Acer Labs, Inc. (ALi)

Acer Laboratories, Inc., are a motherboard chipset manufacturer for PC compatibles. They were founded in 1987 and are a subsidiary of the Acer group. In 2006, the part of ALi that made PC integrated circuits was bought by nVidia for $52 million.

M1209

A Socket 1 / Socket 2 "PC/AT Super-Integration" chipset which supported the VESA local bus. It was designed for use with Intel 80386SX/SLC and AMD Am386SX CPUs. It supported Fast Page Mode (FPM) RAM.

 

M1217

A Socket 1 / Socket 2 single-chip chipset designed for use with Intel 80386SX and SLC CPUs.

Award BIOS Chipset code: 219K3

 

M1419

An ISA 386 and 486 cache system chipset.

Award BIOS Chipset code: 214K6.

 

M1429, M1431 (1994)

A Socket 2 / Socket 3 chipset for the 80386DX and 80486 CPUs. It supported the VESA local bus. Its supporting chip was the M1431. It has an Award BIOS chipset code of 2C4K9 (ALI 14296).

One of the oldest PCI chipsets available. It's believed that the PCI bus is bridged to the VLB, which can be a reason for poor graphics performance.

This chipset was used on the following motherboards:
A-Trend ATC-1762
TMC Research PAT48AV-1.40
(1994)
MSI MS-4134

 

M1439 / M1445

A Socket 3 chipset which was ALI's first to support the PCI 2.0 local bus. Its southbridge chip was the M1445.

This chipset was used on the following motherboards:
MicroStar MS-4134 - Poor performance!

Award BIOS Chipset code: 2A4KC or 2C4KC

M1489 / M1487

A Socket 3 chipset called "FINALi 486" which supported the PCI 2.0 local bus. Its southbridge chip was the M1487. It supported front side bus speeds up to 50 MHz. Motherboards based on this chipset could identify up to 128 MB of EDO RAM, and could support a L2 cache size of 1 MB. This was ALi's last 486 chipset before moving on to Pentium chipsets.

The M1487 southbridge supported PATA PIO Modes 3 and 4.

Motherboards that use this chipset are:
Abit AB-PB4
Microstar MS-4143
Gigabyte GA-5486AL

Award BIOS Chipset code: 2A4KD

ALADDiN III (M1521, M1523)

With the introduction of the Intel Pentium, ALi brought out their "Aladdin" series of PCI chipsets. The first of these was the ALADDiN III, made up of the M1521 northbridge and M1523 southbridge. Designed for Socket 7 motherboards, it supported a maximum FSB of 66 MHz and permitted up to 1 GB of RAM (FPM, EDO, BEDO or SDRAM), 512 KB of which was cacheable.

The M1523 southbridge provided UDMA-33 support. A slightly later southbridge called M1523B can also sometimes be identified. This was the same as M1523, but added two USB 1.0 ports.

Also found on Socket 5 motherboards in the Pentium and Pentium MMX era.

ALADDiN IV / TXPro (M1531 with M1533 or M1543)

Still on the Socket 7 standard, Aladdin 4, released in 1997, increased the FSB speed to 83 MHz and supported a memory bus running at 100 MHz (up from the Aladdin III's 66 MHz). Memory types supported were FPM, EDO, and SDRAM, with 1 GB being the maximum memory capacity. With 8-bit tag RAM in the cache, 64 MB of main memory is cacheable, but with 11-bit tag RAM 512 MB is cacheable. The Aladdin IV used the M1531 coupled with the M1533, whilst the Aladdin IV+ was the M1531/M1543 combination - the only difference between the two is that Aladdin IV+ had an onboard Super-I/O while the Aladdin IV required a separate Super-I/O card.

It did not include support for AGP.

The Aladdin IV chipset boasted a level 2 cache built-in (undocumented in a lot of TXPro motherboards), whose M1531 chip had Tag RAM which existed to reduce cost, and to make the 100 MHz bus speed possible. CPU support included the AMD K5 and K6, Cyrix 6x86 (M1) and 6x86MX (MII), and Intel Pentium and Pentium MMX. The M1533 southbridge provided UDMA-33 support with PIO mode 5/DMA mode 3 to give up to 33.3 MB/s transfer rates. It also provided two USB 1.0 ports. Supported PCI bus speeds are 20, 30 and 33 MHz, while FSB speed options are 50, 60, 66, 75 and 83 MHz.

