Back in August 2010, AnandTech published its Sandy Bridge preview—an in-depth examination designed to tantalize consumers and industry alike as to what Intel’s latest production has to offer. I would like to review some of the major points as an introduction to the platform.

As you would expect, the new socket 1155 processors are incompatible with socket 1156 motherboards. The new motherboards will come in H and P varieties, with the H series taking advantage of the graphics on the processor die, whereas the P series will utilize discrete graphics only. At launch, both P67 and H67 chipsets will be available, with the H61 chipset released during Q1 2011.

Despite losing the on-chip graphics with the P series, these boards will support dual PCIe lanes running at x8 speed. The PCIe lane bandwidth of the new chipset is double that of previous Intel chipsets, firstly to increase correlation with chipsets, but also to help support SATA 6 Gb/s which runs over PCIe 1x, and future movement into USB 3.0.

The P/H67 chipsets will natively support two SATA 6Gb/s ports, with the possibility of some manufacturers adding an NEC/Marvell/Etron chip to increase this to four. Four SATA 3Gb/s will be included as standard. No USB 3.0 native support is included, much to the disappointment of some consumers, but again manufacturers at their own discretion can add an chip to give a couple of ports in the back panel, or a few more through onboard headers. USB 2.0 is provided copiously, with at least 10 ports available across the range, through either the back panel or onboard headers.

One major benefit, which I wholeheartedly approve of, is that the holes for the new coolers are identical to the socket 1156 coolers, and various board manufacturers may include socket 775 holes as well, allowing customers to keep their old air or water coolers.

You may remember the following comparison table:

Chipset Comparison
  P67 H67 H61 P55 H57 H55
CPU Support Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Sandy Bridge
LGA-1155
Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156
CPU PCIe Config 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
RAID Support Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 10 14 14 12
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 4 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0)
PCIe Lanes 8 (5GT/s) 8 (5GT/s) 6 (5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 6 (2.5GT/s)

Another major step over previous sockets and chipsets is the introduction of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). UEFI is a replacement for the older BIOS firmware present in most motherboards, designed to enhance the usability of the motherboard firmware over previous BIOS implementations. Major benefits include a graphical interface, the ability to use a mouse, improved possibility for overclocking on the fly, and the capability of booting from GPT hard drives (those with capacities over 2.2TB where the MBR partition table is unsuitable). Each implementation of the UEFI will be different from manufacturer to manufacturer, and we will look at ASRock’s implementation here today.

One other aspect of note with the new chipsets is the overclockability prospects on Sandy Bridge. Intel’s decision to integrate the clock generator onto the chipset die means that every BUS speed is a derivative of the clock speed. Various buses are highly sensitive to the clock speed, and will allow very little overclocking—maybe, at most, 1 or 2MHz above 100MHz. Thus, for the most part, people will leave the clock speed alone and end up adjusting the multiplier to increase the CPU speed (with the appropriate multiplier unlocked chip), and the divider to increase the RAM speed. For complete scalability, both will have to be adjusted in order for the CPU to reach optimum efficiency. On the P67 chipset, memory speeds up to 2133MHz are selectable, as well as adjustment of the memory sub-timings. We will examine the UEFI options ASRock provides, but please check Anand’s CPU overview for the full Sandy Bridge scaling picture.

On that note, let us have a look at one of the first Sandy Bridge motherboards to market, the ASRock P67 Extreme4.

Visual Inspection
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  • chrnochime - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    So basically for any CPU that has its multiplier locked, there's just no way to oc the CPU. Either pay up for an unlocked CPU or be content with stock speed. Hmm... Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I've read all the Sandy Bridge articles that you guys posted. And while at first glance it seems that you're really enthusiastic about the products, they are low end and mid range products. What I take from all the Sandy Bridge articles is that X58 high end platform is obsolete and that everyone should jump on the mediocre Sandy Bridge bandwagon. When I'm saying mediocre I'm not referring to the Core i5 2500K or to the Core i7 2600K CPUs. I'm referring to the rest of the platform and its limitations. No full support for SATA 6.0 (which AMD already had for months), only two 8X PCI-E lanes for high end SLI or CrossFire configurations, only dual channel memory. I mean, it is obvious that this is a new product and that Intel needs to sell it, but it doesn't mean that everyone who got a high end system on a X58 platform should throw it away. Also, the old X58 platform is far more modular. Yes, I know that X58 is old, and I hope that we'll see an update in the high end segment.

