Panther Point Chipsets

Panther Point is the codename for Intel 7-series chipsets that are set to release simultaneously with Ivy Bridge CPUs. They will come in six flavors, three of which are for the consumer market and three more for the business sector. As noted already, the socket will be the same LGA1155 that Sandy Bridge uses, with pin compatibility on the CPUs and chipsets. The following table summarizes what we know about current and upcoming chipsets; unfortunately, we had to leave Z68 out of the charts as we’re currently under NDA there—and the same goes for Intel SRT; tune in next week for additional information on both.

Intel Chipset Roadmap
Product Z77 Z75 H77 X79 Q77 Q75 B75
Code Name Panther Point Panther Point Panther Point Patsburg Panther Point Panther Point Panther Point
Platform Name Maho Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay Waimea Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay Maho Bay
Release Date 1H'12 1H'12 1H'12 Q4'11 1H'12 1H'12 1H'12
Socket Support LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA2011 LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA1155
PCI-Express Graphics 1x16, 2x8, or
1x8+2x4 Gen3
1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16 Gen3 2x16 to 4x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3 1x16, 2x8 Gen3
Intel RST Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Intel SRT Yes No Yes No (?) Yes No No
Total USB (USB3) Ports 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 (4) 14 (0) 14 (4) 14 (4) 12 (4)
Total SATA (6Gbps) 6 (2) 6 (2) 6 (2) 14 (10) 6 (2) 6 (1) 6 (1)
PCI No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Max Independent Displays 3 3 3 N/A 3 3 3
CPU Overclocking Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

The only major differences between the consumer chipsets is in the support for PCIe lane configurations as well as SRT. All are set to be released in 1H’12, but they may not all launch at the same time. For example, with Sandy Bridge Intel released P67 and H67 initially and will follow up with Z68 shortly.

In terms of feature support, Intel will allow overclocking in all non-business Panther Point chipsets and will support the IGP on all the new chipsets. That means there will be no direct replacement for P67 (not that it really matters), and similarly there’s no direct equivalent of the non-overclocking H67.  This is good news as quite a few people were annoyed by the lack of a “do everything” chipset for SNB (though Z68 should fix this). The display options are also improved relative to SNB/Cougar Point, and now support up to three independent monitors instead of just two. We suspect most users who want to run that many displays will benefit from a discrete GPU, and it’s also worth noting that with SNB CPUs in 7-series boards you will be restricted to two independent displays.

The biggest improvements are in the I/O segment. One long-awaited feature that’s coming in Panther Point is native USB 3.0 support. Many people were disappointed when Intel decided not to include it in Cougar Point, forcing motherboard manufacturers to use a separate USB 3.0 chip. All Panther Point chipsets will have four USB 3.0 ports which is actually pretty nice, considering that most of the current motherboards only come with two USB 3.0 ports. There are already many USB 3.0 devices (mostly external hard drive bays and flash drives), and with the added bandwidth USB 3.0 offers it’s already moving into the mainstream market. Though some rumors reported Panther Point would include support for Thunderbolt, there is absolutely nothing in the current roadmap to suggest its presence in the 7-series chipsets. There’s always the potential for motherboard makers to use a separate chip to add Thunderbolt, but that could be done with any current platform.

Another interesting I/O update will be PCI-Express. As noted earlier, Ivy Bridge will upgrade PCIe from 2.0 to 3.0, which means twice the bandwidth—or a move from 500MB/s to 1GB/s per lane. This is very good news for users who want maximum graphics performance, meaning SLI or CrossFire, but it also helps with technologies like USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps. Sandy Bridge and LGA1156 Nehalems (Lynnfield and Clarkdale) have been somewhat limited by PCIe bandwidth in multi-GPU configurations since they had to share 16 lanes. That meant either one GPU at the full 8GB/s bandwidth, two GPUs at 4GB/s each, or four GPUs with only 2GB/s each (using dual-GPU cards).

