So now you know about the socket of a motherboard, and you even picked one for yourself! Magnificent! Next step – chipset. And what is a chipset of a motherboard? I’ll explain, that is a really interesting thing!
(if you don’t know about the socket, just go back to the previous article:
and then return to that one. There is no hurry!)
Chipset – the foundation of capabilities of a motherboard!
Just like I stated in my article about the basics of a motherboard,
“Chipset is a microprocessor set of circuits for the interaction of the central processor with the rest of the electronic component of the computer.”
Nowadays chipsets consist of two parts:
- southbridge (responsible for slower functions of computer system) – handles all of a computer’s input/output (I/O) functions, such as USB, audio, serial, the system BIOS, the ISA bus, the interrupt controller and the IDE channels.
- northbridge (responsible for high-speed functions of computer system) – handles communications among the CPU, RAM, and PCI Express (or AGP) video cards, and the southbridge.
The northbridge also plays an important part in how far a computer can be overclocked, as its frequency is commonly used as a baseline for the CPU to establish its own operating frequency.
This chip typically gets hotter as processor speed becomes faster, requiring more cooling – if you will want to overclock your processor really hard, make sure that you have some great cooling solution for your chipset – or it will turn into an oven!
And I’m not even joking, my dear – I have seen a lot of burned motherboard because of the recklessness of their owners!
One of them even had my direct warning about bad cooling of his system!
Be smarter than them, please.
Alright, now we will dive into the classes of chipsets.
You may have seen designation like “H110”, “Q170”, “Z270”, etc.
Now you will understand what these Enigmas encrypted codes mean.
The classification of chipsets – H***, B***, P***, Z***, A***, Q***, X***…
Oh my gosh, why there are so many letters?!
Of course, manufacturers of processors (currently only AMD and Intel for desktop processors) are responsible not only for creating processors but also for creating a baseline for motherboards.
First of all in the creation of chipsets that provide support for new processors are interested manufacturers of processors itself. Therefore, the leading manufacturers of processors produce test kits (the so-called reference chipsets), especially for motherboard manufacturers.
After running tests on such chipsets, new motherboard series are given to different manufacturers.
So, AMD and Intel supply manufacturers of motherboards with needed components and blueprints, and then manufacturers of motherboards create their variations of motherboards for given references. And only AMD and Intel responsible for types of chipsets produced for a specific generation of processors.
And they specially produce different chipsets with different capabilities to cover the needs of each consumer – from a modest user that don’t need that much power from their computer (for example, simple multimedia PC, or office PC) to enthusiasts that want to have Ultra-Super-Powerful-Beast kind of machine.
Chipsets have a special system of names:
Intel and AMD currently both use this system, but they use a different implementation of this system.
See for yourself below!
Intel naming system – Why use 3 letters when you can use 5?
Intel naming system is simple, but, in my opinion, it could be even simpler.
They use 5 letters for usual desktop sockets and another 1 for special high-performance server-like sockets.
H – the cheapest chipset that has minimal capabilities, good to use with Pentiums, Celerons and Core i3.
B – low-middle chipset, have little bit more capabilities than H. Not really useful – H or B is better for its price.
P – middle chipset, an excellent choice for Core i5 Series.
Q – medium-high chipset, good for Core i7 Series if you don’t plan to overclock it.
Z – high-level chipset, the only one WITH full capabilities for overclocking. Good for Core i7 and Core i9 processors.
And, of course, high-performance chipset (this one, of course, have even bigger capabilities for overclocking than his younger brother Z. And bigger capabilities in every other aspect too):
X – well, there is only one consumer chipset for each of these sockets (LGA 1366, LGA 2011, LGA 2011-v3, LGA 2066
), so you will not make mistake here =)
AMD naming scheme – almost perfect! Almost…
AMD currently has a very simple system of naming – they use only 3 letters for all chipsets, even high-performance ones.
And in my opinion, they could use 4 letters to provide full clarity to their products. I’ll explain it now.
AMD uses 3 letters:
A – the cheapest chipset, the only one WITHOUT full overclocking abilities. Yes, my dear friend – AMD is opposite of Intel in that regard (and not only is that regard…). This chipset is perfect for Ryzen 3 Series and everything weaker than Ryzen 3 (Athlon Series, APU A-Series, etc.)
