A New Socket and New Chipsets

There’s no nice way to put this: Sandy Bridge marks the third new socket Intel will have introduced since 2008. The first was LGA-1366 for the original Nehalem based Core i7. In 2009 we got LGA-1156 for Lynnfield, later updated with support for the dual-core Clarkdale CPUs launched in 2010. Next year, Sandy Bridge will launch with LGA-1155.

The CPU and socket are not compatible with existing motherboards or CPUs. That’s right, if you want to buy Sandy Bridge you’ll need a new motherboard.

As is the case today, there are two lines of chipsets for consumer desktops: H and P series. The H series supports Sandy Bridge’s on-die graphics, while the P series is strictly for discrete graphics.

At launch we’ll have P67 and H67 based motherboards, both of which are in testing right now. A quarter later we’ll see value H61 motherboards added to the mix.

Chipset Comparison
  P67 H67 H61 P55 H57 H55
CPU Support Sandy Bridge LGA-1155 Sandy Bridge LGA-1155 Sandy Bridge LGA-1155 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156
CPU PCIe Config 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16 PCIe 2.0
RAID Support Yes Yes No Yes Yes Mp
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 10 14 14 12
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 4 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0)
PCIe Lanes 8 (5GT/s) 8 (5GT/s) 6 (5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 6 (2.5GT/s)

With P67 you lose integrated graphics but you gain the ability to run two PCIe x8 cards off of the CPU. You also get fully unlocked memory multipliers with P67, whereas H67 is locked to whatever official DDR3 speeds Intel supports with Sandy Bridge (currently DDR3-1333).

Both H67 and P67 support 6Gbps SATA, however only on two ports. The remaining 4 SATA ports are 3Gbps. Motherboard manufacturers will color the 6Gbps ports differently to differentiate.

There’s no native USB 3.0 support on these chipsets, but most motherboard makers are looking to third party solutions to enable USB 3 on Sandy Bridge boards.

The other major (and welcome) change is the move to PCIe 2.0 lanes running at 5GT/s. Currently, Intel chipsets support PCIe 2.0 but they only run at 2.5GT/s, which limits them to a maximum of 250MB/s per direction per lane. This is a problem with high bandwidth USB 3.0 and 6Gbps SATA interfaces connected over PCIe x1 slots. With the move to 5GT/s, Intel is at feature parity with AMD’s chipsets and more importantly the bandwidth limits are a lot higher. A single PCIe x1 slot on a P67 motherboard can support up to 500MB/s of bandwidth in each direction (1GB/s bidirectional bandwidth).

With native 6Gbps SATA support, the faster PCIe interface will be useful for any third party USB 3.0 controllers.

Original Nehalem and Gulftown owners have their own socket replacement to look forward to. In the second half of 2011 Intel will replace LGA-1366 with LGA-2011. LGA-2011 adds support for four DDR3 memory channels and the first 6+ core Sandy Bridge processors.

A New Architecture The Roadmap & Pricing
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    We'll have to wait a little bit to find out... :) Reply
  • hnzw rui - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    If it doubles Clarkdale's GPU performance, then it probably will (at least on lower resolutions). I'm getting pretty decent framerates from Clarkdale on 1360x768 Low and I've been able to play on 1360x768 Medium with a Radeon HD 4550. I think Sandy Bridge is probably closer to the latter than the former in performance. Reply
  • SteelCity1981 - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Any word when Intel will launch a mobile version of this new platform? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Q1 2011 :) Reply
  • BSMonitor - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    So glad I waited on a 13" macbook pro! Sandy Bridge will probably be the next revision for Macbook's ehh? Reply
  • cheinonen - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Exactly my thoughts, that the GPU performance looks to be good enough that Apple could use it for the 13" MBP refresh next year. I'll be glad that I decided to wait, that's fur sure. Reply
  • synergist - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    I was doing some research and if they would have to use the full integrated graphics core, with the 12 cores, to top the performance of the 320M in the current macbook pro 13 I doubt apple would take a step backwards in gfx performance, and use the 6 core integrated gfx.

    and the performance would still be pretty close, that the 320M would lose to the inter grated gfx (12 cores) by about 10-13%

    and llano is still an option, but I have a feeling it will be a dead heat with this.
    Reply
  • starfalcon - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Apple has to know a lot of the people buying the laptops are far from high end gamers.
    The amount of people with 320Ms who don't need them is probably a lot.
    We'll see how all the different parts of Sandy Bridge work out.
    Don't the Core iX processors not work with Nvidia Integrated graphics at all?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Correct on NVIDIA IGPs not working with Core 2010 (and presumably beyond). The need the QPI interface and Intel isn't licensing that to them.

    As for Apple, one thing to note is that they've started shipping all laptops with GPUs that support OpenCL it seems, so if Sandy Bridge doesn't have that they may do the same Optimus-style setup as current MBP. Not sure what they'd do with the base MacBook in that case, but Apple seems like they're gearing up to start leveraging OpenCL at some point in the near future. Pure speculation, though, so maybe SB's IGP will be enough, even if it's a step down from G320M.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Aside from on the high end (LGA 1366/2011) the bus nVidia needs is DMI, not QPI. If I was nVidia I'd insist on getting rights to both because QPI is more futureproof. Specifically having more than a few high speed SATA6GB/USB3/etc devices will be able to saturate DMI since it's only the equivalent of a PCIe 4x slot (1.0 speed for 1156, 2.0 for 1155/2011) while QPI is a much higher capacity bus similar to AMD's HyperTransport.

    While intel seems determined to milk as much out of the (presumably) cheaper to implement DMI bus as it can; sooner or later they're going to either need to mainstream QPI or have the CPU die eat the SATA/USB3 controllers. I find the latter unlikely because it would require cramming even more data lines into the already overcrowded CPU socket area.
    Reply

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