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Intel Embedded Chipset

A chipset, one of the core components of computer motherboards, maximizes the integration of complex circuits and components within a few chips. The chipset determines the functions, level, and grade of the motherboard. If it fails to work correctly with the CPU, the chipset seriously affects overall performance and can even cause hardware failure. If the CPU or microprocessor is the brain, the chipset is the nervous system of the device.

A typical example of a computer system structure is shown in Figure 2-5. The CPU is connected to the main memory RAM, graphics, and other components through FSB, which has high frequency. The network adapter and other components are connected to a medium-speed bus (PCI bus with much lower frequency than FSB). North Bridge (the host bridge chip) realizes the connection of high-speed FSB and the medium-speed bus. Low-speed devices, such as COM, LPT, and USB, as well as the lower-speed ISA bus,

are connected to the low-speed bus through South Bridge (the standard bus bridge chip).

Figure 2-5. Example of computer system architecture

Variations on this architecture include, for example, computers with no ISA bus. North Bridge and South Bridge are integrated in some Intel Atom series of processors, as specified in subsequent sections. The system architecture in Figure 2-5 can help you understand the main components of the chipset and their functions.

Tip PCI and ISA the two types of pC bus standards are pCI and ISa. Peripheral Component Interconnect (pCI) is the standard for the local bus and was launched by Intel in 1992. pCI buses are either 32-bit or 64-bit, and 33 mhz or 66 mhz in speed. a 32-bit, 33 mhz pCI bus has a bandwidth of 32/8 × 33 mhz = 132 mb/s. Industry Standard architecture (ISa) is based on the Ibm pC bus and is the bus standard developed in the early 1980s. the bus has a width of 8/16 bits and an operating frequency of 8 mhz, which are far below pCI. most new computers do not support the ISa bus.

The main chips in the chipset and their functions are as follows:

North Bridge chip: Determines the type of CPU, clock speed, bus frequency of the motherboard system, type of memory, maximum capacity, performance, graphics slot specifications (ISA/PCI/AGP slot), ECC error correction support, and so on. North Bridge plays a leading role in the chipset, so it is also known as the host bridge.

South Bridge chip: The South Bridge chip provides the support for the keyboard controller (KBC), real-time clock controller (RTC), Universal Serial Bus (USB), Ultra DMA/33 (66) EIDE data transmission mode, advanced energy management (ACPI), and so on. It determines the type and quantity of expansion slots and expansion interface (such as USB2.0/1.1, IEEE1394, serial port, parallel port, and VGA output interface of a notebook).

South Bridge is also known as the standard bus bridge.

Other chips: Some chipsets combine a 3D acceleration display (integrated graphics chip), AC'97 audio decoding, and other functions, and determine the display performance and audio playback performance of the computer system.

The latest Intel Atom processor includes a seventh-generation Intel GPU with burst technology to provide an improved graphics and media experience. The new processor supports high-resolution displays up to 2,560 × 1,600 at 60 Hz and supports Intel Wireless (Intel WiDi) technology through Miracast. Seamless video playback is supported by

high-performance, low-power hardware acceleration of media encode and decode.

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