Intel Fifth Generation Chipsets

Let’s discuss all the Intel chipsets for fifth generation processors. There are many, and it can be confusing.

430LX, “Mercury”

An ancient chipset that supported the old 60-66MHz Pentiums. It did support PCI, but it didn’t support EDO memory. It only supported 128MB of memory. It was puny and it was forgotten quickly when Intel dropped the 66MHz chips in favor of 75-100MHz chips on Socket 5 boards. Boards with the LX chipset make nice frisbies, although they aren’t real aerodynamic, I’ve found.

430NX, “Neptune”

The 430NX supported the newer Pentiums running 75-133MHz. It boasted a few improvements over the LX, including dual processor support and support for 512MB of memory. But, it didn’t introduce anything too groundbreaking. It’s main use was support for the hot chips of the time.

430FX, “Triton”

This chipset was the beginning of the Triton series. It put Intel on the map in the chipset world, although it is now completely outdated. It supported EDO memory(which was new at the time), plus it also it supported pipeline burst cache and PCI 2.0. Triton also introduced the idea of busmastering. This gives EIDE devices, such as hard drives, certain SCSI-like qualities that decrease CPU usage and help in overall speed. These features, plus the fact that it performed better, put it ahead of the NX. But, weird as it is, it only supported 128MB of memory and lacked dual processor support, features the NX chipset did have. What’s worse is that only 64MB of this RAM was cacheable, making power users want more. This chipset is now obsolete and is usually found on old used boards, but in its time, it was hot.

430HX, “Triton II”

This is an older chipset, and was used for quite a long time. It made up for the shortcomings of the first Triton chipset, and then some. Its main features are:

  • Support for parity and ECC memory
  • Dual processor support
  • Support for 512 MB of system memory
  • Support for 512 MB of cached system memory
  • PCI level 2.1 compliance
  • USB support
  • Improved performance

It didn’t support UltraDMA hard drives, but it could reach the 83MHz bus speed. It could also work with the non-Intel alternatives, Cyrix and AMD. The HX chipset was very powerful, but also sported a hefty price. Because of this, some manufacturers were reluctant to use it because they feared users wouldn’t be willing to pay the price. This led Intel to find a cheaper alternative…

430VX “Triton III”

While the 430HX was intended for power users, the VX chipset was intended for the home user. It is inferior to the HX chipset even though it is newer. Its main advantages are SDRAM support and lower cost. It did introduce a new feature called Unified Memory Architecture, or UMA. This was like an early AGP, giving the video card the ability to share system memory, but with a slight performance decrease. But, the lower cost comes from the fact that almost all other nice HX features listed above are lacking in the VX chipset. It also supports less SIMM slots and could only cache 64MB of system memory out of the supported 128 MB. The HX chipset as well as the Apollo chipsets from Via all out-did this chipset.


Many hoped the TX chipset would be a major improvement over the HX chipset, but some were disappointed. It is a nice improvement over the VX, but still lacks some features of the HX. The reason for this is probably marketing. Intel was trying to move users to the Pentium Pro and Pentium II, so they weren’t going to invest all their muscle into a fifth-generation chipset. But, at the same time, by not providing a Socket 7 chipset that supported more advanced features such as AGP, they left the door open for companies such as Via and ALI to take the torch and run with it.

The TX chipset offers support for 256MB of SDRAM, but still only 64MB is cacheable. It supports Ultra-DMA and more SIMM slots than the VX. It employs some other features that make it a much better performer than the VX chipset, while using less power. But, it does not support ECC RAM or dual processors, and does not equal the performance of the HX chipset. This chipiset optimized the capabilities of the PentiumMMX processor. It also offered something called Dynamic Power Management Architecture (DPMA), a feature that helped to expand battery life for use in mobile systems. It also implemented a System Mangement Bus (SMBus). This simply offered a 3-pin interface for system monitoring devices.

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