    But the question is: Do you guys ever get tired of advertising for Intel, or is the money just too good?
    Reply
  • extide - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    If you actually read all the articles like you said, you would see that they said that if you already have a high end x58/i7 system, then you should keep it. If you are considering BUYING a new system then they suggest getting SB over a p55 or x58 system. Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    X58 has been around before LGA1156, and is still around. Sandy Bridge is meant to kill everything that runs on LGA1156, not X58. The platform that Sandy Bridge runs on will be obsolete in 6 months. PCI-E 3.0 is just around the corner. That's when LGA2011 will be released, the successor of LGA1366. Conclusion: It doesn't really matter if you buy X58/i7 or P67/SandyBridge, they'll be both obsolete. Reply
  • AssBall - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    So you must never buy anything new, because in 6 months it will be obsolete. Just because there are new platforms doesn't mean the old ones are useless or no longer cost effective.

    I don't see where you get that "advertising for intel" junk from, either.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Wolfman, if you read any of Anandtech's articles, you'd know they don't accept compensation for any of their reviews - while this has helped them out sometimes, it has also hurt them. They have to be careful to be non-biased, but also respectful of manufacturers. Downing a product too much means they won't get as many products to test in the future (and have to wait longer to buy it for the review), not being honest enough discredits the article in the reader's eyes - the fine line must be walked and words chosen delicately. Still, funding is from advertisement and donations.

    Your AMD points are valid, but still unimpressive in comparison. As they stated, AMD is a better option for the lower CPUs, since you can OC them, whereas Intel has locked the i3's.

    I agree, USB3 needs adoption, they've had long enough. That said, Intel is still in domination and AMD has some work to do if they want to contend.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    The point of the reviews is that unless you need something that is only available on x58 (ie enough PCIe lanes for 3/4GPU setups, or 2 GPUs and a high end raid card) then there's next to no point in buying into the platform because a $300 2600k, is able to beat a $1000 hexcore in most benchmarks.

    I'm interested in LGA2011 too because a 30% faster quad core isn't overly exciting as an upgrade. My main concern is that with the 2600K running $300, that intel might demand $500+ for a hexcore that doesn't have crippled OC limits.
    Reply
  • Etern205 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    The only people interested in PCIe 3.0 are the gamers and enthusiast. 99% of the average use won't give a thought about what they have and test shows PCIe 2.0 doesn't have that much of a improvement over PCIe 1.1 in terms of performance.
    LGA 2011 the successor to LGA 1366 is still call Sandy Bridge. Funny how your not interested in this "obsolete" hardware but excited about the one after which by your terms is still "obsolete". This is the first time I've seen a person excited about some outdated hardware which has yet gone out the door.
    As for AMD, if they made a CPU that can out perform Intel, I'm sure this site and all other will be all over it like a celebrity meet with lights and flashes. Unfortunately, the last time AMD has that spot light was before Intel came up with the Conroe.
    Hopefully, AMD's bulldozer will let them once again shine in the spot light.
    Reply
  • tim851 - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    99% of the average users are still happy with the Athlon X2s they bought in 2005... Reply
  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, January 05, 2011 - link


    That's a good summary, unless of course one prefers to dabble with 'traditional'
    overclocking and/or overall platform costs of P55/X58 are more attractive. There
    are plenty of very well priced P55 boards available now. Hard to give a concrete
    nod to SB without knowing the mbd costs.

    Personally, my results reinforce your summary. Performance-wise, SB offers
    nothing useful over what I already have. Different though perhaps for someone
    who is running with an i3/i5 on a P55 board, but yet again it depends on the
    application.

    Ian.

    PS. I've praising Asrock's PCIE slot spacing for months, very glad to see
    they're sticking to it. Their P55 boards use the same setup. Perfect for
    cooling SLI/CF setups and a lot better than most X58 boards.
    Reply

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