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chipsetPC chipset, or chip set refers to a group of integrated circuits, or chips, that are designed to work together. They are usually marketed as a single product


A chipset is usually designed to work with a specific family of microprocessors, Because it controls communications between the processor and external devices, the chipset plays a crucial role in determining system performance.

In computing, the term chipset is commonly used to refer to a set of specialized chips on a computer's motherboard or an expansion card. In personal computers, the first chipset for the IBM PC AT was the NEAT chipset by Chips and Technologies for the Intel 80286 CPU

Diagram of a motherboard chipset

A part of an IBM T42 laptop motherboard. CPU: Central processing unit. NB: Northbridge. GPU: Graphics processing unit. SB: Southbridge.

In home computers, game consoles and arcade game hardware of the 1980s and 1990s, the term chipset was used for the custom audio andgraphics chips. Examples include the Commodore Amiga's Original Chip Set or SEGA's System 16chipset.

Based on Intel Pentium-classmicroprocessors, the term chipsetoften refers to a specific pair of chips on the motherboard: thenorthbridge and the southbridge. The northbridge links the CPU to very high-speed devices, especiallymain memory and graphics controllers, and the southbridge connects to lower-speed peripheral buses (such as PCI or ISA). In many modern chipsets, the southbridge contains some on-chip integrated peripherals, such as EthernetUSB, and audio devices.

The manufacturer of a chipset often is independent from the manufacturer of the motherboard. Current manufacturers of chipsets for x86motherboards include AMDBroadcomIntelNVIDIASiS and VIA TechnologiesApple computers and Unix workstations have traditionally used custom-designed chipsets. Some server manufacturers also develop custom chipsets for their products.

In the 1980s, Chips and Technologies pioneered the manufacturing of chipsets for PC-compatible computers. Computer systems produced since then often share commonly used chipsets, even across widely disparate computing specialties. For example, the NCR 53C9x, a low-cost chipset implementing a SCSI interface to storage devices, could be found in Unix machines such as the MIPS Magnum, embedded devices, and personal computers.

Recent developments

Traditionally, in both AMD and Intel variations, the processor is coupled with two other integrated circuits: the northbridge, which is responsible for communications with high-speed devices, such as memory and graphics cards; and the southbridge, which implements comparatively low speed peripherals, such as USB, parallel and serial communications. The lanes connecting the processor and system memory are known as the front side bus (FSB). The interface between the CPU and graphics device(s), whether AGP, PCI or integrated into the motherboard, is directly controlled by the northbridge IC. In 2003, AMD introduced the Athlon 64-bit processor[1]which, in addition to introducing 64-bit CPUs to the PC market, integrated the memory controller into the CPU, allowing direct communication between the processor and memory, a protocol termed "HyperTransport". Intel followed suit in 2008 with the release of its Core i[x] series CPUs; Intel dubbed the new, faster interconnect between CPU and system memory as "QuickPath". On new Intel-based motherboards, the whole purpose of the northbridge is to provide an interface between the CPU and graphics card(s). In some newer Intel configurations, the northbridge and southbridge have been consolidated into a single IC, the "Platform Controller Hub" (PCH), effectively an enhanced southbridge. Some Intel and AMD CPUs have also included a GPU onboard (so-called APUs), though external graphics adapters are still allowed or even crossfireable (with AMD APUs). In this case, the PCH retains southbridge functions for lower rate peripherals.

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