Motherboard Chipset: What It Is and What to Look For

Chipsets are important to a motherboard's compatibility

A chipset used to be a collection of chips on a motherboard. The chipset served as a middleman between the CPU and other components. The chipset on a motherboard determined the compatibility to additional components.

Today, much of the historical work a chipset did has been folded into CPUs themselves and otherwise offloaded onto a single chip on the motherboard. While there may no longer be a discrete set of chips that makes up the chipset, what chipset a motherboard has will still determine what components it supports.

Does a Motherboard's Chipset Matter?

Yes, it is very important. In fact, which chipset is on a motherboard is the main deciding factor for compatibility in a modern motherboard. CPU, RAM, and PCI Express lane support are the most important features to consider when selecting a chipset.

Every CPU supports certain chipsets. What type of RAM is supported, as in DDR3 or DDR4 for example, is determined by the chipset. Also determined by the chipset is how many PCI Express lanes are present. This then determines, for example, how many video cards can be installed.

Is the Chipset the Same As the Motherboard?

No, the chipset and the motherboard are not the same. However, a chipset is a part of a motherboard, and it is the part which determines what components your motherboard supports.

Think of a chipset as a category of motherboard. Once you know which chipset you need to support the components you want, you will then look for motherboards with that chipset. Within a specific chipset, there will be many different motherboards that come with different features but all will still support the same components.

How Do I Find My Motherboard Chipset?

Simply Google the name of your motherboard, and on almost all pages related to it, you will find its chipset. Alternatively, many motherboards include the chipset in their names themselves (the name of the chipset being a short string of letters and numbers).

You can also look at the box your motherboard came in, if you have that handy, as well as your motherboard's manual. Don't mistake the name of the chipset for a model number. For example, in the MSI MEG Z490 motherboard, the "Z490" is not the motherboard's model number but rather the chipset of the board.

Which Motherboard Chipset Is Best?

There is no 'best' chipset for a number of reasons. First and foremost, different chipsets will support different components, like specific CPUs. And because components can be more or less powerful than one another, an expensive, high-end, full-featured chipset for a mid-range CPU is not necessarily going to be better than a lower-end chipset for a more powerful CPU, in terms of performance.

Choice in chipset comes down to user preference, need, and budget. Just like, when building a computer, you decide on components based on your individual needs and what you want to do with the computer, certain chipsets will come with features, or support components, you may not need or plan on using.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are chipset drivers? Chipset drivers, or Motherboard drivers, are the software that allows the motherboard to work with the operating system. They are essential to your computer's basic functions.
  • What motherboard do I have? There are several ways to check your motherboard. On Windows, the easiest way is to go to the System Information app and look in the Baseboard section.
  • How do I choose a motherboard? When choosing a motherboard, make sure it has the sockets and ports you need to support the CPU and other components you want to add. You must also make sure it will fit in the case, and that it supports the amount of RAM you plan to install.
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