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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  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    looks like it's not going quite as fast as was expected; prior rumors had it stripped from the x79 chip too.

    OTOH if filling in all the expansion slots in an ATX board would've been tricky with x79, it's going to be even worse for enthusiast z7x boards unless the number of lanes on the southbridge is increased, especially if DMI isn't given a boost to allow the SB lanes to run at 3.0 speeds as well. 2x gb nics, and 3rd party audio will take 3 lanes. Additional usb3 and sata 6gb controllers will take 1 each. That leaves at most 3 SB lanes to make 1x slots. The situation is worse if the board makers insist on adding legacy firewire or pata ports. Thunderbolt ports will IIRC eat a PCIe lane each as well. I suspect 4 to 8 lane pcie bridge chips (or possibly PCIe to PCI bridge chips) will end up being fairly common on these boards.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Do the current 6-series chipsets connect to the CPU with a 20Gbps DMI link, which isn't even enough for all the potential peripherals if they're all maxed out, but in practice that almost never happens.

    8x PCIe 2.0 lanes = 40Gbps
    2x SATA 6Gbps = 12Gbps
    4x SATA 3Gbps = 12Gbps
    14x USB 2.0 = 6.72Gbps
    Gigabit Ethernet = 1Gbps
    Total Potential = 71.72Gbps!

    I believe the 7-series is still using DMI 2.0, so it remains at 20Gbps, but now the total potential bandwidth for all ports is:

    8x PCIe 2.0 lanes = 40Gbps
    4x USB 3.0 = 19.2Gbps
    2x SATA 6Gbps = 12Gbps
    4x SATA 3Gbps = 12Gbps
    10x USB 2.0 = 4.8Gbps
    Gigabit Ethernet = 1Gbps
    Total Potential = 89Gbps

    Realistically, the SATA ports are pretty much never going to all be 100% utilized at the same time, and the same goes for the PCIe ports and USB ports. It's possible Intel will tweak the DMI interface to boost bandwidth as well, which could easily accommodate the additional bandwidth heavy devices.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    I was looking at the number of devices to connect, not total bandwidth (pcie to pci or pcie-pcie (more lanes) bridge chips don't help with that.

    My observation is that after you connect all the devices to the PCIe bus that need to be connected, you don't have enough lanes left to fill out all 7 slots on an enthusiast level full atx board. Depending on the chipset you have anywhere between 1 and 3 slots off the CPU, and at most 3 1x slots off the southbridge. With thunderbolt potentially eating a 6th, and a few of the 6x series boards having enough USB3 controllers to have 8 or 10 USB3 ports, it's entirely possible to use up all of the southbridge's 8 lanes just on onboard controllers. The main advantage I see in potentially running the SB lanes at PCIe3 speeds isn't total bandwidth which isn't likely to be saturated; but allowing board makers to use 4xUSB,3 4x SATA6GB, or 2x GB nic controllers to get their port inflation numbers up while only consuming a single PCIe lane instead of 2.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    That or they should bump the number of lanes on the southbridge from 8 to 12ish to allow connecting as many low average bandwidth devices as they could when the PCI controller was still available. IIRC the controller on Intel's current desktop boards supports 5 PCI devices.
  • Ammaross - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    If you remember, current P67 motherboards share PCIe lanes. If you drop a card in the bottom PCIe gfx 4x slot, it disables some on-board things (firewire, some USB headers, etc). In essence, the lanes are shared amongst the devices already.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    I wasn't aware of anything like that, I assume the disabled headers are USB3 since there's no reason to disable any of the USB2 ports. The firewire port surprises me though, I'd always assumed it would have been stuck on the legacy PCI bus since there's plenty of capacity there and no need for the higher speeds of PCIe.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    While you're probably right about it not seeing much traction in the enthusiast market, assuming it trickles down to the mobile chipset as well, support for a third monitor would be really nice for my work laptop.
  • iwod - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    This basically are the rumors we have heard from other places summed up here. Of coz being Anandtech this means the rumors are realistic.

    The EU are properly a lot different to current SandyBridge, We expect to have double the Gfx Performance from Ivy Bridge. If any of the previous Intel slide are to be trusted. 22nm would also allow much higher Clock Speed for GPU part.

    I hope Anandtech could find out whether Ivy Bridge have FMA.

    $100 for a 20GB SLC SSD is really expensive, compare to the previous rumors of 40 - 50 USD.
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Ivy Bridge IGP will only have 16 EUs which is only 33% more than what SB has. Like Anand mentioned in the SB review, it unfortunately looks unlikely that the IB IGP would be twice as fast, which is a shame.

    In the original version, I said the "Larsen Creek" SSD will be priced at around 50$ like the rumors have suggested but apparently Jarred edited that. Of course it is safer to say 100$ and then be happily surprised when it turns out to be 50$ instead of getting those angry comments when it turned out to be 100$ instead of 50$.
  • iwod - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    My thought is that these "Next Gen EU " would be completely different to current EU, that is why it is not fair to compare EU numbers to performance.

    And if this new EU runs 33% faster per clock, and runs at 33% higher clock while having 33% more EU then previous EU, should land us at 100% performance increase.

    Of coz, Hardware dont matter much on GPU, not at all. It is software, drivers that makes ALL the difference. As we have seen with S3. Nvidia has double the Software Engineering compare to hardware working on it. And if Intel continue the way it is, their GPU hardware will never get the respect they deserve.

    I am looking forward to the Larsen Creek SSD.

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