Future foundation

If you're planning an upgrade or are building a new rig from scratch, read on as WINDOWS details DDR3 RAM, Intel's new DDR3-ready chipsets and processors...

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  September 30, 2007

If you're planning an upgrade or are building a new rig from scratch, read on as WINDOWS details DDR3 RAM, Intel's new DDR3-ready chipsets and processors...

Chipping in

Each and every motherboard is powered by a specific chipset and this governs everything it is capable of. Read on to learn about the latest and greatest models...

The motherboard is the most important part of your PC because it contains a chip, or a pair of chips, known commonly as a core-logic-chipset (or chipset for short). This enables each and every component and peripheral to communicate with each other.

Most chipsets comprise two chips known as the Northbridge and Southbridge. These are connected to each other via a high-speed interface, allowing the components connected to each chip to communicate with each other. The CPU, memory, graphics interface (PCI-E, AGP or even PCI) are connected to the Northbridge, while the Southbridge links the PCI bus, which includes devices such as soundcards, interrupt controller, Serial ATA or Parallel ATA controller, and more, to the Northbridge.

Bearlake growls into existence

Back in our July issue, we reported on Intel's Bearlake family of chipsets, which are compatible with all the firm's existing and upcoming Core 2 CPUs. Now that Intel has begun mass producing its chipsets and selling them to vendors, motherboards using these are now widely available.

At the time of going to press, Intel was producing four variants of its Bearlake family known as the G33 Express, G35 Express, P35 Express and lastly the X38.

Although there are a number of differences between each of these chipsets, they do share some common traits. All of these variants for instance offer 333MHz FSB (Front Side Bus) support. As Intel's FSB is quad-pumped, the effective frequency is actually 1333MHz. This is important because the faster a bus, the faster a CPU can communicate with other components, thus improving overall system performance. Intel has unleashed a number of new processors which take advantage of this bus.

The next common trait across the new chipset family (with the sole exception of the G35 Express) is support for faster DDR3 (Double Data Rate) memory. The 1333MHz DDR3 memory is ideally suited to the new FSB because having both running at identical speeds removes data transfer bottlenecks and again improves overall system performance. In comparison, even the fastest, most expensive, DDR2 memory that is current available tops out at around 1200MHz, which means the CPU would have to wait for the memory to catch up and supply the data it needs, thus slowing things down.

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