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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  • ComputerGuy2006 - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    I like how both the ASUS P8Z77 WS and the ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe have dual NIC. But without a hex core to go with these mobo's look like I am going to be stuck with my slow 1336 till ivy bridge-e.... Reply
  • johnpombrio - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Take a look at Anand's review of Ivy Bridge. He uses the SB- E as part of the benchmarking. It turns out that having those 6/12 cores and the extra cache did not make these expensive chips run most stuff any faster than the much less expensive IB. That decided me right there to upgrade to IB rather than to the SB -E chips. So Ivy Bridge with a Z77 chipset is the way to go unless you are doing some serious stuff with transcoding or double or triple SLI.. Reply
  • euler007 - Sunday, March 11, 2012 - link

    But people on the internets will have more cores than him! Reply
  • lunarx3dfx - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    My 1366 920 is still hanging in there pretty good, and I was waiting on SB-E to upgrade, but I'm with John. The performance upgrade wasn't significant enough to justify the cost, so it looks like it'll be IB for me. Who cares about 6 or more cores if there isn't a huge performance gain? Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    I'm in the same boat, Don't let Intel know but there is usually one GRAND chip that can hold its own against several generations of mediocre chips before an upgrade is needed. The i7 920 when OC'ed is one and the Q6600 was the one before that. I had both and now I'm on the 920 and there doesn't seem to be a good reason to upgrade until IB. Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I've had an Asus x58 chipset board with a i7-950 for over 3 years, I have upgraded nothing. It is still faster than 90% of the computers on the market, and within 20% of the performance of mainstream Sandy/Ivy Bridge chips.

    There is no compelling reason to upgrade to Socket 1155 from Socket 1366. I agree with john and lunar in waiting for the next socket/architecture.

    Intel really outdid themselves with Bloomfield.
    Reply
  • adece - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    Unless Gygabyte or ASRock puts WiFi on a sub $220 Mobo of their's, my money is going to Asus. Reply
  • deltatux - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    It would have been nice if ASUS or GIGABYTE would put at least one or two PCI slots. There are still a lot of sound cards and TV tuners that are mainly PCI.

    It would definitely suck if I am forced to upgrade my sound card which works perfectly just because new motherboards force users to upgrade even though the majority is still on the older tech.

    Don't get me wrong, PCI is long overdue to get replaced but honestly, there's still too many of these expansion cards which are still reliant on the older PCI bus.
    Reply
  • Concillian - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    Several Z68 / P67 mobos have PCI slots, will support IB, and should be available for a while.

    The Z77 chipset has no PCI outputs. It's a little unfair to blame the motherboard makers for not including a feature that is not in the base chipset. It can't be simple to just slap a PCI slot on a mobo with a chipset that is designed not to use them.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    Theoretically they could use a PCIe-PCI bridge chip to add a legacy slot; but the cost of doing so (to include the engineering work to integrate it) would probably exceed that of buying a higher end chip from Intel. Reply

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