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The Chipset Guide


UNDER CONSTRUCTION !!!


Intel
430FX | 430HX | 430VX | 430TX | 450GX/KX | 440FX | 440LX

VIA
Apollo VP1 | Apollo VP2 | Apollo VPX | Apollo P6

SiS
5571

Comparison Intel / VIA


It was really time to update this page and there will be quite a few changes in architecture as well. I dropped the idea of a comparison table between the chipsets, because most of my visitors don't really know which feature is important and which not. The new design will list performance facts and include a little summary about the chipset's real world performance as far as it's available.

Intel Chipsets

Intel chipsets have become extremely successful these days, starting with the huge success of the 430 FX or 'Triton' chipset two years ago. Intel was able to sweep away all the competitors and now only VIA and SiS have products to compete with Intel. The big advantage of Intel is firstly of course the fact that they have the best knowledge of their CPUs, they are the most successful semiconductor producer world wide with an extremely high budget to play with. They have also invented the PCI bus and the USB and are now introducing a new bus the AGP - Advanced Graphics Bus. This and its name gives Intel a huge advantage above other chipset producers and so far they have been able to produce the currently fastest chipsets.

Since Intel doesn't like it's competitors in the CPU market very much at all, it of course doesn't include any special support for Cyrix or AMD products in its chipsets. This is the best reason why Intel officially also disapproves to run any of its chipsets at more than 66 MHz bus speed, because it doesn't want to support the 75 MHz bus speed of its competitor Cyrix. Fortunately the Intel chipsets DO run at 75 and even 83 MHz just fine, which gave lots of 6x86 P200+ users the ability to run their CPU on an Intel chipset equipped motherboard.

Although VIA and SiS as well as some other even less successful chipset manufacturers are trying their best to compete with Intel chipsets, also by officially supporting the higher bus speeds and e.g. the Cyrix 6x86 own 'linear burst', the performance of boards with these new chipsets hasn't been able to reach the dimensions of Intel chipset boards. VIA is currently closest to Intel and may be able to catch up with it fairly soon. SiS has still got a way ahead of them, but is now getting back into business with it's P200+ support. Obviously VIA is unable to PR their products as successful as SiS, because their chipsets are superior to SiS chipsets, but less known and used.

The Intel 430 FX Pentium Chipset

Package 4 x PQFP
Dual/Multi CPU Support single CPU only
Max. L2 Cache Size 512 kB - Async. / Sync. / Pipelined Burst
DRAM Support FPM, EDO
Max. DRAM 128 MB - 4 RAS lines
Max. Cacheable DRAM 64 MB
Max. DRAM Read Timings FPM RAM 7-3-3-3
EDO RAM 7-2-2-2
BEDO RAM n/a
SDRAM n/a
DRAM ECC Support no
DRAM Refresh RAS only
No. of CPU Write Buffers 4 QW = 32 Byte
PCI Specification 2.0
Asynchronous PCI Timing n/a
Max. No. of PCI Masters 4
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers 4 DW = 16 Byte
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch 12 DW = 48 Byte / none
USB Support no
ATA-33 Extension no
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing no
DMA Bus Master Support yes
AGP Support no

The 430 FX or 'Triton' chipset was the first Intel chipset to become extremely successful and is responsible for Intel's success to blow away all other competitors like the formerly well known SiS, UMC and ALI. It was the first x86 chipset using EDO RAM and is responsible for EDO being the standard RAM now. Compared to the latest chipsets it's not quite up to the competition anymore, but still a decent performer.

It doesn't have any multi CPU support, no ECC support, only supports memory up to 128 MB and can cache only up to 64 MB of memory. Its PCI and memory performance is less than the performance of the later Intel chipsets, but compared to chipsets from other companies, it's still considerably fast.

The Intel 430 HX Pentium Chipset

Package 1 x PQFP, 1x MBGA
Dual/Multi CPU Support dual
Max. L2 Cache Size 512 kB - Pipelined Burst
DRAM Support FPM, EDO
Max. DRAM 512 MB - 8 RAS lines
Max. Cacheable DRAM 64 MB default, 512 MB with external tag RAM
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM 5-3-3-3
EDO RAM 5-2-2-2
BEDO RAM n/a
SDRAM n/a
DRAM ECC Support yes
DRAM Refresh CAS before RAS
No. of CPU Write Buffers 8 QW = 64 Byte
PCI Specification 2.1
Asynchronous PCI Timing n/a
Max. No. of PCI Masters 4
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers 6 DW = 24 Byte
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch 20 DW = 80 Byte / 22 DW = 88 Byte
USB Support yes
ATA-33 Extension no
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing yes
DMA Bus Master Support yes
AGP Support no

The 430 HX chipset, also called 'Triton 2', includes almost all the features we missed in the 430 FX chipset. It supports up to 512 MB memory, which can be cached completely as long as the motherboard is equipped with a special tag RAM chip, it can be used for dual Pentium systems and supports ECC.

