Z68

In developing its 6-series chipsets Intel wanted to minimize as much risk as possible, so much of the underlying chipset architecture is borrowed from Lynnfield’s 5-series platform. The conservative chipset development for Sandy Bridge left a hole in the lineup. The P67 chipset lets you overclock CPU and memory but it lacks the flexible display interface necessary to support SNB’s HD Graphics. The H67 chipset has an FDI so you can use the on-die GPU, however it doesn’t support CPU or memory overclocking. What about those users who don’t need a discrete GPU but still want to overclock their CPUs? With the chipsets that Intel is launching today, you’re effectively forced to buy a discrete GPU if you want to overclock your CPU. This is great for AMD/NVIDIA, but not so great for consumers who don’t need a discrete GPU and not the most sensible decision on Intel’s part.

There is a third member of the 6-series family that will begin shipping in Q2: Z68. Take P67, add processor graphics support and you’ve got Z68. It’s as simple as that. Z68 is also slated to support something called SSD Caching, which Intel hasn’t said anything to us about yet. With version 10.5 of Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology drivers, Z68 will support SSD caching. This sounds like the holy grail of SSD/HDD setups, where you have a single drive letter and the driver manages what goes on your SSD vs. HDD. Whether SSD Caching is indeed a DIY hybrid hard drive technology remains to be seen. It’s also unclear whether or not P67/H67 will get SSD Caching once 10.5 ships.

LGA-2011 Coming in Q4

One side effect of Intel’s tick-tock cadence is a staggered release update schedule for various market segments. For example, Nehalem’s release in Q4 2008 took care of the high-end desktop market, however it didn’t see an update until the beginning of 2010 with Gulftown. Similarly, while Lynnfield debuted in Q3 2009 it was left out of the 32nm refresh in early 2010. Sandy Bridge is essentially that 32nm update to Lynnfield.

So where does that leave Nehalem and Gulftown owners? For the most part, the X58 platform is a dead end. While there are some niche benefits (more PCIe lanes, more memory bandwidth, 6-core support), the majority of users would be better served by Sandy Bridge on LGA-1155.

For the users who need those benefits however, there is a version of Sandy Bridge for you. It’s codenamed Sandy Bridge-E and it’ll debut in Q4 2011. The chips will be available in both 4 and 6 core versions with a large L3 cache (Intel isn’t being specific at this point).

SNB-E will get the ring bus, on-die PCIe and all of the other features of the LGA-1155 Sandy Bridge processors, but it won’t have an integrated GPU. While current SNB parts top out at 95W TDP, SNB-E will run all the way up to 130W—similar to existing LGA-1366 parts.

The new high-end platform will require a new socket and motherboard (LGA-2011). Expect CPU prices to start off at around the $294 level of the new i7-2600 and run all the way up to $999.

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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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