Intel Intros 3-Series Chipsets with FSB1333 and DDR3

Intel Chipset History

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).

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ChipsetIntel 845Intel 865/875Intel 915/925Intel 945/955/975Intel 965
Code NameBrookdaleSpringdale/CanterwoodGrantsdale/AlderwoodLakeport/GlenwoodBroadwater
Review on Tom'sFirst Look At Brookdale - Intel's 845 ChipsetIntel Goes DDR - Do We Really Care?Intel Rigs Up: P4 Series With FSB800Intel Stakes Its Vision Of The Future With 775 LaunchIntel's 955X Dual Core Chipset Intel Goes Dual Graphics With 975X ChipsetIntel or Nvidia? Nforce 680i Challenges P965 and 975X
Processor SupportPentium 4, CeleronPentium 4, CeleronPentium 4, CeleronPentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron DCore 2, Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron D
Processor Generation Support130 nm Northwood130 nm Northwood, 90 nm Prescott90 nm Prescott90 nm Prescott, Smithfield90 nm Prescott, Smithfield, 65 nm Conroe
System SpeedFSB400, FSB533FSB533, FSB800FSB533, FSB800FSB533, FSB800, FSB1066FSB533, FSB800, FSB1066
Memory ControllerPC133 SDRAM, DDR266Dual DDR333, DDR400Dual DDR400, DDR2-533Dual DDR2-667Dual DDR2-800
Graphics InterfaceAGP 4XAGP 8XPCI Express x16PCI Express x16PCI Express x16
Max. Memory2 GB4 GB4 GB8 GB8 GB
SouthbridgeICH2 (82801BA), ICH4 (82801DB) - 421 ballsICH5 (82801EB) - 460 ballsICH6 (82801FB) - 652 ballsICH7 (82801 GB) - 652 ballsICH8 (82801HB) - 652 balls
USB Ports4x USB / 6x USB 2.08x USB 2.0Row 11 - Cell 3 Row 11 - Cell 4 Row 11 - Cell 5
UltraATA/1002 channels2 channels2 channels1 channel1 channel
RAID SupportnoneRAID 0RAID 0, 1 (ICH6-R)Row 13 - Cell 4 Row 13 - Cell 5
Serial ATAnone2x Serial ATA/1504x Serial ATA/1504x Serial ATA/3006x Serial ATA/300
AudioAC97 2.1AC97 2.3HD AudioHD AudioHD Audio
Networkingvia PCIvia CSA interface or PCIvia PCI Expressvia PCI Expressintegrated GbE
Model Variations845D (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.