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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  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Thunderbolt is dumb. Many systems get 1 port. That gets used when you plug in your display via DisplayPort, and there it goes completely unused! Even if you have a spare port and find something to plug into it, it won't be any faster than USB3 would be. So what's the point?

    I think Apple wanted it since it was "cool, light!" for their marketing, and then engineering common-sense managed to win, since metal wires are cheaper. Intel likes it since they get to sell boatloads of Intel-only controllers. USB3 makes more sense in many ways.
  • Kristian Vättö - Saturday, May 7, 2011 - link

    Thunderbolt supports daisy-chaining so you can connect up to 7 devices into one port. I'm pretty sure most of the TB devices will support DC when they start rolling out. Plus, you can always get a hub if you have devices that don't support.

    Moreover, there are currently two computers from Apple that have TB so you can't conclude that most systems in the future will be stuck with one port. The 27" already has two BTW.
  • B3an - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Can someone answer these questions for me? would appreciate it.

    Will X79 support Ivy Bridge CPU's?
    And if so... then will Ivy Bridge CPU's be available for X79 at around the same time as IB CPU's for the lower platforms or will the high end be left out again?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    No. X79 will be for Sandy Bridge-E, which uses socket LGA2011. There's a schism between the ultra-high-end enthusiast platforms and the "mainstream enthusiast" platforms, which is a continuation of the X58 and P55 split. The problem is that where X58 was clearly superior to P55 platforms in most performance metrics, X58 vs. P67 suddenly didn't look so compelling. We'll eventually get the "fix" for that in Q3/Q4 when SNB-E launches, but just like X58 vs. P67 we'll have X79 vs. Z77 in 1H'2012 to make things difficult.
  • B3an - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Thanks Jarred.
    So the X79 platform will have no CPU upgrade path at all? It will ONLY ever take SNB-E CPU's? Being as Ivy Bridge is just a "tick" and not a new architecture i would have thought X79 would get a IB CPU for LGA2011 that just needs a BIOS update.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    IIRC some of the leaked intel roadmaps have IB based LGA2011 chips coming out in late 2012, about a year after the SB ones.
  • Pneumothorax - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    I'd still be wary of the crap that Intel did to us 1366 users. Promising an 'affordable' 6 core upgrade, but never releasing a chip coming even close to $500. That's what happens when AMD can't compete.
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Well, there is i7-970 at 583$ but yeah, I have to agree with you. Sandy Bridge runs circles around Gulftown and is much cheaper.
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Isn't that a fairly recent price drop? IIRC before SB launched the only hexes they offered were in the $900ish range.
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, May 6, 2011 - link

    Yeah, i7-970 was 880$ when it was launched in July last year (before that there was only 999$ 980X). It was dropped to 583$ when i7-990X was launched in February IIRC.

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