What is a Chipset?
The chipset contains all of the circuitry for the motherboard to function. Without the chipset, the motherboard would merely consist of a number of slots and components with no way to communicate with each other electronically. While the chipset does not describe the actual paths taken by electrical communication on the motherboard (we will discuss bus architecture later), the chipset contains the electronic components such as processor interfaces, memory controllers, bus controllers, I/O controllers and the like.
The original AT motherboard contained hundreds of transistors, capacitors, and resistors to serve these functions. This made motherboard manufacture difficult and expensive. The modern chipset is a consolidation of all these components into just a few chips; anywhere from one to five on a typical motherboard, although most modern motherboards contain only one or two chips in its chipset. Since chipsets are a standardization of circuit design, they can speed up the manufacturing process and allow interoperability between CPUs made by different vendors.
The story of motherboard development is really the story of chipset development. The chipset must support any component advances that are made otherwise adding that component to a particular motherboard will be ineffective. For example, if a chipset does not support ATA 100/133 interfaces (older ATA hard drives had transfer speeds of only 33 to 66 MB/sec) then your system will only operate at those slower transfer rates regardless of the rate your hard drive is designed to produce. Chipsets along with the central processing unit chip are the heart and soul of your motherboard. If you want to upgrade your chipset, it is necessary to upgrade the motherboard. Chipsets are not only integrated making it difficult to upgrade but also most manufacturers stop carrying older model chipsets once motherboard technology has advanced.
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