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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  • zipzoomflyhigh - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    1 yr warranty? REally? Reply
  • regginGUY - Wednesday, January 05, 2011 - link

    Please explain why this motherboard did so much worse than the others. Something doesn't add up. Reply
  • IanCutress - Saturday, January 08, 2011 - link

    That board didn't fair as badly as you claim. In the system benchmarks, it performs very well, and in the 3D benchmarks it's slightly worse than the ASRock in single card (as does the Gigabyte) but performs very admirably in dual card.

    Don't forget, each benchmark has a statistical variation on it, so the results could easily be +/- a certain amount, depending on the consistency of the benchmark. You'll never get the same score on 100 consecutive runs unless the benchmark is written so that the cache management is pre-optimised before every run (which a few synthetics do).

    The 3D benchmarks are representative a typical game. For example, a lap on Dirt2 with a lot of action will have a lower framerate than one where you spend all the time out in front. The benchmark in Dirt2 does a bit of both, by starting the car at the back of the grid, performs some overtakes, and sometimes gets easily overtaken, representing an average lap.

    Ian
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    I've actually come across the problem now through my own testing. It turns out that Dirt 2 has an issue on how you do single card mode. If there is two GPUs in the system and you disable one in Catalyst, you get an FPS drop compared to running the benchmark with just one GPU in the system. This issue doesn't affect Metro 2033 in our benchmark suite, thus I'd have to conclude it's an issue with the Dirt 2 engine with AMD Catalyst.

    The new FPS figures for the ASUS and Gigabyte boards will be updated shortly. Full reviews of these boards will hopefully go up in the next couple of weeks.

    Ian
    Reply
  • oxyurus - Saturday, January 08, 2011 - link

    Should have mentioned the x8/x8 pci 2.0 mode, as most of the boards at this price range are 16x/x4. Reply
  • Mephi5to - Sunday, January 09, 2011 - link

    Take a look at the picture of the mobo - bottom left corner. PATA connector =/= IDE? Reply
  • Mephi5to - Sunday, January 09, 2011 - link

    Nevermind :) I was so confused that actually went to their site and DL'd manual. It's a floppy connector. Sorry peeps. Reply
  • Shube - Monday, January 24, 2011 - link

    The specs for this board show 32Gb max memory space using unbuffered DDR3. With 4 slots that means 8Gb memory sticks. I can't find any available. Does anyone have any idea when they will be available? At what speed? Any details appreciated! Reply
  • marraco - Sunday, January 30, 2011 - link

    What about UEFI supposedly enhanced boot times? Reply
  • katleo123 - Tuesday, February 01, 2011 - link

    good informative post about sandy bridge
    for more info visit http://www.techreign.com/2010/12/intels-sandy-brid...
    Reply

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