motherboard circut board close up chips feature

What Is a Motherboard Chipset?

On the subject of motherboards, there may be a whole lot of jargon to wade by. Determining what options you want on a motherboard is not simple, particularly when it seems like somebody is taking one other language.

One of the frequent phrases is “chipset,” which is successfully the core of the motherboard that hyperlinks collectively parts, determines what number of USB ports your motherboard has, how briskly information transfers are, and far more.

However though a chipset controls a lot to do along with your pc, the time period remains to be misunderstood. So, what does “chipset” imply, and how will you examine motherboards utilizing chipset names?

What Is a Motherboard Chipset?

Within the early days of computing, every motherboard got here lined in particular person built-in circuits, with every chip controlling a particular a part of the pc. Over time, engineering innovation condensed the chip design into two chips discovered on the motherboard: the northbridge and the southbridge, so-called for his or her location on the motherboard.

The northbridge sometimes managed the CPU, connecting it to the remainder of the PC parts, reminiscent of your RAM. The southbridge managed issues like SATA and IDE controllers, USB ports, audio, networking, and extra. Together, the northbridge and southbridge had been answerable for all communication between your PC parts. As the 2 chips had merged a substantial amount of different chips into particular specialised roles, they grew to become often known as a “chipset,” actually a set of chips with designated roles.


Now, on fashionable motherboards, you will not discover a northbridge or a southbridge. Lots of the roles the northbridge as soon as carried out at the moment are taken care of by the CPU itself, whereas the remaining roles had been mixed right into a single southbridge-style chip. So, whereas the time period chipset stays and is used to distinguish between totally different motherboard fashions, the chipset’s performance has continued to evolve.

The absolutely built-in chip is named the Platform Controller Hub (PCH)on an Intel motherboard, whereas the AMD model was often known as the Fusion Controller Hub (FCH), although the corporate stopped utilizing this title as continuously after the discharge of its Zen structure.

The place Is the Chipset on a Motherboard?

When the motherboard chipset comprised a northbridge and southbridge, they had been simple to identify on the motherboard. Take the picture under, for instance. The northbridge is pictured alongside the CPU socket.

northbridge on motherboard
Picture Credit score: MaThoRo/Shutterstock

On this older IBM ThinkPad T42 motherboard, you’ll be able to see every factor pictured, with NB denoting the northbridge, SB the southbridge, GPU the graphics processing unit controller, and the CPU socket.

Picture Credit score: Eddau/Wikimedia

On the subject of a contemporary motherboard, many of the chipset is now built-in into the CPU itself. As a substitute of knowledge requests touring from the southbridge to the northbridge after which to your CPU, the PCH or FCH communicates with the CPU immediately, rushing every little thing up within the course of.

Learn how to Examine Motherboard Chipsets

Your motherboard chipset determines the parts you’ll use with or will discover inside your pc. The chipset kind differs between AMD and Intel {hardware} and defines how a lot RAM you should utilize, what number of USB ports you may discover on the motherboard, what number of growth playing cards you should utilize, and far more apart from. Moreover, the chipset may also dictate how a lot a motherboard prices. As with most {hardware}, newer means higher and sometimes dearer, and chipsets aren’t any totally different.

However evaluating motherboard specs and motherboard chipsets can really feel tough. Once more, like most issues in tech, chipsets (and motherboards) carry cryptic names that includes simply letters and numbers. Should you’re not aware of chipset naming schemes, the nomenclature is unlikely to make sense.

Now, more often than not, you are on the lookout for a single letter adopted by a couple of numbers. Each AMD and Intel use the identical chipset naming fashion—A123—though they don’t observe the identical naming scheme. For instance, fashionable Intel chipsets use the letters H, B, Q, Z, W, and Z, such because the Intel Z690 or H610. AMD chipsets use A, B, and X, such because the X570 or A520.

Associated: Widespread Errors That’ll Harm or Wreck Your Motherboard

Breaking Down Intel and AMD Chipset Names

Whereas these letters and numbers apparently haven’t any relationship, they really reveal extra data than you may assume. Sometimes, the letter signifies the extent of efficiency you’ll be able to anticipate from that chipset and by extension, the motherboard and its options. The primary digit signifies the chipset technology, whereas the second two digits are normally efficiency indicators. Nonetheless not sure what is going on on right here? Let’s break down some examples of Intel and AMD chipsets.


  • A: AMD’s entry tier, extra budget-friendly motherboards. For instance, A520.
  • B: Mainstream motherboards for extra severe customers. For instance, B550.
  • X: Excessive-end motherboards for high-performance workstations and lovers. For instance, X570.


  • H: Intel’s entry-tier, extra budget-friendly motherboards. For instance, H610.
  • B: Mainstream motherboards for extra severe customers. For instance, B660.
  • Z: Excessive-end motherboards for high-performance workstations and lovers. For instance, Z690.
  • X: Intel’s highest efficiency tier, for unique use with Intel Excessive {hardware}.

The next letter is an efficient rule of thumb, but it surely is not all the time correct. At the least, it is not with Intel chipsets, as they like to combine and match slightly bit extra between the H and B chipsets, with totally different numbers indicating totally different ranges of efficiency. As a fast instance:

  • The Intel H610 helps no PCIe 4.0 lanes, as much as 8 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and as much as 4 6 Gbit/s SATA ports.
  • The Intel B660 helps as much as 6 PCIe 4.0 lanes, as much as 8 PCIe 3.0 lanes, as much as 4 6 Gbit/s SATA ports, and has Intel Optane reminiscence help.
  • The Intel H670 helps as much as 12 PCIe 4.0 lanes, as much as 12 PCIe 3.0 lanes, as much as eight 6 Gbit/s SATA ports, and has Intel Optane reminiscence help.

So, whereas the H610 carries the “entry-tier” chipset naming scheme, the H670 presents higher efficiency than the “mainstream” B660 chipset. Nevertheless, with each Intel and AMD, the primary digit all the time tells you the chipset technology.

So, How Do You Examine Motherboard Specs? What Motherboard Ought to You Purchase?

The motherboard chipset is a small a part of shopping for a brand new motherboard. Determining what chipset a motherboard is operating is not all the time of use both, and also you is likely to be higher served simply trying immediately on the stats on the facet of a field. Should you’re shopping for a brand new motherboard, you may need one which helps the kind of RAM you are shopping for, be that DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5. Fortunately, you may discover that data on the field or on-line. It is the identical for issues just like the variety of USB ports, its RGB capabilities, the dimensions of the motherboard, and far more.

More often than not, you may work backward to the motherboard. What this implies is that as an alternative of choosing a motherboard (and chipset) first, you are extra more likely to decide a shiny new CPU first to match your finances, then constructing out the remainder of your PC round it. That is in the event you’re constructing a brand new pc, in fact.

So whereas understanding the motherboard chipset gives you an understanding of the extent of efficiency and the {hardware} technology at a look, you may nonetheless need to double-check for the additional data regardless.

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