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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  • RMSe17 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Time for an upgrade :) Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I decided to jump the first core-i lineup, and sitck to an old core2duo for some more time... now seems the wait was worth it!

    I just hope the prices outside US/Europe will be reasonable..

    thanks Anand,
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I think there are many of us that had the same idea. Unless needing to upgrade due to malfunction or new laptop purchase, holding C2D til past the i-Series was the best move to make; whereas buying into C2D asap was the best move at the time.

    Still going to wait for prices to fall and more USB3 adoption. Expected new purchase: mid-2011-mid 2012
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    by "i-Series" it should have said "1st gen. i-Series" Reply
  • CptTripps - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    Ya know I usually do as you are but was an early adopter of the i7 920. Looking now it seems I made the right choice. I have had 2 years of kickassery and my processor still holds up rather well in this article. Reply
  • hogey74 - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    Me too! I've got an e8400 running at 3.9 with almost zero OC know-how and its done me well. I might snap up an i7 if they and their mobos get cheap when sandy bridge has been out a few months... but may well skip that generation all together. Reply
  • Einy0 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Holy crapola AMD really needs Bulldozer now. Even in heavily threaded video encoding the 2600K at $300 is blowing the 1100T x6 out of the water. This is the the Core 2 Duo vs. A64 X2 all over again. Will Bulldozer be another Phenom, a day late and a dollar short? TLB bug anyone? As a PC enthusiast I really want to see competition to keep prices in check. If I had to upgrade today, I can't see how I could turn down the 2600K... Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Did you add mobo price into equation?

    I don't get all the excitement, really. If anything, Intel's anti-overclocking moves
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Yeah, new Intel motherboard models are never cheap. I don't understand why the price remains so high when more an more functionality is moving to the CPU. The other killer is that you need a new board for every Intel CPU update.

    Lastly, it's hard to throw the "buy now" tag on it with AMD's new architecture over the horizon. Sure, AMD has a tough act to follow, but it's still an unknown that I think is worth waiting for (if it's a dog, you can still buy Intel). Keep in mind that Bulldozer will have a pretty strong IGP, one that may make decent IGP gaming a reality. It will become a matter of how powerful the x86 portion of the Bulldozer is, and they are trying a considerably different approach. Considering the amount of money you'll be paying, you might as well see how AMD shakes out. I guess it just depends on if what you have today can get you by just a little longer.
    Reply
  • dertechie - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    You're conflating Bulldozer and Llano there. Bulldozer is the new architecture, coming to the desktop as an 8-core throughput monster. Llano is the first desktop APU, cramming 4 32nm K10.5 cores and a Redwood class GPU onto the die. The next generation of desktop APUs will be using Bulldozer cores. Reply

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