Build A PC

A custom PC configuration guide. © 2000,2001,2002 by Jef Poskanzer.


The chipset interfaces the CPU to the motherboard. It determines many of the basic capabilities of your system. Currently, chipsets are being made by Intel, VIA, AMD, ALi, SiS, and ServerWorks. NVidia. Here's a table showing the features supported by the various current chipsets:

DDR ECC dual CPU fast/wide
Pentium IV Xeon
Intel E7500 400 MHz yes yes yes PCI-X
Intel i870 400 MHz yes ? yes PCI-X
Intel i860 400 MHz (RMB) yes yes yes
Pentium IV
Intel i875P 800 MHz yes yes
Intel i845GL 533 MHz yes NO
Intel i845G 533 MHz yes NO
Intel i845E 533 MHz yes yes
Intel i845D 400 MHz yes yes
Intel i845 400 MHz yes
Pentium IV
VIA P4X266 400 MHz yes ?
Intel i850E 533 MHz (RMB) yes
Intel i850 400 MHz (RMB) yes
ALi Aladdin P4 400 MHz yes ?
AMD 760MP 266 MHz yes yes yes wide
VIA KT266a 266 MHz yes yes
nVidia nForce 420D 266 MHz yes ?
ALi MAGiK 1 266 MHz yes
SiS 735 266 MHz yes
AMD 761 266 MHz yes yes
VIA KT133a 266 MHz
VIA KT133 200 MHz
Pentium III
VIA Pro266 133 MHz yes ? yes
SiS 635 133 MHz yes
ServerSet LE/WS/HE 133 MHz yes yes yes
Intel i815* 133 MHz
ALi Aladdin TNT2 133 MHz
VIA Pro133a 133 MHz yes yes yes
Intel i840 133 MHz (RMB) yes yes yes


Intel i875P
A new high-performance P4 chipset. Has an 800MHz FSB and supposet dual-channel DDR400/PC3200 memory.

Intel i870
An upcoming chipset for Xeon and IA64 servers. Uses DDR memory. Supposedly will support up to 16-way multiprocessing.

Intel i845GL
A stripped-down version of the i845G. It still has integrated graphics, but does not support an AGP slot. Also, the FSB speed is back down to 400MHz instead of 533.

Intel i845G
The i845E plus integrated graphics.

Intel i845E
This version of the i845 supports DDR memory, the 533MHz FSB, and USB 2.0. However it does not support PC2700 memory, which other 533MHz FSB chipsets do support.

Intel i845D
The i845 modified to support DDR memory.

Intel i845
Intel's second chipset for the Pentium IV. This one supports non-RAMBUS memory. Not DDR, though, only PC133 so far.

Intel i860
The chipset for the Pentium IV Xeon, using the mPGA-603 socket. Again only RAMBUS memory.

Intel i850E
An update to the i850 to support a 533MHz FSB.

Intel i850
The first chipset for the Pentium IV. It only supports RAMBUS memory, which sucks. Here's a good article from Thresh's Firing Squad explaining why, and a huge article from Tom's Hardware going into even more detail. It seems to have some problems supporting high-bandwidth PCI devices, too. I have to recommend avoiding this chipset for now.

i815 / i815e / i815ep
Intel's first chipset with native support for PC133 memory. This represents an about-face for Intel, which previously had claimed that RAMBUS was the future and they would never support PC133. Still, it remains to be seen whether Intel put in the effort to make the i815 perform as well as it should; say, as well as the old 440BX overclocked to 133MHz, which typically benchmarks faster than i820 and even i840 boards. Also available: the i815e, with support for ATA/100, and four USB ports instead of two; and the i815ep. None of these chipsets supports ECC, and they are limited to 512MB max total memory.

A high-end chipset. Unfortunately it's designed to use the RAMBUS memory architecture, which sucks. However, this chipset has two parallel RAMBUS channels. As you can see from the bandwidth table, this means a theoretical memory bandwidth of 3.2 GB/s, which can't be beat. Actual bandwidth may be less, though. The i840 also implements 64-bit 66MHz PCI. Not all i840-based boards have this, but some do. You can get fast/wide PCI with the ServerWorks chipsets, but if you must use Intel then this is kinda sorta ok.