We investigated this back when Lynnfield launched; while the performance difference was negligible in most games, there was a noticeable FPS drop in some games, especially in quad-GPU configurations. Of course, today’s GPUs are even more powerful so the limited bandwidth could be a bigger deal if we reran the test with the latest hardware. However, Ivy Bridge should abolish this bottleneck as the bandwidth will be double once more. This means a single x8 PCIe 3.0 slot can provide as much bandwidth as an x16 PCIe 2.0 slot, i.e. 8GB/s. The same applies to quad-GPU configurations as an x4 PCIe 3.0 slot will provide the same 4GB/s bandwidth as x8 PCIe 2.0 slot. This implies that there should no longer be a loss in GPU performance when running multi-GPU configuration on Intel’s mainstream platforms, though obviously you will need a GPU (or other PCIe card) that supports PCIe 3.0 in order to utilize the faster speeds. We don’t have any information yet about AMD’s or NVIDIA’s plans for PCIe 3.0, but historically they have been ready when the motherboard support is there.

The business chipsets support two additional features. Q77, which is the high-end chipset, will support both vPro and SIPP (Stable Image Platform Program). Q75 will not support vPro but it will support SIPP, whereas B75 will not support either of those. All of the business chipsets also include native PCI support, which is still important for many companies that have custom peripherals.

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  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Ah, that could be the reason. I know some laptops that will sell you DDR3-1600, but only if you don't use four DIMMs (look at the mobile workstations from Dell and HP). Still, it's odd considering enthusiasts have run far higher than DDR3-1600 speeds. Oh well.
  • dagamer34 - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    It'll be interesting to see what Intel does with the added die space that 3D manufacturing gives them. Already, the largest singular part of SNB is the GPU, dwarfing the size of any individual CPU core. Hopefully we'll get something that's better than their previous offerings.
  • duploxxx - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    probably the GPU performance will enhance a lot, lets hope they get into the range of basic gaming gpu, but the main problem is that by the time that IVY arrives the AMD APU Fusion series will also have launched there second gen, and it is known already that this will be much more powerfull.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    It's not just that, by the time IB has launched TSMC should have it's 28nm process working which means that AMD/nVidia's discrete cards will be twice as fast (twice the transistor density) leaving the IGPs back in the dust again.

    SB's IGP wouldn't look as good as it did if TSMC's 32 nm process hadn't been scrapped giving intel a half node advantage. They'll have the same with IB, but only going from 12 to 16 EUs makes it likely they're using a big chunk of the gain to cut costs instead of boosting performance.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    It doesn't matter how fast IGP's are compared to discrete graphics (it never has been). What matters is if the IGP allows for playable framerates at common desktop/notebook resolutions (we're talking 1280X1024 19" and similar widescreen resolutions). People with 1080p and higher resolutions won't be gaming on these, the other 95% of people that go to Best Buy and Dell to get a system will be.

    And we need these "awesome" IGP's now. They maintain the bottom teir graphics that development houses still have to cater too (and consoles). Once those graphics capabilities become "good enough" for moderate resolutions the game makers can finally start cranking up the graphics quality and giving these new cards a workout.

    I've never gamed on an IGP and never plan too, but I understand just how important they are to us gamers.
  • brokenbeaker - Saturday, May 7, 2011 - link

    3D doesn't give them extra spece, it's the process shrink that does that. 3D gives them higher "on" current and less leakage current.
  • Drazick - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    When Intel get back to the SSD Controllers business?
    Will we see Intel Based Controller SSD this year?

  • imaheadcase - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    That is the one everyone wants, less power/cheaper..
  • Marlin1975 - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Let me guess, those that bought X67/8 chipsets will have to buy another board to use IB?

    Not that intel would ever do that.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    X67/68 do not exist. Z68 will come out soon, and like P67/H67 and a few others we mention, they will support Ivy Bridge with the appropriate firmware/BIOS updates. (That will be more a factor of the motherboard manufacturers taking time to update the firmware than anything.) X58 will be replaced by X79, which as we noted in an earlier article is a completely different socket.

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