The performance of the 430HX is so far unreached by any other Pentium chipset. This is due to its deep buffers between CPU, PCI and memory and also to its fast DRAM timings. PCI performance as well as memory performance is even faster than the VX chipset, although the VX can use SDRAM and the HX can't.

The only thing we are missing in this chipset is the support of SDRAM. It is otherwise most convenient and can be used in desktop systems as well as in servers, due to the large max. memory, the dual CPU support and ECC.

So far there doesn't seem to be any worthy Intel successor of this chipset, since the upcoming 430 TX chipset doesn't support all the above named special high-end features of the HX chipset.

The Intel 430 VX Pentium Chipset

Package 4 x PQFP
Dual/Multi CPU Support single CPU only
Max. L2 Cache Size 512 kB - Async. / Sync. / Pipelined Burst
DRAM Support FPM, EDO, SDRAM
Max. DRAM 128 MB - 4 RAS lines
Max. Cacheable DRAM 64 MB
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM 6-3-3-3
EDO RAM 6-2-2-2
BEDO RAM n/a
SDRAM 7-1-1-1
DRAM ECC Support no
DRAM Refresh CAS before RAS
No. of CPU Write Buffers 4 QW = 32 Byte
PCI Specification 2.1
Asynchronous PCI Timing n/a
Max. No. of PCI Masters 4
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers 5 DW = 20 Byte
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch 10 DW = 40 Byte / 18 DW = 72 Byte
USB Support yes
ATA-33 Extension no
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing yes
DMA Bus Master Support yes
AGP Support no

The 430 VX chipset was originally designed for low end desktop computers, leaving the 430 HX for the high-end users. It is inferior to the 430 HX chipset in almost every area, but it has got one big ace, the SDRAM support.

No multi CPU support, max. RAM only 128 MB, cacheable only up to 64 MB and no ECC. The buffers between CPU, PCI and memory are smaller than in the 430 HX chipset and the DRAM timings are slower as well. This is the reason, why systems with the VX chipset are a little bit slower than systems with the HX chipset, even when you equip the VX systems with SDRAM. One of the problems of the VX chipset is the slow SDRAM timing of only 7-1-1-1, although 5-1-1-1 would be technically possible from the SDRAM's point of view.

The VX chipset is a decent performer in systems, which don't need more than 64 MB RAM, no dual CPU support and no ECC. It's still faster than any competitor from different chipset manufacturers in real life.

The Intel 430 TX Pentium Chipset

Package 1 x PQFP, 1 x MBGA
Dual/Multi CPU Support no
Max. L2 Cache Size 512 kB - Pipelined Burst
DRAM Support FPM, EDO, SDRAM
Max. DRAM 256 MB - 6 RAS lines
Max. Cacheable DRAM 64 MB (? external tag RAM support ?)
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM 5-3-3-3
EDO RAM 5-2-2-2
BEDO RAM n/a
SDRAM 5-1-1-1
DRAM ECC Support no
DRAM Refresh CAS before RAS
No. of CPU Write Buffers don't know
PCI Specification 2.1
Asynchronous PCI Timing n/a
Max. No. of PCI Masters 5
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers don't know
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch 10 DW = 40 Byte / 18 DW = 72 Byte
USB Support yes
ATA-33 Extension yes
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing yes
DMA Bus Master Support yes
AGP Support no (!!)

My info on the upcoming 430 TX chipset still isn't complete, but I am already pretty sure about the above specs. We all expected a real screamer with this chipset and I only can say, that it seems to be a huge disappointment so far.

The TX chipset seems indeed to be a direct successor to the VX chipset. It still doesn't support ECC, multi CPU and not even more than 64 MB cacheable RAM. The max. RAM has been raised to 256 MB, but what help is this if only a quarter of this will be cached? Maybe the information is wrong and there is a way to top up the cacheability to 256 MB, but so far it doesn't sound like this at all.

The only advance above current chipsets is the inclusion of the new DMA/33 EIDE protocol, which can boost your EIDE interface to a data rate of up to 33 MB/s, as long as you've got a HDD with this specification. The other advance is the faster SDRAM timing of now correct 5-1-1-1. If you are looking for AGP support you will be looking in vain. Not even the PCI buffers have been topped up to the level of the HX chipset! Hence there isn't too much to expect of this chipset and I'll carry on waiting for a successor of the HX chipset.

