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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  • Touche - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    And the naming...OMG!

    There will be i7 processors that require three (3 !!!) different sockets! Maybe even 4 when 2011 comes. Intel can't get their naming right for quite some time now, but they've outdone themselves this time.
    Reply
  • ereavis - Monday, August 30, 2010 - link

    Processor names really should mean something, even if AMD and Intel don't agree. It's annoying that I have to wikipedia a processor (or memorize a thousand processors) to know what it is. We are still getting quotes for three year old Opterons and Xeons (that we're using as desktops no less), those only add to the annoyance.

    What ends up happening - good for Intel bad for technology advancement - is non IT type people buying computers are buying DDR2-667 based three-year old desktop processors.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Ummm, but Bulldozer comes with AM3-r2... Just a sketchier way of saying new MB needed.

    At least this new Intel isn't trying to BS you. Significant revisions to the architecture require different pin layouts/counts... It is inevitable with processor evolution.
    Reply
  • Touche - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Actually, it should be AM3 compatible:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/bulldozer-bobc...

    Even if it's not, AM2/AM3 lasted quite some time.

    "At least this new Intel isn't trying to BS you. Significant revisions to the architecture require different pin layouts/counts... It is inevitable with processor evolution."

    They know in advance what they need and could design a socket to support multiple processors. And i7/i5/i3 definitely don't need different ones.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    "Even if it's not, AM2/AM3 lasted quite some time."

    Not all AM2 processors were compatible with AM2+ MB or vice versa, not all AM3 processors compatible on AM2+ MB.

    It's still 3 different sockets.

    Marketing buddy, marketing.

    By the time 1366 is replaced, it will have been on the market for 4 years.
    Reply
  • stmok - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    Eh, no its not. Bulldozer does NOT work with non-AM3+ mobos

    AMD engineers made a decision not to make it backward compatible for three reasons.

    (1) No one but enthusiasts upgrade their CPUs. People in the real world upgrade their whole computer.

    (2) Bulldozer introduces new features that won't work with existing Socket AM3 mobos. (Isn't it bloody obvious when they have to introduce a new socket specification?)

    (3) It would cost more money and delays if they were to make a backward compatible version of Bulldozer.

    As a result, they made a compromise:
    You can take your existing AM3 CPU to AM3+ mobos, while you wait for Bulldozer to arrive. BUT, you can NOT upgrade your existing AM3 based system to Bulldozer.

    Simply put...
    AM3+ CPU and AM3+ mobo = OK
    AM3 CPU and AM3+ mobo = OK
    AM3+ CPU and AM3 mobo = Sorry. No.

    So it doesn't matter if AMD "Bulldozer" or Intel "Sandy Bridge". You will need a new mobo.
    Reply
  • Ard - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    AMD seriously has their work cut out for them with Bulldozer. The lowest end Sandy Bridge processor absolutely trounced the competition. It's insane what Intel is pulling off here, especially in the integrated graphics arena. Really makes me hope Larrabee comes back as a discrete product in the next few years. Reply
  • dgz - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    poor kid, you don't realize 2400 is not nearly lowest end. Reply
  • Finally - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    Doesn't that make him a "(filthy) rich kid"? Reply
  • Quodlibet - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    - based on the shown roadmap, the replacement for the i5 760 is actually the i5 2500(K).

    - i7 will have even better performance with 8 MB L3 Cache and higher graphics turbo. So there is even more performance potential in the SandyBridge die that Intel could unlock for lower SKUs if needed.
    Reply

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