With Intel's next generation processors firmly on the horizon, we should also turn to what motherboards will be on offer when we have the opportunity to root around in our pockets to invest in an next generation system.  With appropriate vendor support, 6-series motherboards will support these new processors with little more than a BIOS update, however to get the most out of the new processor, we have to look at the new range of motherboards about to hit the market.  This brief look at some of them is by no means an exhaustive list, however we would like to know what you find most interesting and would like to be reviewed over the next few months.

7-Series Chipsets

As with all of Intel’s major chipset releases, we have the opportunity to pick from a wide range of models to suit different needs, price points, or even business models.  With Sandy Bridge, we also had distinct segregation – H67 had IGP but no overclocking, P67 did not have IGP but overclocked, and Z68 had both.  Thankfully this time all the new chipsets have IGP outputs to take advantage of the IGP, and the main differences lie in PCIe configuration limitations and use of Intel’s Smart Response Technology:

Chipset Comparison
  Z77 Z75 H77 Z68 P67 H67
CPU Support IVB
LGA-1155
IVB
LGA-1155
IVB
LGA-1155
SNB/IVB
LGA-1155
SNB/IVB
LGA-1155
SNB/IVB
LGA-1155
CPU Overclocking Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
CPU PCIe Config 1 x16 or
2 x8 or
1 x8 + 2 x4
PCIe 3.0
1 x16 or
2 x8 PCIe 3.0
1 x16 PCIe 3.0 1 x16 or
2 x8 or
1 x8 + 2 x4
PCIe 3.0
1 x16 or
2 x8 PCIe 3.0
1 x16 PCIe 3.0
Processor Graphics Support Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Intel SRT (SSD caching) Yes No Yes Yes No No
RAID Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
USB 2.0 Ports (3.0) 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 14 14
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2)

The beauty of Ivy Bridge predominantly comes in the form of PCIe 3.0, which should alleviate many of the PCIe bus bandwidth bottlenecks in multi-GPU setups, and native USB 3.0 on board.  Some vendors may expand these features – PCIe lanes may be increased through a PCIe 3.0 PLX chip (similar to NF200 on X58), or third-party USB 3.0 controllers will be added to the boards.  In this brief look over some of the 7-series motherboards, we will see both in action.  However that PLX chip looks fairly expensive.

ASUS
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  • yuhong - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    The Z68/P67/H67/H61 chipsets don't have them either.. All the MBs with PCI slots had to use a bridge chip to add them. Reply
  • moozoo - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    >There are still a lot of sound cards and TV tuners that are mainly PCI.

    Looking at http://www.netplus.com.au/product-list/SO40/Sound_... where I buy my gear. They are "mainly" pci-e

    Seriously buy a new sound card.
    There a plenty of good PCI-e sound cards from cheap though to expensive.

    I'd imagine most motherboards are bought for new systems and people buying new systems who want a sound card are going to want a pci-e one.
    That and the fact that motherboard sound is good enough for 90% of the market is why the manufacturers are dropping PCI.

    PCI can not die soon enough.

    I just wish that Intel had a Ivy Bridge that has the GPU and twice the PCI-e lanes.
    Reply
  • Wardrop - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    I say death to PCI. It's about time PCI became a non-standard feature. It's only been super-ceded for 8 years. I've personally consciously avoided all PCI add-on cards for the last 5-6 years; sometimes these PCI-e cards would cost more or be harder to source than their PCI equivalent, but I was guaranteeing future compatibility (and ensuring I had no bandwidth bottlenecks). I'm now glad that every add-on card in our house is PCI-e, except for my second TV tuner which is only PCI because the damn motherboard only had 2 PCI-e slots (already used by the GPU and the primary TV tuner) - which is exactly why I'm glad PCI is finally being dropped. Reply
  • oldabelincoln - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    The sound card I understand. A TV tuner on PCI I don't understand. Before even the change to broadcast ATSC, tuner cards were PCI-e, at least the ones I looked at that supported ATSC, and with cable cos going to all digital output, I wonder what tuner you are using and what kind of signal you re recording. I'm not disputing the issue, just a bit puzzled.

    For my part, I use a PCI-e Hayppauge 2250, and certainly wouldn't have minded if it was PCI, so I could free up two PCI-e slots that the 2250 and daughter board use up, and get some use out of the unused PCI space.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Sunday, March 11, 2012 - link

    @oldabelincoln:
    What does PCI vs PCIe have to do with whether a tuner is analog or digital? There are PCI cards with digital tuners too; Hauppauge's HVR-1150 is an example.

    @the earlier poster:
    Having said that, the price of being an enthusiast, or at least being one who upgrades to newer high-end platforms, some legacy support will eventually die. I transitioned to a PCIe sound card and a PCIe tuner card knowing I wouldn't always have support for PCI cards. There are a few very specific cards out there that are still PCI only, but usually they are such that and end-user isn't likely to change the configuration of a system using them. Good sound cards and TV tuners are available in PCIe, and are reasonably priced when compared to a $200-350 Z77 mainboard.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    That is the thing, intel wants ALL legacy ports off the boards. It lowers costs, lowers point of failure, makes things easier.

    PCI has done well, it can go now. Ouch... I think I just realized my Tuner-card is PCI, nope... its PCIe. I'm good to go.

    For those who need PCI support, they can go with AMD boards, for now...
    Reply
  • philosofool - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    I'm a little confused by this comment, because it looks to me as if GIGABYTE has some (but not all) boards including some legacy PCI.

    I get what you're saying about wanting them on your board. If you have an old but good sound card, an upgrade is expensive and probably doesn't add to your overall experience. It's just a part you had to replace.

    I use a PCI 802.11g card that I absolutely love. I never have connectivity failures that require a reboot of my system. You can't say that for all wireless cards, and I'm not looking forward to the point where I have to replace this one.
    Reply
  • Logsdonb - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    I would like to see some ivy bridge / PCI 3 benchmarks with crossfire configurations (ATI 7870s) and high speed SSDs. Most benchmarks published so far only have 1 GPU and don't really show the capability of the new PCI graphics. I am really looking forward to upgrading with CPU, GPU, and PCI upgrades all at the same time.

    I would like to see very nice gaming / photo and video editing solutions without having to create a massive space heater that is loud and consumes massive amounts of energy to run. In other words, a nice machine that is also nice to live with.
    Reply
  • ravisurdhar - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    The sudden appearance of mSATA everywhere kinda surprised me...is this supposed to be used for an SRT drive, for users that don't want a full-sized SSD? Reply
  • peterfares - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    That and for small form-factor PCs. With a tiny SSD that plugs right into the motherboard it basically takes up no room. This will also be great for HTPCs, too. If you don't need local storage, a small SSD is awesome. Reply

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