Athlon 64, CPU set these limits).

The connection between the north bridge and south bridge is done through a bus. Initially use the PCI bus, but was later replaced with a dedicated bus.

South Bridge

South bridge chip is also called the ICH (I / O Controller Hub) is connected with the north bridge and the duty to control the equipment I / O and on-board equipment, such as:

* Port hard disk drive (Port Parallel and Serial ATA)
* USB Port
* Audio on-board (*)
* LAN on-board (**)
* PCI bus
* PCI Express Line (if available)
* Real Time Clock (RTC)
* Memory CMOS
* Legacy equipment such as an interrupt controller and DMA controller.

(*) If the south bridge has a built-in audio controller, it will need an external chip, called a codec (short for coder / decoder) to operate.

(**) If the south bridge has a built-in network controller, it will need an external chip called PHY (physical stands) to be operational.

South bridge chip is also connected with two other available on the motherboard: ROM chips are better known by the BIOS, and the chip Super I / O, whose job controlling legacy equipment such as serial ports, parallel ports and floppy disk drives.

In Figure 4 you can see a diagram that explains the rules of the south bridge on a computer.

Figure 4: South Bridge

As you can see, the south bridge can affect the performance of hard disk drives, this component does not critically affect the performance of the computer such as the north bridge. South bridge work to focus more on features than your motherboard owned overall computer performance. South bridge that controls the amount (and speed) from the USB port and also the number of type (regular ATA or Serial ATA) hard disk drive from the port owned by your motherboard.

Inter-Bridge Architecture

When the concept of the bridge began to be used, communication between the north bridge and south bridge is done through a bus, just as shown in Figure 5. The problem is bandwidth available for the PCI bus - 132 MB / s - shared among all PCI devices on the system and equipment connected with the south bridge - especially the hard disk drive. At that time, it is not a problem, because the maximum transfer rate of hard drives only 8 MB / s and 16 MB / s.

Figure 5: Communication between the north and south bridge using the PCI bus

But when the high-end video cards (at that time, the video card is PCI) and the high-performance hard disk drive is removed, then came the chaos. Let's take the example of the modern ATA/133 hard disk drive which in theory has a maximum transfer rate is equal to the PCI bus. So in theory an ATA/133 hard drive will suck all the bandwidth, slowing the speed of communications between all devices connected to the PCI bus.

For high-end video cards, the solution is to create a new bus is connected directly to the north bridge, which is called AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port).

Final solution came when the chipset manufacturers began using a new approach: using a dedicated high-speed bus between the north and south bridge and PCI bus connecting the equipment to south bridge.

Figure 6: Communication between the north and south bridge using a dedicated bus

When Intel started using this architecture, the bridges referred to as "hubs", the north bridge into MCH (Memory Controller Hub) and the south bridge to ICH (I / O Controller Hub). This is just part of the nomenclature in order to make it easier to identify the architecture used.

Process of using a new architecture that is used motherboard at the moment, when the CPU reads data from hard drives, data is transferred from the hard drive to the south bridge, then to the north bridge (use the dedicated bus) and then the CPU (or directly to your memory, if the method of Bus Mastering - aka DMA - is being used). As you can see, the PCI bus is not used at all in this transfer, which does not occur on the previous architecture.

Dedicated bus speed of this depends on the chipset model. For example, the Intel 925X chipset, this bus has a maximum transfer speed of 2 GB / s. Manufacturers call this bus with a variety of names:

* Intel: DMI (Direct Media Interface) or Intel Hub Architecture (*)
* Uli / ALi: HyperTransport
* VIA: V-Link
* SiS: MuTIOL (**)
* ATI: A-link or PCI Express
* NVIDIA: HyperTransport (**)

(*) Is the latest in the DMI Interface. used on the i915 and i925 chipset and uses two separate data paths, one for transmitting data and another for the recipient (full-duplex communication). Intel Hub Architecture, used by previous chipsets, using the same data path to both transmission and reception (half-duplex communication).

(**) Some NVIDIA and SiS chipsets using only one chip, for example, the function of both north and south bridge chip is integrated into one course.

On the ATI Radeon Xpress 200, the communication between the north and south bridge using two PCI Express lane. This does not affect system performance because, unlike PCI, PCI Express bus is not distributed to all PCI Express devices. This is a solution for point-to-point, which means buses only connect two devices, ie a receiver and transmitter; no other equipment that can be connected to this connection. One line is used for data transmission and the other for receiving data (full-duplex communication).

HyperTransport bus also uses a separate data paths, one for transmitting data and another for the reception (full-duplex communication).

If you want to know more detailed explanation of the chipset, just open the website from its chipset manufacturers. You can get a list of chipset manufacturers and their website here.

Maybe you wonder whether "on-board PCI devices" that exist in Figure 5 and 6. On-board equipment such as LAN and audio can be controlled by the chipset (south bridge) or by an additional controller chips. If the second method is used, then the controller chip is connected to PCI bus.

Production Webiste Drivers
ALi http://www.ali.com.tw Drivers
ATI http://www.ati.com Drivers
Intel http://www.intel.com Drivers
nVidia http://www.nvidia.com Drivers
OPTi http://www.opti-inc.com Drivers
SiS http://www.sis.com Drivers
ULi http://www.uli.com.tw Drivers
Utron http://www.utron.com.tw Drivers
VIA http://www.via.com.tw Drivers
xPro http://www.pcchips.com Drivers

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