A chipset is a set of integrated circuits that manage the communication between the computer’s processor and other hardware.
See also: QuadRooter
History of chipsets
- Late 1970s and 1980s. Before chipsets, each motherboard component required its own dedicated chip. This changed with the integrated chipset, which bundled several functions, streamlining the motherboard design.
- 1990s. Intel launched the Platform Controller Hub, splitting the chipset into the Northbridge and Southbridge components. The Northbridge managed high-speed operations, while the Southbridge managed slower peripherals.
- 2000s. Processors began integrating more features, reducing the need for separate Northbridge and Southbridge components. Modern systems started to consolidate chipset functionality.
- 2010s and beyond. Chipsets evolved, supporting advanced technologies like NVMe storage, USB Type-C, and high-speed networking.
- Communication. It acts as a central bridge, allowing the CPU to communicate efficiently with RAM, storage devices, and peripheral hardware.
- System management. It coordinates and manages power usage, component interaction, and system health.
- Expandability. Through the chipset, motherboards can offer slots for GPUs, sound cards, Wi-Fi cards, and other expansions.
- Feature support. Advanced chipsets introduce and manage new technologies, like faster USB versions or power-saving features.
- PCI Express (PCIe) controllers. These manage connections to peripherals like secondary graphics cards and network cards.
- Direct Media Interface (DMI). This is a direct link between the CPU and the chipset, replacing the traditional Front Side Bus (FSB). It’s responsible for fast data transfer between the CPU and the chipset.
- SATA controllers manage connections to storage devices, including SSDs and HDDs.
- USB controllers oversee USB connections, including USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 4.0, and USB-C ports.
- The Ethernet controller handles wired network connections.
- The audio controller manages the integrated audio functions.
- Voltage regulator modules (VRMs) adjust and provide the correct voltage to the CPU and other components.
- SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface). A synchronous serial communication interface used for flash memory, sensors, and other devices.
- An integrated clock generator synchronizes various system components.
- Thermal sensors monitor the temperature of the chipset and potentially other nearby components.
- Wi-Fi/Bluetooth controller. Some chipsets come with integrated wireless controllers for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
- Thunderbolt controller. Present in some chipsets, especially those by Intel, to manage Thunderbolt connections.
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) interface. Hardware-based security features to secure data and ensure system integrity.
- NVRAM controller. Non-volatile RAM that retains its information when the power is turned off, often used for storing BIOS/UEFI settings.