Iím sure many of you remember the legendary Intel 440BX chipset, now that was a chipset that continued to offer solid performance, and was only bested by the i820, with dual channel Rambus, by a mere few percent. The Intel 440BX chipset was actually the only chipset Intel had available when the memory translator hub, MTH, bug caused them to recall the sdram enabled version of the i820. Back then only Via offered official 133MHz front side bus support for Intelís latest Pentium III processors, with their Via 694P chipset, which in reality could not hold a candle next to the Intel 440BX. Many motherboard manufacturers however chose to steer clear of Viaís offering and just upped the front side bus speed of the Intel 440BX chipset to 133MHz, which meant that the chipset ran out of spec, but in reality never faltered.
The Intel 440BX actually remained the chipset of choice for the Pentium III, up until the day Intel decided that the Pentium III architecture was to be replaced by the NetBurst architecture of the Pentium 4. The Pentium 4 actually saw a whole range of different chipsets, and sockets as well, starting of with the first generation Intel 850 chipset which used a 423-pin socket for the Pentium 4 processor, which could well have been the shortest lived socket that ever made it to the market. Followed by a whole range of chipsets christened by unimaginative names as 850e, 845, 845G, 865, 865G and 875P where the latter few chipsets did nothing more than move the Pentium 4 away from Rambus to a DDR platform.
From this list of chipsets the Intel 875P was the only Pentium 4 chipset that was once again performing on par with the Rambus chipsets of old. And it wasnít just the performance that made the i875P stand out in a positive way; the rest of the features, such as dual channel DDR support, Gigabit networking and Serial-Ata RAID support made it a chipset that clearly broke the mold. To date, the i875P is the best Pentium 4 chipset ever made, even the newer PCI-Express chipsets such as the Intel 925X and 925XE are not able to impress, as they fail to perform any better and lack compelling enough features. Thatís why weíre waiting with anticipation for whatís in store next, and not from Intel this time, but from the same company that pushed the Athlon XP to new heights, yes, Iím talking about NVIDIA.
Only a few weeks ago NVIDIA announced that it has signed a licensing deal with Intel so they can start development on a new chipset for Intelís socket-775 Pentium 4 processors. Will NVIDIA be able to deliver where Intel failed? And bring a chipset to the Pentium 4 platform that will truly stand out in terms of features and performance? If their track record with their nForce chipsets for AMDís Athlon processors is anything to go by, we might be in for a surprise. We could be looking at an nForce 5 chipset specifically designed for Pentium 4 and possibly incorporating a HyperTransport link between the North- and Southbridge as well as dual PCI-Express slots for SLI. Details are sketchy as of yet, but one thing is certain, Intel is looking for 3rd party suppliers of Pentium 4 chipsets that can make a difference, all we, and Intel, can hope for is that the nForce is indeed with them.