Here again a listing of the improvememts:

The Intel 450 GX/KX Pentium Pro Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

The Intel 440FX Pentium Pro Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

The Intel 440LX Pentium Pro Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

VIA Chipsets

The VIA Apollo VP1 Pentium Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

The VIA Apollo VP2 Pentium Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

The VIA Apollo VPX Pentium Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

The VIA Apollo P6 Pentium Pro Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

SiS Chipsets

The SiS 5571 Pentium Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

VLSI Chipsets

The VLSI Lynx Pentium Chipset

Package  
Dual/Multi CPU Support  
Max. L2 Cache Size  
DRAM Support  
Max. DRAM  
Max. Cacheable DRAM  
DRAM Timings at 66 MHz FPM RAM  
EDO RAM  
BEDO RAM  
SDRAM  
DRAM ECC Support  
DRAM Refresh  
No. of CPU Write Buffers  
PCI Specification  
Asynchronous PCI Timing  
Max. No. of PCI Masters  
No. of CPU to PCI Buffers  
No. of PCI to DRAM Buffers post/prefetch  
USB Support  
ATA-33 Extension  
PIO Master/Slave Independent Drive Timing  
DMA Bus Master Support  
AGP Support  

Comparison between the Intel FX/HX/VX and the VIA Apollo VP-1/VP-2 chipsets

Chipset Package Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
IC Package and no. chips 208 x 2
100 x 2
324 x 1
201 x 1
208 x 2
100 x 2
208 x 2
100 x 2
324 x 1
201 x 1
CPU Type Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
Dual Processor
75 MHz Bus Speed
No
No
Yes
No
No
No
No
Yes
No
Yes
Expansion Bus Type Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
ISA
EISA
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
2nd Level Cache Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
Asynchronous SRAM
Burst SRAM
Pipelined Burst SRAM
Max. Size
DRAM Cacheablity
Yes
Yes
Yes
512KB
64MB
No
No
Yes
512KB
64 or 512MB
Yes
Yes
Yes
512KB
64MB
Yes
Yes
Yes
2048KB
64 or 512MB
No
Yes
Yes
2048KB
64 or 512MB
DRAM Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
FPM and EDO Mixed
BEDO RAM
SDRAM
5V/3V
Max. Size
Read Timings (60/66)
w/EDO
w/SDRAM/BEDO
Single Write PH Bursts
w/EDO
w/BEDO/SDRAM
Asymmetric DRAM
Smart Refresh
Refresh Type
CPU Write Buffer
Paging Algorithm
64Mbit Technology
Support
Parity Support
ECC Support
Programmable MA/WE
Driving Capability
Yes
No
No
Yes
128MB

7222/7222
N/A

X333
N/A
Yes
Yes
RAS-Only
4QW
Dynamic

No
No
No

No
Yes
No
No
Yes
512MB

4222/5222
N/A

X222
N/A
Yes
Yes
CAS before RAS
8QW w/Merge
Predictive

Dynamic
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
128MB

5222/6222
6111/7111

X222
X111
Yes
Yes
CAS before RAS
4QW
Dynamic

No
No
No

?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
512MB

4222/5222
4111/5111

X222
X111
Yes
Yes
CAS before RAS
16QW w/Merge

Predictive

Dynamic
No
No

?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
512MB

4222/5222

4111/5111

X222
X111
Yes
Yes
CAS before RAS
16QW w/Merge

Predictive

Dynamic
Yes
Yes

?
PCI Bus Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
PCI 2.1
asynchronous PCI
interface possible
Throughput
4 PCI Masters
CPU to PCI Buffers
PCI to DRAM Posting
PCI to DRAM Prefetch
Max Burst Length
Snoop Ahead
Writeback Policy
No

No
100MB/s
Yes
4DW
12DW
No
4K
Yes
Write then Read
Yes

No
>100 MB/s
Yes
6DW
20DW
22DW
4K
Yes/Pipelined
Merge/Forward
Yes

No
>100 MB/s
Yes
5DW
18DW
10DW
4K
Yes
Merge/Forward
Yes

Yes

132 MB/s
Yes
5DW
64DW
32DW
4K
Yes/Pipelined
Merge/Forward
Yes

No
132 MB/s
Yes
5DW
64DW
32DW
4K
Yes/Pipelined
Merge/Forward
Arbitration Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
Passive Release
MTT
PIIX3/
USB
Latency Enhancements
No
No

No
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
PCI Concurrency Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
DRAM Prefetch
During PCI Reads
Writeback
Merge and Forward
PCI/CPU
Grant During Passi

No

No

N/A

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes
Plug and Play Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
DMA Type F
1 Programmable
CS Steerable
DMA Channels
Steerable IRQs
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
No
No
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
Integrated I/O Intel 430FX Intel 430HX Intel 430VX VIA Apollo VP-1 VIA Apollo VP-2
Extension to ATA-33
(33MB/s transfer rate)

PIO/Master
2 Channels
Independent
Drive Timing
USB

No
Yes
Yes

No
No

No
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes

No
Yes
Yes

No
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

?
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

?
Yes

As you can see, the two VIA chipsets are fighting off their contender Intel 430HX very well. The only two disadvantages are no dual CPU and no EISA support. On the other side they both support the new ATA-33 specification already, work with BEDO and SDRAM, more cache, support 75 MHz memory bus speed and the VP-2 is just as the HX capable of Parity and ECC support.


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