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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  • DanNeely - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Maybe, but IIRC Apple's biggest issue with the Clarkdale platform on smaller laptops was wanting to maintain CUDA support across their entire platform without adding a 3rd chip to the board, not general GPU performance. Unless the Intel/nVidia lawsuit concludes with nVidia getting a DMI license or Intel getting a CUDA license this isn't going to change. Reply
  • Pinski - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    I don't think it has anything to do with CUDA. I mean, they sell Mac Pros with AMD/ATI Cards in them, and they don't support CUDA. It's more of OpenCL and high enough performance. However, just looking at these new performance, I'm willing to say that it'll be the next chip for the MBP 13" easily. Reply
  • Pinski - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Well, wait never mind. Apparently it doesn't support OpenCL, which basically puts it out of the picture for Apple to use. Reply
  • starfalcon - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Hmm, they really want all of the systems to have OpenCL?
    I don't have OpenCL and I don't care at all and I have CUDA but have only used it once.
    320M doesn't even have OpenCl does it?
    Seems like it would be ok for the less expensive ones to have Intel graphics and the higher end ones to have CUDA, OpenCL, and better gaming performance if someone cares about those.
    They'll keep on upgrading the performance and features of Intel graphics though, who knows.
    Reply
  • Veerappan - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    No, just ... no.

    Nvidia implements an OpenCL run-time by translating OpenCL API calls to CUDA calls. If your card supports CUDA, it supports OpenCL.

    The 320M supports OpenCL, and every Apple laptop/desktop that has shipped in the last few years has as well.

    A large portion of the motivation for OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was introducing OpenCL support.. along with increasing general performance.

    There is a large amount of speculation that OS X 10.7 will take advantage of the OpenCL groundwork that OS X 10.6 has put in place.

    Also, in the case that you have a GPU that doesn't support OpenCL (older Intel Macs with Intel IGP graphics), Apple has written a CPU-based OpenCL run-time. It'll be slower than GPU, but the programs will still run. That being said, I highly doubt that Apple will be willing to accept such a performance deficit existing in a brand new machine compared to prior hardware.
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    It has more to do with nVidia's VP3 PureVideo engine which they rely on for video acceleration. It's as simple as that.

    Which is why they only find their place in the notebooks. It's also a low-end gpu with enough performance to say run a source game at low res. And they have more complete drivers for OS X.

    CUDA is a third party add on. OpenCL isn't.
    Reply
  • burek - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Will there be a "cheap"(~$300) 6-core LGA-2011 replacement for i7 920/930 or will Intel limit the 6/8 cores to the high-end/extreme price segment ($500+)? Reply
  • DJMiggy - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    yea I doubt that will happen. It would be like trying to SLI/crossfire an nvidia to an ati discrete. You would need a special chip like the hyrda one. Reply
  • DJMiggy - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Hydra even. Hydra Lucid chip. Reply
  • Touche - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Questionable overclocking is bad enough, but together with...

    "There’s no nice way to put this: Sandy Bridge marks the third new socket Intel will have introduced since 2008."

    "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."

    "In the second half of 2011 Intel will replace LGA-1366 with LGA-2011."

    ...it is just terrible!

    I'll definitely buy AMD Bulldozer, even if it ends up a bit slower. At least they have some respect for their customers and an ability of forward thinking when designing sockets (actually, Intel probably has it too, but just likes to milk us on chipset purchases also). And I am no fanboy, 4 of my 7 PC's are Intel based (two of those 4 were my latest computer purchases).
    Reply

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