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A chipset consists of one or more microchips (computer chips) designed to perform a specific job or set of jobs. When you're trying to figure out what features are supported by a particular device, whether it's a computer peripheral or DVD player, it's usually helpful to know what type of chipset is inside. This is particularly important for features like deinterlacing and MPEG-4 playback in DVD players because features can vary widely from one chipset to another.
Although the chipset determines the maximum features available, it's not the only factor. In addition chipsets often have firmware that determines what features are actually used by the hardware containing a particular chipset. For example, all DVD players have chipsets capable of playing VCD and SVCD, but many either can't play SVCD or have to be tricked into playing it because their firmware doesn't support it.
In the computer world chipset refers to supporting chips that assist the CPU in a variety of functions. Every motherboard has a chipset designed to allow the CPU to communicate with the other hardware in the computer, such as the memory, hard drives, and USB devices. Although these chipsets are traditionally made up of two chips, known as a Northbridge and Southbridge, some of their functionality may be incorporated in the CPU, resulting in just a single chip.
Other computer add-ons also often have their own chipsets. Devices from network interface cards (NICs), sound cards, and RAID cards all have their own chipsets, which may be the same across cards from different manufacturers.
Like computers, DVD players have chipsets. Unlike computers the chipset in a DVD player provides the core functionality of DVD playback by providing a DVD virtual machine that accepts the commands on a DVD. In addition there may be separate chips for features like MPEG-4 playback, deinterlacing, or scaling.