A chipset, PC chipset, or chip set refers to a group of integrated circuit
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

s, 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
Computing is usually defined as the activity of using and improving computer hardware and software. It is the computer-specific part of information technology...

, the term chipset is commonly used to refer to a set of specialized chips on a computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

's motherboard
In personal computers, a motherboard is the central printed circuit board in many modern computers and holds many of the crucial components of the system, providing connectors for other peripherals. The motherboard is sometimes alternatively known as the mainboard, system board, or, on Apple...

 or an expansion card
Expansion card
The expansion card in computing is a printed circuit board that can be inserted into an expansion slot of a computer motherboard or backplane to add functionality to a computer system via the expansion bus.One edge of the expansion card holds the contacts that fit exactly into the slot...

. In personal computer
Personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

s, the first chipset for the IBM PC AT
IBM Personal Computer/AT
The IBM Personal Computer AT, more commonly known as the IBM AT and also sometimes called the PC AT or PC/AT, was IBM's second-generation PC, designed around the 6 MHz Intel 80286 microprocessor and released in 1984 as machine type 5170...

 was the NEAT chipset by Chips and Technologies
Chips and Technologies
Chips and Technologies was the first fabless semiconductor company, a model developed by its founder Gordon Campbell. Founded by Dado Banatao.Its first product was an EGA IBM compatible graphics chip...

 for the Intel 80286
Intel 80286
The Intel 80286 , introduced on 1 February 1982, was a 16-bit x86 microprocessor with 134,000 transistors. Like its contemporary simpler cousin, the 80186, it could correctly execute most software written for the earlier Intel 8086 and 8088...

In home computer
Home computer
Home computers were a class of microcomputers entering the market in 1977, and becoming increasingly common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user...

s, game consoles and arcade game hardware of the 1980s and 1990s, the term chipset was used for the custom audio
Sound recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

 and graphics
Graphics are visual presentations on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, computer screen, paper, or stone to brand, inform, illustrate, or entertain. Examples are photographs, drawings, Line Art, graphs, diagrams, typography, numbers, symbols, geometric designs, maps, engineering drawings,or...

 chips. Examples include the Commodore Amiga's Original Chip Set
Original Amiga chipset
The Original Chip Set was a chipset used in the earliest Commodore Amiga computers and defined the Amiga's graphics and sound capabilities...

 or SEGA
, usually styled as SEGA, is a multinational video game software developer and an arcade software and hardware development company headquartered in Ōta, Tokyo, Japan, with various offices around the world...

's System 16 chipset.

Based on Intel Pentium-class microprocessor
A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

s, the term chipset often refers to a specific pair of chips on the motherboard: the northbridge
Northbridge (computing)
The northbridge has historically been one of the two chips in the core logic chipset on a PC motherboard, the other being the southbridge. Increasingly these functions have migrated to the CPU chip itself, beginning with memory and graphics controllers. For Intel Sandy Bridge and AMD Fusion...

and the southbridge
Southbridge (computing)
The southbridge is one of the two chips in the core logic chipset on a personal computer motherboard, the other being the northbridge. The southbridge typically implements the slower capabilities of the motherboard in a northbridge/southbridge chipset computer architecture. In Intel chipset...

. The northbridge links the CPU to very high-speed devices, especially main memory and graphics controllers, and the southbridge connects to lower-speed peripheral buses (such as PCI or ISA
Industry Standard Architecture
Industry Standard Architecture is a computer bus standard for IBM PC compatible computers introduced with the IBM Personal Computer to support its Intel 8088 microprocessor's 8-bit external data bus and extended to 16 bits for the IBM Personal Computer/AT's Intel 80286 processor...

). In many modern chipsets, the southbridge contains some on-chip integrated peripherals, such as Ethernet
Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies for local area networks commercially introduced in 1980. Standardized in IEEE 802.3, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies....

, USB, and audio devices.

The manufacturer of a chipset often is independent from the manufacturer of the motherboard. Current manufacturers of chipsets for x86 motherboards include NVIDIA
Nvidia is an American global technology company based in Santa Clara, California. Nvidia is best known for its graphics processors . Nvidia and chief rival AMD Graphics Techonologies have dominated the high performance GPU market, pushing other manufacturers to smaller, niche roles...

, AMD, VIA Technologies
VIA Technologies
VIA Technologies is a Taiwanese manufacturer of integrated circuits, mainly motherboard chipsets, CPUs, and memory, and is part of the Formosa Plastics Group. It is the world's largest independent manufacturer of motherboard chipsets...