B – middle-level chipset, good for Ryzen 5 Series (you can overclock that processor to a good extent with this chipset).
X – high and high-end chipsets. Here is why this system of naming is almost perfect:
AMD use X letter both for AM4 socket (X370, X470, X570) and for TR4 Socket (X399).
In my opinion, they should have used different letters for these two sockets.
Anyway, X chipset for AM4 provides maximum capabilities and good to use with Ryzen 7 Series. You can also buy this chipset for Ryzen 3-5 Series processor if you want a system with upgrade potential and you absolutely know that you will buy Ryzen 7/9 Series a little bit later.
X for TR4 is the only chipset for this high-performing socket. Yes, just like with Intel.
You can’t make mistake when choosing from X399 and X399 – but be careful, you can make mistake with choosing AM4 X370/470/570 chipset for TR4 X399 processor!
If you will filter motherboards by socket on any online shop of computer hardware, it will show you chipsets only for this socket, so don’t worry:
You will get it right.
There are currently 3 generations of AM4-based chipsets on the market. Models beginning with the number “3” are instances of the first generation, with the number “4” — the second generation and so on…
As I know, they will use this scheme of naming at least to 2020 (I will update this guide in case of any changes)
Alright, I got that. But what chipset to choose?
Oh, that is actually pretty easy. I already indirectly told that, but now I will tell that clearly.
Each of these recommendations is based on my experience with motherboards.
If you want to build a cheap and small performance system:
Use H chipset for processors like Intel Celeron, Pentium or Core i3 processor.
If you want a medium performance system:
Use P chipset with Intel Core i5 processor.
If you want a high-performance system, but don’t want to overclock it:
Use Q chipset with Intel Core i7 processor.
If you want a system with upgrade capabilities because you currently need to buy less powerful processor (Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5) now, and then you will replace it with more powerful one (Core i5, Core i7, Core i9):
P chipset for these kinds of upgrade: (Celeron, Pentium, Core i3 -> Core i5)
Q chipset for these kinds of upgrade: (Core i3 / i5 -> Core i7)
Z chipset for these kinds of upgrade: (Core i3 / i5 -> Core i7 / i9)
But please, don’t buy Q/Z chipsets for Celerons and Pentiums – this is just irrational, your motherboard will cost much more than the processor that you will put in it.
If you want a high-performance system, but WANT to overclock it:
Use Z chipset with Intel Core i7,i9 processors.
If you want the beast, extremely high performance (WARNING: this extreme performance cost an EXTREME amount of money):
Use X chipset with the corresponding processor.
If you want to build a cheap and small performance system:
Use A chipset with Ryzen 3 Processor.
If you want to build a medium performance system:
Use B chipset with Ryzen 5 processor.
If you want to build a high-performance system:
Use X [AM4 socket: X370, X470, X570…] chipset with Ryzen 7/9 processor.
If you want to build an extremely high-performance system:
Use X [TR4 socket: X399] chipset with Ryzen Threadripper processor.
If you want to build a system with good upgrade capabilities for a later upgrade of a processor:
B chipset for these kinds of upgrade: (Ryzen 3 -> Ryzen 5)
X [AM4 socket: X370, X470, X570…]chipsetfor these kinds of upgrade: (Ryzen 3/5 -> Ryzen 7/9)
So, what is next?
Great, now you know about chipsets! This is very good, chipsets can be very confusing for not-so-experienced users because of their abundance and naming.
Reminder: If you don’t sure about the compatibility of some chipset with your chosen socket, you can always search it or use a filter in an online shop.
In the next article, we will talk about PCI-Express and PCI slots in a motherboard: what to know about them when choosing a motherboard?
And that is all for now. Just as always, I hope that this article helped you a lot, my wonderful reader.
If you don’t understand something in this article or something about chipsets in general, then use comments to ask a question.
I will answer any question with great pleasure and will be more than happy to help anyone.
And if you just enjoyed this article, you can leave your opinion in the comments too – every opinion of my readers is very important to me!
I wish you all the best and remember:
Computer technology is not rocket science!