It Slices, It Dices. But Wait, There’s More!



Actually, there is not more. A couple of years ago rumors were floating around that Intel’s first Platform Controller Hub (PCH) would contain the latest in features like 6Gb/s SATA ports, USB 3.0, and full PCI Express 2.0 capabilities all at a price that even McDonald’s would be envious of when launched. Of course, you know rumors are usually just that, silly rumors.



Instead, we end up with what I would conveniently call ICH10.1. Even Windows 7 agrees with us when loading drivers. Except that PCH is the new ICH, otherwise we are talking the same part, almost. There are a few minor differences between the P55 and ICH10R as we see below.

  AMD SB750 Intel ICH10R Intel P55
Additional PCI Express None 6 x1 PCIe 1.1 8 x 1 PCIe 2.0
USB 12 ports 12 ports 14 ports
SATA (300MB/s) 6 ports 6 ports 6 ports
PATA 2 channels None None
RAID* RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10
HD Audio Interface Yes Yes Yes
Ethernet Not Integrated Intel Gigabit LAN Intel Gigabit LAN
Northbridge Interface 4 lane PCIe 1.1 DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex

The P55 gives you six 3 Gb/s SATA ports, 14 USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet MAC , HD Audio, and eight lanes of PCI Express 2.0 goodness all for $40. That price tag buys you two additional USB ports and two additional PCIe lanes over the $3 ICH10R. The PCI Express lanes are version 2.0 but Intel decided to limit their speed to PCIe 1.x specs at 2.5GT/s. Why? We think it is because the DMI link continues at 1GB/s in each direction, which means a decent 6Gb/s SAS/SATA RAID card and a few upcoming 6Gb/s drives (SSDs anyone) could easily saturate the link. The P55 and ICH10R both consume a little over 4.5W during normal operation. Considering the specifications on AMD’s new SB8xxx chipsets, it appears we have a PCH Gap brewing.

How is performance? We are still trying to reach a conclusion and asked Intel for additional information. Overall, the two chipsets are about even in actual usage that includes file transfers and application benchmarks. The synthetic programs like HDTach and HDTune tell another story but one that we do not trust. Iometer shows both controllers neck and neck with our WD VelociRaptors in RAID testing, but a slight nod to the ICH10R in single disk testing with our OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD. We will have results in the upcoming P55 motherboard roundups (three total) starting later this week.

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  • henrikfm - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - link

    "We will have results in the upcoming P55 motherboard roundups (three total) starting later this week."

    Where are those roundups?
    Reply
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  • Mastakilla - Thursday, September 10, 2009 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Is there any update concerning HD Audio? (bitstreaming for example)
    Or do we have to wait a lil longer for that to break through?

    Also, do you have any news on the x58A chipset, rumoured in the following topic:
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...">http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...

    thanks!
    Reply
  • OSJF - Wednesday, September 09, 2009 - link

    Did Intel actually commented on USB 3.0 and SATA3 support for the controller hub? Is it planned for ICH11? Reply
  • haze10 - Wednesday, September 09, 2009 - link

    does anyone know if it'll be possible to use one of the two peg- slots (the ones provided by the cpu) for an expansion card like e.g. sata III, USB3)? or are these slots for graphics cards only? Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    PCIe slots are PCIe slots, you can put whatever you want into them. The catch is that by putting even a 1x card into one of the CPU slots you've dropped the 2nd down to 8x. If you're using a mid-range GPU this shouldn't matter, but the drop in xFire scaling that turned up in a few games on LGA1156 (in particular crysis) indicates that an 8x slot is starting to bottleneck a 4890x2 card; which means that the more affordable forthcoming 5850/5870/g300 cards will also probably suffer.

    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    It's a pity PCIe lanes can only be allocated in factor of 2 groupings. Being able to split the CPU lanes as 15/1, 12/4, etc would hopefully allow enough BW for even the next generations high end GPUs while also allowing a second device a connection that doesn't get bottlenecked by DMI congestion.
    Reply
  • HexiumVII - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    I wanted to wait for USB3 and SATA3 b4 upgrading, but that will be a while yet, and not devices plus extremely high early prices makes it a little offputting still. But the current SBs are quite gimped. They can't even support Marvell SATA 6Gbps chips. Only the p7p55d used a workaround with a PEX bridge chip to funnel 4x lanes to the 1x physical supported on the Marvell SATA chip. Oh well, at least even the G2 intel can't do much more than SATA2. We will have to wait for the magic number 3 to get to i/o nirvana. Reply
  • Bakkone - Wednesday, September 09, 2009 - link

    Im also waiting for the new SATA and USB to show up. Don't really care if there are devices for it, I just don't want to use expansion cards to get stuff to work.

    As for chipset, I think its quite obvious that Intel is moving its grey way of doing business from the processor area, to the chipset area.
    Reply
  • QChronoD - Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - link

    Other than Intel's licensing, what is stopping mb mfgrs from just using the ICH10R instead of the P55 and saving $37?? Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, September 19, 2009 - link

    In addition to what Casper42 has said, can you even buy a ICHR10 by itself, or does intel only sell them with a northbridge chip? I cynically suspect that the very low price of the southbridge is so that intel can pretend to allow 3rd parties to sell a separate SB to pair with an intel NB as an anti-trust gimic while still making doing so sufficiently expensive vs their solution that they've protected their mainstream mobo income stream. Reply

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