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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  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    That would make sense. It looks like Intel has switched their product release cycles. Before, it was high-end chips first and then mainstream chips later on (at least this was the case with Nehalem, I'm too lazy today to check anything older that that :D). Now it is the vice versa. Mainstream chips in H1 and high-end/enterprise in H2.

    This make sense though since enterprise level stuff is more complex and thus needs more time and money to be designed, tested etc.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    It does make sense in some ways, the other half though is that there're lots of people who bought 2500/2600K systems that probably would've bought LGA2011 quads at the higher margins if the high end part launched first. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Lets say someone drops an Ivy Bridge CPU in an existing 6 series motherboard, could it run at DDR3-1600 or only at 1333? Technically, the memory controller is in the CPU die, so it sounds reasonable to say it would do 1600. On the other hand though, the motherboard would have to be able to handle the speed and would doubtlessly have some sort of UEFI settings related to it. Any thoughts here? Reply
  • don_k - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    Personally I want to see confirmation that Ivy Bridge will be on X79 (in good time) otherwise there would be no hesitation. But I forsee a dead end for X79 like with X58 and I just don't like it. If IB won't be on X79 quickly enough and IB turns out to be quite a bit faster at a smaller process.. but that means waiting for IB. Bloody hell Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Saturday, May 07, 2011 - link

    Don't expect LGA 2011 Ivy Bridges before H2 2012. SB-E is Q4'11 so Intel won't release IB-E in Q1'12. Reply
  • don_k - Saturday, May 07, 2011 - link

    Yup, that's what I gathered. Frankly I don't see any point in LGA 2011 if, as I expect, IB is much faster than SB at the same clock speeds. You then get to wait for IB while the supposedly more 'mainstream' platform is faster than the high-end platform. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Saturday, May 07, 2011 - link

    I would say the primary market for LGA 2011 parts is the enterprise market. The mainstream products (LGA 1155) lack many necessary features (PCIe lanes, ECC, DP setups...) that are required by servers and higher-end workstations. While there is Xeon E3-1200 lineup, it does not offer more than four cores and there is no option for DP setup either.

    For enterprises, the raw CPU performance is not always the number one concern. Fast I/O options are usually crucial and the 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes provided by mainstream SB may not be enough for those needs. In most cases, the performance per watt is also essential, especially in servers which are online 24/7. That is why Xeon lineups often offer low-power options.

    From consumer's standpoint, SB-E may look like it makes no sense but in the end, it is not really aimed at them. There will be few CPUs for enthusiasts but other than that, it's solely Xeons.
    Reply
  • Casper42 - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    I really wanna slap someone over at Intel in their Marketing Dept.

    Why isnt this new chipset simply the X69?
    did all the engineer's giggle too much or do they somehow think the SB-E NB/PCH is magically next generation because its taking so long to release.

    If you're not including USB3 or LightPeak, it doesn't deserve to be a new generation.

    Its bad enough there will be 4 different sockets for Servers next year, and I'm sure at least a dozen procs per socket (except maybe on the ultra high end, half dozen there more likely)
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, May 08, 2011 - link

    According to VR-Zone, 20GB "Larsen Creek" SSD will be 119$. 40GB X25-M/310 series is cheaper than that! Reply
  • DanaG - Sunday, May 08, 2011 - link

    Anyone know if the Ivy Bridge IGP is supposed to support 120Hz desktop? I don't expect true stereoscopic 3D on it, but it'd be nice for a 3D laptop to not switch from 120 to 60 when running on IGP.
    120Hz would also be helpful for playing 24FPS blu-ray.
    Reply

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