A mid-range chipset. Also suffers from RAMBUS brain damage, and has no redeeming qualities. Avoid the i820.

i810 / i810e / i810e2
For small systems. It includes video, which is good for co-located boxes or compute servers that don't even need a monitor most of the time. However it doesn't implement ECC memory - to me this is almost a show-stopper.

An old high-end chipset. This was designed for the Xeon processors, and supported up to four of them. It had a nice I/O architecture, supporting multiple separate PCI segments including 64-bit PCI. However it did not support 66MHz PCI.

An old mid-range chipset. Not much to say about it, use the 440BX instead.

An old low-end chipset. This is still an excellent performer, and should not be overlooked merely because it's from a couple years ago. That just means they've had time to work the bugs out. People are still designing new motherboards using this chipset. It's very overclockable, if you're into that. There's a lot of info at


VIA P4X266
The first non-Intel chipset for the Pentium IV. Supports non-RAMBUS DDR memory. No other word yet.

VIA ProSavage PM266
The VIA Pro133a with DDR memory and integrated high-performance video.

VIA ProSavage PM133
This is just the VIA Pro133a with integrated high-performance video.

VIA Apollo Pro266
An update of the Pro133a to handle DDR memory.

VIA Apollo Pro133a
This chipset from VIA was the first mass-market one to really implement PC133 memory. Most 440BX boards can handle 133MHz memory via overclocking, and the i820/i840 can handle it badly via a translator dohickey, but the Pro133A does it natively.

VIA Apollo KT266a
A modified version of the KT266, with much better memory performance.

VIA Apollo KT266
VIA's DDR Athlon chipset.

VIA ProSavage KM133
Another VIA Athlon chipset. Like the Pentium ProSavage chipsets, this one has integrated high-performance video.

VIA Apollo KT133a
Another VIA Athlon chipset - an update of the KT133. Handles the newer 266MHz (133MHz DDR) FSB used by "C"-type Athlons. Doesn't support ECC

VIA Apollo KT133
VIA's Athlon chipset, like their Pro133A one for Pentiums, handles PC133 memory natively. Doesn't support ECC

VIA Apollo KX133
VIA's old Athlon chipset, for Slot-A boards. Now obsolete.

VIA Apollo MVP3 / MVP4
VIA's old socket-7 chipsets. Now obsolete.


AMD's reference Athlon chipset with DDR memory and dual-CPU capability. Looks like this may also implement 64-bit PCI, which would be great.

AMD 761
AMD's reference Athlon chipset with DDR memory. Note that while AMD calls this the 760, everyone else calls it the 761.

AMD 750
AMD's reference chipset for the Athlon (K7) chip. It benchmarked significantly slower than the VIA KX133/KT133, and few boards used it.


ALi Aladdin P4
An upcoming Pentium-IV chipset with DDR memory support.

ALi Aladdin TNT2
A Pentium chipset with integrated high-performance video.

An Athlon chipset with DDR memory support. Doesn't support ECC.

ALi Aladdin 5 / Aladdin 7
ALi's old socket-7 chipsets.


SiS 650
P4 chipset. Supports PC2700 (DDR333) memory. Integrated video?

SiS 645
P4 chipset. Supports PC2700 (DDR333) memory.

SiS 745
Like the 735.

SiS 735
Like the 730 but adds DDR support. Doesn't support ECC.

SiS 730
An Athlon chipset, otherwise similar to the SiS 630. Doesn't support ECC.

SiS 635
Like the 630 but adds DDR support. Doesn't support ECC.

SiS 630
A reasonable offering from Silicon Integrated Systems. This combines north and south bridges into a single highly integrated chip. Features ATA/100, DVD decoding, onboard audio and video. Doesn't support ECC.


ServerSet III LE / WS / HE
These similar chipsets are all very high-end. They support PC133 memory, and 64bit/66MHz PCI. I think the main difference between the three is the memory architecture: the WS does two-way memory interleaving, and the HE does four-way! If you can find a motherboard that implements it (I haven't), that's a theoretical memory bandwidth of over 4 GB/s!


nForce 420D
A new Athlon chipset from a new manufacturer. Has integrated video based on the GeForce2 MX. Also has a 128-bit memory bus, but this is only active if your memory modules are installed in identical pairs.

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