Panther Point Chipsets

Panther Point is the codename for Intel 7-series chipsets that are set to release simultaneously with Ivy Bridge CPUs. They will come in six flavors, three of which are for the consumer market and three more for the business sector. As noted already, the socket will be the same LGA1155 that Sandy Bridge uses, with pin compatibility on the CPUs and chipsets. The following table summarizes what we know about current and upcoming chipsets; unfortunately, we had to leave Z68 out of the charts as we’re currently under NDA there—and the same goes for Intel SRT; tune in next week for additional information on both.

Intel Chipset Roadmap
Product Z77 Z75 H77 X79 Q77 Q75 B75
Code Name Panther Point Panther Point Panther Point Patsburg Panther Point Panther Point Panther Point
Platform Name Maho Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay Waimea Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay
Release Date 1H'12 1H'12 1H'12 Q4'11 1H'12 1H'12 1H'12
Socket Support LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA2011 LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA1155
PCI-Express Graphics 1x16, 2x8, or
1x8+2x4 Gen3
1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16 Gen3 2x16 to 4x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3
Intel RST Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Intel SRT Yes No Yes No (?) Yes No No
Total USB (USB3) Ports 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 (0) 14 (4) 14 (4) 12 (4)
Total SATA (6Gbps) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2) 14 (10) 6 (2) 6 (1) 6 (1)
PCI No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Max Independent Displays 3 3 3 N/A 3 3 3
CPU Overclocking Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

The only major differences between the consumer chipsets is in the support for PCIe lane configurations as well as SRT. All are set to be released in 1H’12, but they may not all launch at the same time. For example, with Sandy Bridge Intel released P67 and H67 initially and will follow up with Z68 shortly.

In terms of feature support, Intel will allow overclocking in all non-business Panther Point chipsets and will support the IGP on all the new chipsets. That means there will be no direct replacement for P67 (not that it really matters), and similarly there’s no direct equivalent of the non-overclocking H67.  This is good news as quite a few people were annoyed by the lack of a “do everything” chipset for SNB (though Z68 should fix this). The display options are also improved relative to SNB/Cougar Point, and now support up to three independent monitors instead of just two. We suspect most users who want to run that many displays will benefit from a discrete GPU, and it’s also worth noting that with SNB CPUs in 7-series boards you will be restricted to two independent displays.

The biggest improvements are in the I/O segment. One long-awaited feature that’s coming in Panther Point is native USB 3.0 support. Many people were disappointed when Intel decided not to include it in Cougar Point, forcing motherboard manufacturers to use a separate USB 3.0 chip. All Panther Point chipsets will have four USB 3.0 ports which is actually pretty nice, considering that most of the current motherboards only come with two USB 3.0 ports. There are already many USB 3.0 devices (mostly external hard drive bays and flash drives), and with the added bandwidth USB 3.0 offers it’s already moving into the mainstream market. Though some rumors reported Panther Point would include support for Thunderbolt, there is absolutely nothing in the current roadmap to suggest its presence in the 7-series chipsets. There’s always the potential for motherboard makers to use a separate chip to add Thunderbolt, but that could be done with any current platform.

Another interesting I/O update will be PCI-Express. As noted earlier, Ivy Bridge will upgrade PCIe from 2.0 to 3.0, which means twice the bandwidth—or a move from 500MB/s to 1GB/s per lane. This is very good news for users who want maximum graphics performance, meaning SLI or CrossFire, but it also helps with technologies like USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps. Sandy Bridge and LGA1156 Nehalems (Lynnfield and Clarkdale) have been somewhat limited by PCIe bandwidth in multi-GPU configurations since they had to share 16 lanes. That meant either one GPU at the full 8GB/s bandwidth, two GPUs at 4GB/s each, or four GPUs with only 2GB/s each (using dual-GPU cards).

