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Chipset definition

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.

Chipset uses

  • 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.

Chipset components

  • 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.