Many of you will probably frown upon the title of this editorial and wonder what Iím referring to exactly, what AMD chipsets? Well, thatís exactly my point, but before I get ahead of myself letís take a look at the situation with current chipsets for AMD processors and compare that to Intel.
As you probably know Intel designs and manufacturers their own chipsets and only licenses a lucky few other chipset manufacturers after theyíve been put through the wringer and agree to do exactly as Intel says. In the end it is a fruitless attempt by these chipset manufacturers to get in bed with Intel, and hopefully see a healthy increase in sales. No customer thatís serious about their purchase would quickly move away from using anything but an Intel chipset with an Intel processor, just so save some money, most would even pay extra. And no, Iím not referring to the category of users that see the PC as just another household appliance; those are beyond help anyway, they often donít even know what a processor is, let alone a chipset.
Thereís a reason for opting for an Intel chipset, and thatís the simple fact that it is a rare occurrence to see issues with Intel processors on Intel chipset motherboards. Basically you plug it all in, install the operating system and Intel drivers and it is up and running. With chipsets manufactured by these 3rd part chipset manufacturers it is often relying on drivers written by an overworked, underpaid, Taiwanese software engineer that have not undergone stringent quality testing whatsoever. Obviously this is a scenario that often leads to issues with 3rd part chipsets and thatís what we all want to prevent right? Classic example is VIA, which used to offer drivers for their chipsets that broke more features than they fixed. Fortunately they cleaned up their act over the past few years, but you get what Iím hinting at, although VIA was a particularly bad example.
With AMD it is another story, as of late they've basically only manufactured processors and left it up to 3rd party chipsets manufacturers to come up with a chipset to run it on. NVIDIA is a prime example of how a company can go from good to bad overnight. Their Nforce family of chipsets can best be described as a mixed bag, thereís excellent chipsets, such as the Nforce3-250, but also particularly bad ones such as the first Nforce2. And now that PCIe is here, and all chipset manufacturers launched their chipsets supporting it, we see the same problems all over again. For example; Nforce 4 looks good on paper, the NVIDIA reference motherboard works like a charm, but all Nforce 4 SLI motherboards currently out have issues.
So am I a nitpicking Intel fanboy that bares a grudge towards AMD? No, I donít have a preference per se, and we obviously get as many AMD processors and motherboards in the lab as we get Intelís. The problem is that with new chipset releases such as with PCIe Intel is always spot on, no issues, it just runs out of the box. Whereas with AMD thereís always issues plaguing these new chipsets which make the system unstable, cause for features to not work and a plethora of other problems, NVIDIAís Nforce 4 SLI chipset being a prime example. These issues take many months and multiple BIOS/drivers revisions to get fixed, after which the next chipset is usually around the corner, so the whole thing starts over again.
Wouldnít it be nice if AMD were to step up to the plate and manufacture their own chipsets, like Intel does and make sure their processors are accompanied by chipsets that are the pinnacle of speed and stability? That would solve many of these problems in one fell swoop and also make the AMD platform more appealing to the corporate buyer, as theyíll know it is backed by solid drivers and support. Many of them currently subscribe to the opinion that the AMD platform is quirky at best, and given our daily experiences with 3rd party AMD chipsets and motherboards we canít really blame them, because that's what it often is.