The 6-series Platform

At launch Intel is offering two chipset families for Sandy Bridge: P-series and H-series, just like with Lynnfield. The high level differentiation is easy to understand: P-series doesn’t support processor graphics, H-series does.

There are other differences as well. The P67 chipset supports 2x8 CrossFire and SLI while H67 only supports a single x16 slot off of the SNB CPU (the chip has 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes that stem from it).

While H67 allows for memory and graphics overclocking, it doesn’t support any amount of processor overclocking. If you want to overclock your Sandy Bridge, you need a P67 motherboard.

6Gbps

Had SSDs not arrived when they did, I wouldn’t have cared about faster SATA speeds. That’s how it worked after all in the evolution of the hard drive. We’d get a faster ATA or SATA protocol, and nothing would really change. Sure we’d eventually get a drive that could take advantage of more bandwidth, but it was a sluggish evolution that just wasn’t exciting.

SSDs definitely changed all of that. Today there’s only a single 6Gbps consumer SSD on the market—Crucial’s RealSSD C300. By the middle of the year we’ll have at least two more high-end offerings, including SandForce’s SF-2000. All of these SSDs will be able to fully saturate a 3Gbps SATA interface in real world scenarios.


Intel's DP67BG—The blue SATA ports on the right are 6Gbps, the black ones are 3Gbps

To meet the soon to be growing need for 6Gbps SATA ports Intel outfits the 6-series PCH with two 6Gbps SATA ports in addition to its four 3Gbps SATA ports.

I dusted off my 128GB RealSSD C300 and ran it through a bunch of tests on five different platforms: Intel’s X58 (3Gbps), Intel’s P67 (3Gbps and 6Gbps), AMD’s 890GX (6Gbps) and Intel’s X58 with a Marvell 9128 6Gbps SATA controller. The Marvell 91xx controller is what you’ll find on most 5-series motherboards with 6Gbps SATA support.

I ran sequential read/write and random read/write tests, at a queue depth of 32 to really stress the limits of each chipset’s SATA protocol implementation. I ran the sequential tests for a minute straight and the random tests for three minutes. I tested a multitude of block sizes ranging from 512-bytes all the way up to 32KB. All transfers were 4KB aligned to simulate access in a modern OS. Each benchmark started at LBA 0 and was allowed to use the entire LBA space for accesses. The SSD was TRIMed between runs involving writes.

Among Intel chipsets I found that the X58 has stellar 3Gbps SATA performance, which is why I standardize on it for my SSD testbed. Even compared to the new 6-series platform there are slight advantages at high queue depths to the X58 vs. Intel’s latest chipsets.

Looking at 6Gbps performance though there’s no comparison, the X58 is dated in this respect. Thankfully all of the contenders do well in our 6Gbps tests. AMD’s 8-series platform is a bit faster at certain block sizes but for the most part it, Intel’s 6-series and Marvell’s 91xx controllers perform identically.

I hate to be a bore but when it comes to SATA controllers an uneventful experience is probably the best you can hope for.

Overclocking: Effortless 4.4GHz+ on Air UEFI Support: 3TB Drives & Mouse Support Pre-Boot
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  • dacipher - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    The Core i5-2500K was just what i was looking for. Performance/ Price is where it needs to be and overclocking should be a breeze. Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I agree.

    "As an added bonus, both K-series SKUs get Intel’s HD Graphics 3000, while the non-K series SKUs are left with the lower HD Graphics 2000 GPU."

    Doesn't it seem like Intel has this backwards? For me, I'd think to put the 3000 on the lesser performing CPUs. Users will probably have their own graphics to use with the unlocked procs, whereas the limit-locked ones will more likely be used in HTPC-like machines.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    This seems odd to me unless they're having yield problems with the GPU portion of their desktop chips. That doesn't seem too likely though because you'd expect the mobile version to have the same problem but they're all 12 EU parts. Perhaps they're binning more aggressively on TDP, and only had enough chips that met target with all 12 EUs to offer them at the top of the chart. Reply
  • dananski - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I agree with both of you. This should be the ultimate upgrade for my E8400, but I can't help thinking they could've made it even better if they'd used the die space for more CPU and less graphics and video decode. The Quick Sync feature would be awesome if it could work while you're using a discrete card, but for most people who have discrete graphics, this and the HD Graphics 3000 are a complete waste of transistors. I suppose they're power gated off so the thermal headroom could maybe be used for overclocking. Reply
  • JE_Delta - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    WOW........

    Great review guys!
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Great review, but does anyone know how often 1 active core is used. I know this is a matter of subjection, but if you're running an anti-virus and have a bunch of standard services running in the background, are you likely to use only one core when idling?

    What should I advise people, as consumers, to really pay attention to? I know when playing games such as Counter-Strike or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, my C2D maxes out at 100%, I assume both cores are being used to achieve the 100% utilization. I'd imagine that in this age, hardly ever will there be a time to use just one core; probably 2 cores at idle.

    I would think that the 3-core figures are where the real noticeable impact is, especially in turbo, when gaming/browsing. Does anyone have any more perceived input on this?
    Reply
  • dualsmp - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    What resolution is tested under Gaming Performance on pg. 20? Reply
  • johnlewis - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    According to Bench, it looks like he used 1680×1050 for L4D, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Dragon Age Origins, and Dawn of War 2, and 1024×768 for StarCraft 2. I couldn't find the tested resolution for World of Warcraft or Civilization V. I don't know why he didn't list the resolutions anywhere in the article or the graphs themselves, however. Reply
  • karlostomy - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    what the hell is the point of posting gaming scores at resolutions that no one will be playing at?

    If i am not mistaken, the grahics cards in the test are:
    eVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Vista 64)
    ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
    MSI GeForce GTX 580 (Windows 7)

    So then, with a sandybridge processor, these resolutions are irrelevant.
    1080p or above should be standard resolution for modern setup reviews.

    Why, Anand, have you posted irrelevant resolutions for the hardware tested?
    Reply
  • dananski - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    Games are usually limited in fps by the level of graphics, so processor speed doesn't make much of a difference unless you turn the graphics detail right down and use an overkill graphics card. As the point of this page was to review the CPU power, it's more representative to use low resolutions so that the CPU is the limiting factor.

    If you did this set of charts for gaming at 2560x1600 with full AA & max quality, all the processors would be stuck at about the same rate because the graphics card is the limiting factor.

    I expect Civ 5 would be an exception to this because it has really counter-intuitive performance.
    Reply

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