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Intel Chipset History

Intel Intros 3-Series Chipsets with FSB1333 and DDR3
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There have been numerous Intel chipsets over the last years. We decided to compile the following table based on the most important milestones for discrete graphics chipsets, starting with the first SDRAM chipset for the Pentium 4 (2001).

Chipset Intel 845 Intel 865/875 Intel 915/925 Intel 945/955/975 Intel 965
Introduction 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006
Code Name Brookdale Springdale/Canterwood Grantsdale/Alderwood Lakeport/Glenwood Broadwater
Review on Tom's First Look At Brookdale - Intel's 845 Chipset
Intel Goes DDR - Do We Really Care?
Intel Rigs Up: P4 Series With FSB800 Intel Stakes Its Vision Of The Future With 775 Launch Intel's 955X Dual Core Chipset
Intel Goes Dual Graphics With 975X Chipset
Intel or Nvidia? Nforce 680i Challenges P965 and 975X
Socket 478 478 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775
Processor Support Pentium 4, Celeron Pentium 4, Celeron Pentium 4, Celeron Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron D Core 2, Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron D
Processor Generation Support 130 nm Northwood 130 nm Northwood, 90 nm Prescott 90 nm Prescott 90 nm Prescott, Smithfield 90 nm Prescott, Smithfield, 65 nm Conroe
System Speed FSB400, FSB533 FSB533, FSB800 FSB533, FSB800 FSB533, FSB800, FSB1066 FSB533, FSB800, FSB1066
Memory Controller PC133 SDRAM, DDR266 Dual DDR333, DDR400 Dual DDR400, DDR2-533 Dual DDR2-667 Dual DDR2-800
Graphics Interface AGP 4X AGP 8X PCI Express x16 PCI Express x16 PCI Express x16
Max. Memory 2 GB 4 GB 4 GB 8 GB 8 GB
Southbridge ICH2 (82801BA), ICH4 (82801DB) - 421 balls ICH5 (82801EB) - 460 balls ICH6 (82801FB) - 652 balls ICH7 (82801 GB) - 652 balls ICH8 (82801HB) - 652 balls
USB Ports 4x USB / 6x USB 2.0 8x USB 2.0
UltraATA/100 2 channels 2 channels 2 channels 1 channel 1 channel
RAID Support none RAID 0 RAID 0, 1 (ICH6-R)
Serial ATA none 2x Serial ATA/150 4x Serial ATA/150 4x Serial ATA/300 6x Serial ATA/300
Audio AC97 2.1 AC97 2.3 HD Audio HD Audio HD Audio
Networking via PCI via CSA interface or PCI via PCI Express via PCI Express integrated GbE
Model Variations 845D (DDR memory), 845G/GL (w/ graphics), 845G, GE, PE, GV (DDR333) 865G (graphics), 865PE (FSB800), 848P (single-channel memory), 865GV (integrated graphics only) 915G (graphics), 915PL (max. 2 GB DDR400), 915GL (max. DDR400 w/ graphics), 915GV (integrated graphics only) , 910GL (FSB533 and integrated graphics only), 925XE (FSB1066) 945G (graphics), 945PL (max. FSB800), 945GL (max. FSB800 w/ integrated graphics), 945GZ (max. FSB800 and integrated graphics only) G965 (graphics), Q965 (graphics, management)

The first 845 chipset (Brookdale) was introduced at a time when Intel still relied on PC800 Rambus DRAM (RDRAM). At this time, the i850 chipset (Tehama) was used for high end computers, utilizing dual channel RDRAM memory. PC800 RDRAM at 400 MHz provided a 3.2 GB/s memory bandwidth, but it was expensive and didn't deliver performance that met the expectations. The first 845 chipset utilized PC133 SDRAM and was the first to support Pentium 4 processors on Socket 478 rather than Socket 423. Intel quickly followed up with the 845D, supporting DDR2-266 RAM, which offered better memory performance and thus was capable of replacing the 850E chipset.

At that time, Intel was fighting against AMD's Athlon, which did very well, while the Pentium 4 couldn't beat the Athlon XP family until the 865 and 875 chipsets (Springdale, Canterwood) and faster processors (with 3 GHz and faster clockspeeds) were released in 2003. These platforms were the first to offer dual-channel DDR-400 memory, increasing the bus speed from 133 to 200 MHz quad-pumped (FSB800), which was the best choice even months after the first generation of PCI Express chipsets 915 and 925 (Grantsdale and Alderwood) had been introduced in mid-2004. The 900 chipset series replaced the aging AGP 8X graphics interface with the serial PCI Express point-to-point interconnect, which still is the basis for high-end graphics today. Intel also introduced DDR2 memory with the 915 and 925, which did not provide much more performance at DDR2-533 speeds, and their ICH6 Southbridge also offered four additional PCI Express lanes for add-on cards, High Definition Audio and four Serial ATA/150 ports with flexible RAID support. Lastly, the 900 chipset series replaced the 266 MB/s hub interface between Northbridge and Southbridge with the PCI-Express-based Direct Media Interface at 1 GB/s (2 GB/s today).

The chipsets that debuted after the 915 or 925 did not offer groundbreaking capabilities, but they did offer incremental improvements compared to their predecessors. The 925XE was the first product to support FSB1066 speeds (266 MHz bus speed), which was required for the first Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors. 945 and 955 (Lakeport and Glenwood) increased DDR2 memory speed to 333 MHz (DDR2-667); ICH7 added two more PCI Express lanes (six instead of four) and the SATA controller was upgraded to Serial ATA/300. The RAID capabilities now also supported RAID 5, but Intel dropped one of two legacy UltraATA/100 controllers along the way. A 945 or 955 chipset is needed to run a dual-core Pentium D processor.

ICH8 has been the current Southbridge component for the 965 chipset family (Broadwater), which, together with the 975X, is the backbone for Intel's Core 2 processor family. The 965 no longer has an UltraATA controller, and AC97 audio has been discarded in favor of HD Audio solutions (which are very much standard today). ICH8 supports SATA 2.5, including external SATA (eSATA), and it has a built-in Gigabit Ethernet controller. The base model ICH8 supports four SATA ports, but the RAID version ICH8-R offers as many as six.

Each chipset generation has model variations that come with an integrated graphics unit, utilizing parts of the main memory as a local frame buffer. This allows system builders to create low-cost computers for office and basic multimedia purposes, but integrated graphics is incapable of powering any remotely interesting 3D application or game. The 915G and 910G utilizes the GMA900 graphics engine with four pixel pipelines running at 300 MHz, hardware MPEG2 decoding and DirectX 9 support. However, performance of this chipset is inadequate for 3D applications today. The 945G chipset upgraded the graphics core clock of the GMA950 to 400 MHz, but it didn't add all 3D features of Shader Model 3 (DirectX 9.0c). Yet GMA950 offers better support for HD video. Finally, the 965 family introduced the GMA3000 graphics engine, which consists of eight programmable pipelines at 667 MHz for video or graphics calculations.

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