The low cost Aladdin IV chipset can be found in most PC Chips motherboards. A low cost Intel TX imitation. What ALi hoped to accomplish with the TXPro was exactly what the VXPro was intended to do, offer a low cost solution to take a chunk of Intel's sales. With most TXPro-based motherboards offering stable performance at the 75 and 83.3MHz bus speeds, and going for about $60 why wouldn't you want a TXPro motherboard? The chipset itself is quite competitive although I wouldn't compare the scores of a TXPro board to a genuine TX board like the ABIT AX5 or the Shuttle HOT-569, however if you don't need the absolute best of the best, then you may want to consider this chipset.

The TXPro is closely based on ALi's Aladdin IV/+ chipset which is amazingly enough (yeah right...) a lot like Intel's TX chipset with a few extra features, hence the name TXPro. One of the major advantages of the TXPro over the Intel TX chipset is the fact that it DOES support ECC DRAM, although it can still only cache the first 64MB of RAM installed when using an 8-bit Tag RAM.   Motherboard manufacturers have the option of using an 11-bit Tag RAM to expand the cacheable memory area to 512MB, however doing so does raise the cost...a sacrifice most manufacturers that opt to go with the Aladdin IV won't make.  An interesting feature the Aladdin IV boasts, which remains undocumented in most TXPro motherboards, is that the chipset features internal L2 cache Tag bits, therefore reducing cost, and also virtually eliminating any problems you might have experienced with running your motherboard at a higher bus frequency as a direct result of the L2 cache. 

If you're looking for a cheap motherboard with some advanced features only found in more expensive models, give a TXPro based board a try...but beware, you aren't getting the world's most compatible product when you buy a TXPro board, just a reminder, you get what you pay for in this industry.

A later variant of the Aladdin 4 was called the Aladdin 4+, which consisted of the M1531B and M1533B or M1543B chips. The 4+ also seen as Aladdin IV+ went up against Intel's 430TX chipset - both are considered the fastest Super Socket 7 chipsets ever clock-for-clock. The Aladdin IV+ had a better set of features over the Intel.

Motherboards that use the Aladdin IV chipset are:

Common Name TXPro
Chipset Packaging Number of chips 2 (M1531 & M1533)
Packaging Type 2 x 328-pin BGA
CPU Support Number of CPUs 1
AMD CPUs Supported K5, K6
Cyrix CPUs Supported 6x86 (M1), 6x86MX (M2)
Intel CPUs Supported Pentium, Pentium MMX
Cache Type Synchronous Pipeline Burst Cache
Maximum Supported Size 1024KB
Maximum Cacheable DRAM Area 64MB (8-bit Tag RAM)
512MB (11-bit Tag RAM)
Memory Maximum DRAM Supported 1GB (8 RAS Lines)
BEDO DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) N/A
EDO DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 5-2-2-2
FPM DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 5-3-3-3
SDRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 5-1-1-1
Data Path to Memory 64-bits
ECC Support Yes
Hard Disk Controller Chip M1533
Busmastering Support Yes
UltraDMA Support Yes
Max. Theoretical Transfer Rate PIO Mode 5/DMA Mode 3 (33.3MB/S)
PCI Interface Supported PCI Bus Speeds 25, 30, 33 MHz
Concurrent PCI Yes
Async. PCI Bus Speed Yes
PCI Specification 2.1 (66 MHz max.)
Power Management PC97 Compliance Yes
Suspend to Disk Yes
HDD Power Down Yes
Modem Wakeup Yes
System Suspend Yes
Video AGP Support No
Unified Memory Architecture No
Peripheral Support USB Support Yes
Plug and Play Port Yes
Write Buffers CPU-to-DRAM 16 QWords
CPU-to-PCI 6 DWords
PCI-to-DRAM 36 DWords
Officially Supported Bus Speeds 50, 60, 66, 75, 83 MHz
Unofficially Achieved Bus Speeds Unknown

 

ALADDiN V (M1541, M1543/M1543C)

Acer created the Aladdin V chipset specifically for the new Super Socket 7 motherboard created by AMD for their upcoming K6-2 CPU (then still called the K6-3D). Intel considered the Socket 7 platform dead, and were heavily investing in the upcoming Pentium II and Slot 1 technologies. But AMD believed that by creating a motherboard and chipset to raise the Front-Side Bus from 66 MHz to 100 MHz their new K6-2 CPU would be in striking distance of the Pentium II when it launched. With the Aladdin V chipset, ALi became the first chipset manufacturer for this new socket, which was to be given the name 'Super 7'. During development of the Aladdin V, competitor VIA were also working on their own Super7 chipset with the MVP3. ALi released theirs first, and instantly saw a 10% performance gain even without the new AMD CPU, purely from the extra bandwidth the 100 MHz bus provided.

