By Stephen Bucaro
Although most people think the microprocessor is the most important part on a computers
motherboard, the "chipset" is equally important. The chipset consists of a northbridge
chip that connects the microprocessor to the systems memory and video circuitry, and a
southbridge chip that provides connections to the hard drive, PCI slots and USB ports.
Important features to consider when selecting a chipset are:
1. The Front Side Bus (FSB) speed. The FSB is the bus over which the northbridge chip
communicates with the microprocessor. A faster FSB allows you to use a more powerful microprocessor.
2. The northbridge chip defines the type and speed of memory modules that your motherboard
can utilize. It also defines the speed of your video (AGP) interface. Does the chip have
on-board video circuitry, or will you be required to install a video card?
3. The southbridge chip defines your hard disk drive interface and what I/O features
your motherboard will have. Does it provide a parallel (ATA) interface or a serial (SATA)
interface, and what is the speed? Does it provide on-board modem and networking circuitry,
or will you be required to install expansions cards?
4. The northbridge to southbridge communication speed. Your hard disk drive is controlled
by the southbridge chip. The microprocessor is connected to the northbridge chip (by the FSB).
Obviously, if the northbridge and southbridge chips can't communicate with each other at
high speed, you have a bottleneck.
Via was founded in 1997. Via introduced the VP1 chipset to compete with Intel's 430 series.
The VP1 offered support for EDO, BEDO and SDRAM as well as UltraDMA ahead of Intel.
Today Via is one of the worlds largest chipset manufacturers and Via's chipsets are competitive
with the most advanced technology in the market.