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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  • omelet - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    For almost any game, the resolution will not affect the stress on the CPU. It is no harder for a CPU to play the game at 2560x1600 than it is to play at 1024x768, so to ensure that the benchmark is CPU-limited, low resolutions are chosen.

    For instance, the i5 2500k gets ~65fps in the Starcraft test, which is run at 1024x768. The i5 2500k would also be capable of ~65fps at 2560x1600, but your graphics card might not be at that resolution.

    Since this is a review for a CPU, not for graphics cards, the lower resolution is used, so we know what the limitation is for just the CPU. If you want to know what resolution you can play at, look at graphics card reviews.
    Reply
  • Tom - Sunday, January 30, 2011 - link

    Which is why the tests have limited real world value. Skewing the tests to maximize the cpu differences makes new cpus look impressive, but it doesn't show the reality that the new cpu isn't needed in the real world for most games. Reply
  • Oyster - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Maybe I missed this in the review, Anand, but can you please confirm that SB and SB-E will require quad-channel memory? Additionally, will it be possible to run dual-channel memory on these new motherboards? I guess I want to save money because I already have 8GB of dual-channel RAM :).

    Thanks for the great review!
    Reply
  • CharonPDX - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    You can confirm it from the photos of it only using two DIMMs in photo. Reply
  • JumpingJack - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    This has been discussed in great detail. The i7, i3, and i5 2XXX series is dual channel. The rumor mill is abound with SB-E having quad channel, but I don't recall seen anything official from Intel on this point. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    the K processors have the much better IGP and a variable multiplier, but to use the improved IGP you need an H67 chipset, which doesn't support changing the multiplier? Reply
  • ViRGE - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    CPU Multiplier: Yes, H67 cannot change the CPU multiplier

    GPU Multiplier: No, even H67 can change the GPU multiplier
    Reply
  • mczak - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I wonder why though? Is this just officially? I can't really see a good technical reason why CPU OC would work with P67 but not H67 - it is just turbo going up some more steps after all. Maybe board manufacturers can find a way around that?
    Or is this not really linked to the chipset but rather if the IGP is enabled (which after all also is linked to turbo)?
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I just checked the manual to MSI's 7676 Mainboard (high-end H67) and it lists cpu core multiplier in the bios (page 3-7 of the manual, only limitation mentioned is that of CPU support), with nothing grayed out and overclockability a feature. As this is the 1.1 Version, I think someone misunderstood something....

    Unless MSI has messed up its Manual after all and just reused the P67 Manual.... Still, the focus on over-clocking would be most ridiculous.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    also, there is this:http://www.eteknix.com/previews/foxconn-h67a-s-h67...

    Where the unlocked multiplier is specifically mentioned as a feature of the H67 board.
    So I think anandtech got it wrong here....
    Reply

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