Motherboards & Core-Logic Chipsets: The Deep Stuff
- Oct 22, 2004
- What the North Bridge and South Bridge Do
- Mobo Integration Madness
- What We Look for When Testing Motherboards
- How We Test Motherboards
- Careful Considerations for New Mobos
- Our Top Pentium 4 Chipsets: Intel's 875P and 865PE
- Also Solid: ATI's Radeon 9100 IGP
- Pentium 4 Chipset Pretenders
- Our P4 Mobo Recommendations
- The Back Story: Summer of Athlon XP
- Enter the 64-bit Chipset
- Why Hasn't Intel Integrated the Memory Controller?
- Looking to Overclock?
- Looking Ahead: Future Chipsets & Mobos
- VIA Makes Its Move
- Prepare for BTX
- New Sockets Forthcoming
The foundation of the PC remains steadyand fast. But changes are on the way.
Figure 3.1 Intel's 875P chipset, pictured here, is the one to have if you're in the market. Not only is it feature laden and right quick, it should support Intel's next-gen processors as well.
The CPU and case enclosure usually dominate the spotlight, but the most important decision to be made when building a PC is choosing which chipset and motherboard your new PC will be built upon.
The motherboardwe often call it a "mobo" for shortis the unsung hero of the modern PC, and is the single most important component because it determines all other hardware selections as well as upgrade options.
The biggest mistake a budding PC enthusiast can make is to underestimate the importance of a well-designed, properly configured motherboard. A PC's motherboard is the technological equivalent of Grand Central Stationvirtually everything in the computer connects to it, and in order for your PC to "do" anything the commands always have to be routed through the motherboard. A motherboard determines all future upgrading options, limits how much performance you'll ever extract from your rig, and is the number one factor in your system's overall level of stability.
Upon close examination of a motherboard, you will note two distinct pieces of silicon. One is near the top of the motherboard and the other is near the bottom. These two chips are called the "core-logic chipset," and they really run the show. One of these chips controls things on the top half of the motherboard, while the other handles the data communications of the bottom half. Together they comprise all the features and elements that are "onboard," meaning that they're already on the motherboard. Integrated, onboard features include a LAN port, modem, audio, and even a wireless access point!
What the North Bridge and South Bridge Do
All of the communication between components connected to a motherboard occurs through the board's core logic chipset, which is composed of two chipsthe north bridge and the south bridge. The north bridge chip resides near the top of the motherboard, next to the CPU socket, and serves as a four-way intersection connecting the CPU, memory, video card (AGP) bus, and its partner, the south bridge chip. The south bridge chip resides at the bottom of the motherboard, and allows plugged-in devices such as network cards or modems to communicate with the CPU and the memory. The south bridge handles most of a motherboard's "value-added" featuressuch as the IDE controller, USB controller, and onboard sound and Ethernet.