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Chipsets

The principal chips on the motherboard that work in conjunction with the processor are known collectively as a chipset. These allow certain features on the computer. For example, chipsets control the maximum amount of motherboard memory, the type of RAM chips, the motherboard’s capacity for two or more CPUs, and whether the motherboard supports the latest version of PCIe. Common chipset manufacturers include Intel, VIA Technologies, ATI technologies (now owned by AMD), Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS), AMD, and NVIDIA Corporation.

The chipset is a square integrated circuit and looks similar to a processor. You normally can’t see this because the chipset is soldered to the motherboard and commonly covered with a heat sink. Look for the chipset close to the processor as shown in Figure 3.36.

Figure 3.36

Figure 3.36 The Intel Z97 chipset

Usually, a chipset goes with a particular processor and determines which memory chips a motherboard can have. Chipsets determine a lot about what a motherboard can allow or support. The chipset coordinates traffic to and from motherboard components and the CPU. When buying a motherboard, pick a proper processor and a good chipset. Figure 3.37 shows the Intel 975X chipset.

Figure 3.37

Figure 3.37 The Intel 975X chipset connectivity

Notice in Figure 3.37 the MCH (memory controller hub). This important chip, sometimes called the north bridge, connects directly to an older Intel CPU. On a motherboard that has a newer AMD or Intel CPU, the MCH would be incorporated into the CPU. Also notice the iCH7R chip. The ICH (I/O controller hub), also known as the south bridge, is a chip that controls what features, ports, and interfaces the motherboard supports.

Figure 3.38 shows the Z170 chipset, which connects to one of Intel’s Core processors that has an integrated GPU. Notice how the processor handles things that were previously handled by the MCH part of a chipset.

Figure 3.38

Figure 3.38 Intel Z170 chipset connectivity

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