Unfortunately, as the K6-3D was eventually released as the K6-2, and as VIA’s solution debuted as well, it became clear that the ALi solution wasn’t the best overall solution for Super7 platforms.  Especially when regarding AGP compatibility with some of the “newer” AGP adapters such as NVIDIA’s TNT2, the Aladdin V chipset had quite a few problems.  As support for the platform died down, more and more manufacturers turned to VIA for their Super7 chipset and ALi slowly faded away from our sights..

  • Competed directly against Intel 430TX, VIA VP3 (and MVP3), and SiS 5591.
  • Supports AGP, all current Socket 7 processors including the upcoming AMD K6-3D, and support for 100 MHz FSB.
  • Aladdin V can accept up to 1GB RAM, all cacheable.
  • Aladdin V boasts an internal L2 cache 16K tag RAM plus 16K cache SRAM.
  • Considered more feature-rich than Intel's 430TX chipset.


The deep buffers between the CPU and DRAM interfaces should keep performance of the Aladdin V on par with or above that of all Socket-7 motherboards based on Intel chipsets, using the 100MHz bus speed the Aladdin V should be able to remove the Intel TX chipset from the picture as a possible competitor when dealing with performance. UltraDMA, PC97 Compliance, and Advanced Power Management support are among the now standard features that ALi brings to the table with their Aladdin V, making it a very promising chipset...shortly you'll begin to see the first Aladdin V motherboards make their way into the mainstream market, then we can truly decide whether or not this chipset lives up to the hype.

ALI's Aladdin V was known to have the best AGP performance but a major complaint from the over-clocker community was the inability to desynchronise the FSB from the PCI/ISA/AGP bus which lead to instabilities if you went above 100MHz.

One interesting motherboard that used this chipset was the ASUS P5A. It was very stable, and even supported 120 MHz FSB speeds, although the 115 MHz setting seemed more stable. I/O performance seemed quicker than with the VIA chipset. A BIOS update to this board was released to support the AMD K6-3 and K6-2+ processors.

Aladdin V was the first of ALi's PCI 2.1 chipsets to officially support Super Socket 7, and the 100 MHz FSB that came with it. It competed directly with the VIA Apollo MVP3 chipset. All 1 GB of the maximum memory on motherboards that used this chipset was theoretically cacheable. Also in keeping with Super Socket 7, Aladdin V provided support for AGP 2x.

CPU support included the AMD K5, K6 and K6-3D, Cyrix' 6x86 (M1) and 6x86MX (MII), and Intel Pentium and Pentium MMX.

Like the Aladdin IV before it, the Aladdin V chipset boasted a level 2 cache built-in, whose M1541 chip had 16K x 10-bit Tag RAM as well as 16K x 2 L2 cache SRAM. The Tag RAM (6 ns or faster) existed in order to make the 100 MHz bus speed possible. This speed typically puts a real strain on the L2 cache so having an integrated very fast Tag RAM eases this burden.

The M1543 southbridge provided UDMA-33 and UDMA-66 support for hard disks and PIO mode 5/DMA mode 3 for 33.3 MB/s transfer rates. This chip also provided two USB 1.0 ports. The M1543C was identical but provided three USB 1.0 ports instead of two.

Actual supported FSB speeds were 50, 60, 66, 75, 83 and 100 MHz.

The ALI Aladdin V is probably the best “all-rounder” chip which was used by many good motherboard manufacturers like Asus on the P5A or Gigabyte on the GA-5AX. It was known to have the best AGP performance but a major complaint from the overclocker community was the inability to desynchronise the FSB from the PCI/ISA/AGP bus which lead to instabilities if you went above 100MHz.

For main memory, it's important to note that DS (double-sided) memory is preferable on these old chipsets instead of SS (single-sided) memory. DS memory has chips on both sides of the stick, so for example a 256 MB PC133 DIMM typically has 16 x 32 MB chips, whereas a single-sided version has 8 x 64 MB chips. Chipsets like Aladdin V and VIA MVP3 can usually only detect individual chips of 32 MB or smaller.

A later variant of the Aladdin V was called the Aladdin V+, which used the M1542 northbridge. The southbridge remained the same as before.

Click here for the original press release of the ALi Aladdin V chipset.

