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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  • Mazlov - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    Having read all the SB articles on AT, I must admit that I too feel that this platform is getting a bit more attention than it deserves. I suspect this is because X58 has been around for such a long time, and enthousiasts are eag to get their hands on something new.
    In reality, SB, although providing us with a very decent performance upgrade, is not all that exciting. IPC does not seem to have improved very much. Much of the improvement seems to be realized by the higher stock clocks and excellent Turbo. Both of which are a direct result of the new 32nm production process.
    The thing that realy bothers me though, is that the chipsets look as if it's still 2009. With the exception of sata-600, nothing about the SB platform is particularly modern. No onboard usb3, not a trace of Light Peak (while Apple is rumoured to have it on Macs this year), no pci-e 3.0 (understandable since it has only rercently been finalized). Looks to me as if Intel is indeed hostage of their own time schedule.
    To make matters even worse. Intel has taken their market segmentation one step further, by increasing the amount of different chipsets. All with their own limitations.

    Now I'm not saying that SB is a bad product. For over ninety percent of consumers it will fit perfectly. Whether it is good enough for us enthousiasts... I doubt it. 2011 will see some interesting new technologies and SB sadly does not seem to support them yet. If you are a hardware enthousiast, unless you are willing to upgrade again at the end of this year, SB is not for you.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, January 05, 2011 - link


    Two 8X PCIE is more than sufficient for SLI/CF with the vast majority of games/apps
    using anything other than perhaps the highest end GPUs. naturally X58 favours 3-way/4-way CF/SLI, but few games benefit significantly from these modes (to the
    extent that the entire additional platforum cost is worthwhile) and some games perform
    worse.

    Likewise, dual-channel RAM is also plenty, especially since unlike X58 the
    P55 platform does not suffer from the 'vanishing' RAM channel problem when overclocking.

    However, I do agree that X58 is hardly dead for those who've bought them. Very
    few users will really *need* the extra speed offered by SNB CPUs, and all those
    with 920/930 CPUs have the 6-core options which will come down in price.

    But don't claim that dual 16X PCIE and 3-channel RAM is essential for high
    performance because that's just plain wrong. With the help of a friend who has
    an i7 930 system with two GTX 460 SLI, I've accumulated a plethora of benchmark
    results which show what I mean (my system is an i7 870 @ 4270MHz, dual EVGA
    GTX 460 1GB FTW SLI). Google for "3DMark06 Benchmark SGI Depot", see the
    end of the page for the URLs of the other _nine_ pages of performance results,
    more added daily/weekly when I & my friend are able.

    QED.

    Ian.
    Reply
  • jp9700 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I just wanted to thank you for including your "3D Movement" benchmark. I do a fair amount of computational chemistry myself (although generally quantum mechanics), and I find it incredibly hard to find applicable benchmarks on new hardware. Reply
  • jimhsu - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Seconded ... most of the scientific community is notoriously conservative when it comes to publishing relevant benchmarks for scientific applications on new hardware. Often, the best you can do is hear from a colleague that "Lab X upgraded to Y and got good results" or "Dr. A. (who published in Nature, Cell, Science, whatever) has 10K in grant money and bought that, so we should too". On rare cases you might see an anecdotal report on a group's public website that tests a single config against another particular configuration and shows a % improvement ... those are rare though. Reply
  • DesktopMan - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    When are they getting rid of the Realtek hardware? The Realtek audio drivers have given me nothing but trouble for years. Isn't there support for gbit ethernet in the platform as well, but board manufacturers choose not to use them? Remember reading about that last bit but not entirely sure if I remember correctly. Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    When something CHEAPER and BETTER will come along. And if you're complaining about Realtek, well, do you remember the old audio codecs that where used in the past before Realtek? Reply
  • dgobe - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    It would be nice to see an i7 920(OC'd) vs an i7 2600K at the same clock speed. Turbo off, just to see how the two architectures compare. Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    You won't see that because the idea is to throw out the old and buy new. Line your pockets people, in a couple of days you'll be able to buy shiny new toys at newegg.com. As for everyone else, keep and eye on eBay for tons of cheap used CPUs and Mobos. Reply
  • landerf - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    About the bandwidth (muti 3d test), while clock for clock yes 1155 only beats 1156, at max speed it should pass or match 1366 as 1366 is speed limited. That's why I bought 8 gbs of 2400mhz ram in prep for sandy. Reply
  • GTVic - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I've seen very little information on UEFI, do some Sandy Bridge motherboards have a BIOS or do they all have UEFI.

    Also, this motherboard has two PS2 ports and a floppy connector. I have seen several Sandy Bridge motherboards which have no IDE, no floppy, no serial/parallel ports and only one blue/green PS2 port. So this motherboard seems to be catering to people with legacy requirements. I think the need for a floppy connector is overstated.
    Reply

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