We investigated this back when Lynnfield launched; while the performance difference was negligible in most games, there was a noticeable FPS drop in some games, especially in quad-GPU configurations. Of course, today’s GPUs are even more powerful so the limited bandwidth could be a bigger deal if we reran the test with the latest hardware. However, Ivy Bridge should abolish this bottleneck as the bandwidth will be double once more. This means a single x8 PCIe 3.0 slot can provide as much bandwidth as an x16 PCIe 2.0 slot, i.e. 8GB/s. The same applies to quad-GPU configurations as an x4 PCIe 3.0 slot will provide the same 4GB/s bandwidth as x8 PCIe 2.0 slot. This implies that there should no longer be a loss in GPU performance when running multi-GPU configuration on Intel’s mainstream platforms, though obviously you will need a GPU (or other PCIe card) that supports PCIe 3.0 in order to utilize the faster speeds. We don’t have any information yet about AMD’s or NVIDIA’s plans for PCIe 3.0, but historically they have been ready when the motherboard support is there.

The business chipsets support two additional features. Q77, which is the high-end chipset, will support both vPro and SIPP (Stable Image Platform Program). Q75 will not support vPro but it will support SIPP, whereas B75 will not support either of those. All of the business chipsets also include native PCI support, which is still important for many companies that have custom peripherals.

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  • fic2 - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    I think Intel GPUs get pretty much the respect they deserve. As long as they keep crippling the mainstream parts by putting in crap like HD2000 they don't deserve any respect. The only decent GPU they have is the HD3000 in the 'k' series which will never be used by the people that buy 'k' series parts (ok, 1% might). Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Yeah, but all of the mobile chips pretty much get HD 3000, and they're the place you're more likely to use the IGP. Maybe Ivy Bridge will be better in this respect; guess we'll wait and see. Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Sunday, May 08, 2011 - link

    Actually in that case it will be 1.33*1.33*1.33=2.35 times faster. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Oh if only math worked that way in real life. :) Reply
  • Conficio - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Kristian,
    thanks for an article full of details. However, I find this article harder to read than necessary. Because it is peppered with abbreviations that I'm not familiar with. They might be daily use for an Intel enthisiast but they have not yet reached the mainstream.

    May I suggest AnandTech adds to their awesome Benches a Glossary and links the first use (in an article) of any name or abreviation to a short definition page with a list of serach results for the term (good Google juice if you knwo what I mean). That would make it so much easier to brush up on a term the reader is not familiar with.

    Alternatively (or in addition) spell out the names of technologies with appreviations at theri first use, such as S... R... T ... (SRT) so that one can form a mental word for the appreviation and better understand what is said.

    That said, keep up the good work. One wants to read these articles and understand in detail as opposed to skimming just for buzz words and chatter (slashdot I'm looking at you).

    P.S.: The formatting of tables, etc. often does not scale with enlarging the font, but that is for another post.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the feedback. I'm still learning and sometimes it's just hard to use the full name instead of the abbreviation, mainly because in the forums I go everyone uses abbreviations.

    While I don't want to blame Jarred for this, in the original version at least the SRT was first mentioned as Smart Response Technology (SRT) so people get the idea of what the SRT means. In the original version, there is also info on the Z68 and SRT in general but due to the NDA, we couldn't publish it so that might have added confusion since some parts of the other areas of the article referred to that.

    If you really want to be helpful, send me an email (click my name above the article) and give me more examples of the cases where you wish that the abbreviation should be explained more clearly :-)
    Reply
  • HilbertSpace - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    I also did a google search for "Intel SRT" (didn't know what it was) and got to Intel's site that talks about "System Recovery Technology" - same acronym two different things... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Just to clarify, we are under NDA on Smart Response Technology until Z68 launches, at which point Anand will have a full explanation as well as performance results. That also takes care of the Larsen Creek SSD, so I'm as interested as the next guy to see what it will do for performance. Basically, I had to cut a whole page from the review where Kristian discussed SRT and Z68 features, but we'll have the official launch soon enough to fill in the gaps. :-) Reply
  • Conficio - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    This roadmap screams to me that Intel does not support Thunderbolt for non Apple systems.

    I'd have expected the next set of chipsets to support it for display and other purposes. Instead we see USB 3.0 accross teh board. Not that that is bad, but the lack of Thunderbolt in all of 6 new chipsets is really sendign a message (It's Apple only technology) despite all the statements otherwise.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Thunderboilt is just a combination displayport/PCIe lane in a single plug. I don't see any reason why it would need special chipset support. Reply

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