Motherboards known to use the Aladdin V chipset are:

Motherboards known to use the Aladdin V+ chipset are:

ALi Aladdin V Chipset
Common Name Aladdin V
Chipset Packaging Number of chips 2 (M1541 & M1543)
Packaging Type 1 x 456-pin BGA (M1541), 1 x 328-pin BGA (M1543)
CPU Support Number of CPUs 1
AMD CPUs Supported K5, K6, K6-3D
Cyrix CPUs Supported 6x86 (M1), 6x86MX (M2)
Intel CPUs Supported Pentium, Pentium MMX
Cache Type Synchronous Pipeline Burst Cache
Maximum Supported Size 1024KB
Maximum Cacheable DRAM Area 512MB (10-bit Tag RAM - 512KB L2)
1GB (256KB L2)
Memory Maximum DRAM Supported 1GB (8 RAS Lines)
BEDO DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) N/A
EDO DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 5-2-2-2
FPM DRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 5-3-3-3
SDRAM Read Timings (66MHz) 3-1-1-1
Data Path to Memory 64-bits
ECC Support Yes
Hard Disk Controller Chip M1543
Busmastering Support Yes
UltraDMA Support Yes
Max. Theoretical Transfer Rate PIO Mode 5/DMA Mode 3 (33.3MB/S)
PCI Interface Supported PCI Bus Speeds 25, 30, 33 MHz
Concurrent PCI Yes
Async. PCI Bus Speed Yes (Pseudo Synchronous)
PCI Specification 2.1 (66 MHz max.)
Power Management PC97 Compliance Yes
Suspend to Disk Yes
HDD Power Down Yes
Modem Wakeup Yes
System Suspend Yes
Video AGP Support Yes
Unified Memory Architecture No
Peripheral Support USB Support Yes
Plug and Play Port Yes
Write Buffers CPU-to-DRAM 32 QWords
CPU-to-PCI 6 DWords
PCI-to-DRAM 48 DWords
Officially Supported Bus Speeds 50, 60, 66, 75, 83, 100 MHz
Unofficially Achieved Bus Speeds Unknown

 

ALADDiN 7 (M1561, M1535D)

The last of the Pentium / Super Socket 7 PCI chipsets from ALi was the Aladdin 7, which consisted of the M1561 northbridge and M1535D southbridge.

Aladdin 7 did not support AGP.

The M1535D southbridge provided supported for UDMA-33 and UDMA-66. Four USB 1.0 ports were also included, plus AC'97 v2.1 integrated audio.

The ALi Aladdin 7 found its way onto very few motherboards, had buggy AGP support and didn’t have any good BIOS support.

 

ALADDiN PRO II (M1621, M1543/M1543C)

A chipset launched in 1997, and designed for Intel's new Pentium II, the Aladdin Pro II was the first Slot 1 chipset from ALi. It supported FSB speeds of either 66 or 100 MHz with memory running at the same frequency. Maximum memory support was 2 GB. This chipset had no integrated graphics processor (IGP).

The M1621 supported the PCI graphics bus at 66 MHz, as well as AGP 1x / 2x modes.

The M1543 southbridge provided UDMA-33 and UDMA-66 support, plus two USB 1.0 ports. The M1543C was identical but provided three USB 1.0 ports instead of two.

 

ALADDiN TNT (M1631, M1535/M1535D)

A PCI 2.2 chipset designed for Pentium II, Pentium III and Celeron CPUs, it had nVidia TNT2 integrated graphics, and supported FSB speeds up to 133 MHz. It also supported AGP 2x and maximum memory of 1.5 GB.

The M1535D southbridge provided supported for UDMA-33 and UDMA-66. Four USB 1.0 ports were also included, plus AC'97 v2.1 integrated audio.

ALADDiN Pro 4 (M1641, M1535/M1535D)

The first PCI chipset designed for Pentium II, Pentium III and Celeron CPUs that supported AGP 4x. It had no integrated graphics. Memory bus speeds remained as before (66 - 133 MHz), the same as the FSB.

ALADDiN Pro 5 (M1651, M1535D+)

A PCI 2.2 chipset designed for Pentium II, Pentium III and Celeron CPUs, it had no integrated graphics, but did support AGP 4x like the Pro 4. Maximum memory was now 3 GB, but memory speeds could be as high as 266 MHz if DDR memory was used (if not, the memory would run at the same speed as the FSB).

A variant of the Aladdin Pro 5 that supported the PIII "Tualatin" was released, called the Aladdin Pro 5T. This used a M1651T northbridge.

The M1535D+ southbridge provided supported for UDMA-100 for the first time. Six USB 1.1 ports were also included, plus AC'97 v2.1 integrated audio.