, SiS
- Places :* Sis * Sis, Armenia, a town* Sis, Azerbaijan, a village* Sis, Iran, a city* Kozan, Adana, Sis in Armenian* Mountains of Sis, a range of the Pre-Pyrenees- Other :...

, Intel and Broadcom
Broadcom Corporation is a fabless semiconductor company in the wireless and broadband communication business. The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, USA. Broadcom was founded by a professor-student pair Henry Samueli and Henry T. Nicholas III from the University of California, Los...

. Apple computers and Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 workstations have traditionally used custom-designed chipsets. Some server
Server (computing)
In the context of client-server architecture, a server is a computer program running to serve the requests of other programs, the "clients". Thus, the "server" performs some computational task on behalf of "clients"...

 manufacturers also develop custom chipsets for their products.

In the 1980s, Chips and Technologies
Chips and Technologies
Chips and Technologies was the first fabless semiconductor company, a model developed by its founder Gordon Campbell. Founded by Dado Banatao.Its first product was an EGA IBM compatible graphics chip...

, founded by Gordon Campbell, 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
NCR 53C9x
The NCR 53C9x is a family of application-specific integrated circuits produced by the former NCR Corporation for implementing the SCSI protocol in hardware. The 53C9x is a low-cost solution and was therefore widely adopted by OEMs in various motherboard and peripheral device designs...

, a low-cost chipset implementing a SCSI
Small Computer System Interface is a set of standards for physically connecting and transferring data between computers and peripheral devices. The SCSI standards define commands, protocols, and electrical and optical interfaces. SCSI is most commonly used for hard disks and tape drives, but it...

 interface to storage devices, could be found in Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 machines such as the MIPS Magnum
MIPS Magnum
The MIPS Magnum was a line of computer workstations designed by MIPS Computer Systems, Inc. and based on the MIPS series of RISC microprocessors. The first Magnum was released in March, 1990, and production of various models continued until 1993 when SGI bought MIPS Technologies. SGI cancelled the...

, embedded devices, and personal computers.

Recent Developments

Modern x86 CPUs from both Intel and AMD have fully integrated all northbridge functionality onto the CPU itself to reduce cost, power consumption and space. System on a chip designs such as the Nvidia Tegra have eliminated the need for the southbridge as well. Therefore northbridge-southbridge sets are no longer as common as they once were.

See also

  • Very-large-scale integration
    Very-large-scale integration
    Very-large-scale integration is the process of creating integrated circuits by combining thousands of transistors into a single chip. VLSI began in the 1970s when complex semiconductor and communication technologies were being developed. The microprocessor is a VLSI device.The first semiconductor...

     or VLSI
  • List of Intel chipsets
  • Comparison of AMD chipsets
    Comparison of AMD chipsets
    This is a comparison of chipsets sold under the brand AMD, manufactured before May 2004 by the company itself, before the adoption of open platform approach as well as chipsets manufactured by ATI Technologies after July 2006 as the completion of the ATI acquisition.- AMD-xxx :- A-Link Express II...

  • Comparison of ATI chipsets
    Comparison of ATI chipsets
    -Comparison of Northbridges:Note 1: A-Link Express and A-Link Express II is essentially PCI-Express x4 lanes, so that any PCI Express capable southbridge can be used ....

  • Comparison of Nvidia chipsets
    Comparison of Nvidia chipsets
    - nForce :- nForce2 :- nForce3 :- For AMD processors :- For Intel processors :- nForce 500 Series :- For AMD processors :- For Intel processors :- For AMD processors :- For Intel processors :- nForce 900 :- nForce Professional :...

  • VIA chipsets
    VIA chipsets
    -Socket 7:AMD licensed the VIA Apollo VP2/97 core logic architecture as its AMD 640 chipset.- Socket 370 and Slot 1 :* ProSavage PM133 - Graphics core from S3, derived from a combination of the 3D component of Savage4 and 2D from Savage 2000....

  • Silicon Integrated Systems
    Silicon Integrated Systems
    Silicon Integrated Systems is a company that manufactures, among other things, motherboard chipsets. The company was founded in 1987 in Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan.-Business:...

  • Acer Laboratories Incorporated
    Acer Laboratories Incorporated
    Acer Laboratories Incorporated is a major designer and manufacturer of integrated circuits for the personal computer and embedded systems markets. It is a subsidiary of the Acer group....

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