Why Chipsets?

With NVIDIA entering the PC chipset market late last year and now ATI, what is so attractive about selling chipsets that has the two biggest names in the PC graphics business begging to be let in?

There are a number of reasons, one being that the chipset business is a very lucrative one provided that you can supply good volume. Not every PC sold needs a GeForce4 Ti 4600, but every PC sold needs a chipset. But you won't understand how this relates to graphics chip manufacturers until we toss out another factoid; over half of all chipsets sold feature integrated graphics. That also means that over half of all chipsets have very sub-par graphics.

It also turns out that around 80% of a North Bridge with integrated graphics is devoted to that integrated graphics; the other 20% being bus interfaces, memory controllers, etc…

With such a large demand for integrated graphics in chipsets, and such a large portion of those chipsets being dedicated integrated graphics, it only makes sense that graphics chip manufacturers would get into the business.

We have seen this already with NVIDIA's nForce and now we're seeing it with ATI's Radeon IGP. Just from the name alone you'll realize that ATI is taking a noticeably different approach to addressing the chipset market than NVIDIA. Instead of creating a new brand for their chipset ATI is simply leveraging the Radeon brand with the thought that the Radeon brand will carry much more strength than any other name ATI can come up with for their chipsets. ATI wants customers to go after their chipsets because of their integrated ATI Radeon graphics and not dilute that with a new brand name.

This approach makes a lot of sense and is also considerably cheaper to market for ATI since they don't need to educate the world on the meaning behind a new name.

But as you're about to see, there's much more to ATI's Radeon IGP than just a more sensible naming structure. This chipset is designed to be a lot more like what you would expect from an ALi, SiS or VIA; but with much better graphics.

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