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Fifth Generation (Pentium Class) Non-Intel Chipsets

From 1993 to 1997, Intel was "the" big chipset manufacturer for the Pentium platform. Intel totally dominated the market for fifth-generation chipsets, largely as a result of its large OEM deals with major manufacturers such as Dell Computer. However, there have always been alternatives to Intel available; they just haven't been very commonly seen in the general PC marketplace.

With Intel's decision to leave the fifth generation platform to concentrate on the Pentium II, a vacuum was created in the Pentium-compatible chipset market. The truly staggering numbers of existing Socket 7 fifth-generation motherboards, combined with AMD's and Cyrix's decisions to continue to develop for this platform, means that it is going to be around for a while. Since Intel discontinued the 430HX chipset, the most full-featured Pentium chipset it created, that has left the 430TX as Intel's only offering. Other companies have moved well beyond the TX, creating multiple new chipsets that surpass the 430TX in features and performance.

In 1998, three primary alternative chipset vendors have emerged. The best-known of the three is Via Technologies, which has been the biggest thorn in Intel's side for some time now. Via chipsets have always competed very well against Intel's technologically, but have suffered at the hands of Intel's established reputation and marketing muscle. The other two are Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS) and Acer Labs Inc. (ALi). These companies have in the past largely been crowded out of the market by Intel and are now poised to make a significant comeback--if Socket 7 remains a successful platform.

As a result of these three companies all trying to outdo each other, new non-Intel Pentium-class chipsets have been coming out at an astounding rate, sometimes a new one every few weeks. I had been prepared to write up most of these chipsets here, but I discovered that there really isn't any need to; my friend Anand Shimpi at Anand's Hardware Tech Page has a great page that discusses some of the latest non-Intel fifth-generation chipsets. While I like to keep the contents of The PC Guide as comprehensive as possible, there's no point in reinventing the wheel. Since Anand reviews motherboards he is better able to keep up on the latest in specific chipset brands, and he has done a great job writing up these chipsets.

Next: Sixth Generation (Pentium Pro / Pentium II Class) Chipsets

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