INTEL APPEARS TO BE be sticking with its two tier CPU socket system for the foreseeable future, as details of Intel’s X58 platform replacement have made their way online. The upcoming LGA1155 platform with the Cougar Point chipset and the Sandy Bridge DT processors will target the entry level and mainstream market, while the Patsburg chipset and the Sandy Bridge E processors should use a new LGA2011 socket for the high-end market space.
So far we’ve only heard bits and pieces about this upcoming platform, but now VR-Zone has come up with what appears to be a full set of solid details about Intel’s high-end platform for 2011. As with the current Bloomfield and Gulftown based processors, Sandy Bridge E should be very similar to its Xeon siblings and specifically the Sandy Bridge EN which should use the same CPU socket. The higher-end Sandy Bridge EP and EX CPU’s use a different socket that is currently known as socket R, while the uniprocessor CPU’s to which the consumer model belongs have to make do with socket B2 due to the lack of a secondary QPI interface.
Intel will continue to use triple-channel DDR3 memory for these CPUs, but we’ll see an increase in the L3 cache memory from 12MB to 15MB for a 6-core CPU. We’ve seen somewhat conflicting information with regards to what other configurations Intel will offer, but both 4-core and 8-core models are possible. However, it seems like Intel is trying to push the core count upwards in this market segment, so we wouldn’t be too surprised if Intel decides to reserve the 4-core processors for the more general consumer space and move to even more cores at the high-end.
The details from VR-Zone are suggesting that the Sandy Bridge E will get quad channel memory support, but from what we know, this is reserved for Intel’s high-end server and workstation platforms for the time being. The good news is that the new memory controller should support DDR3 1600MHz modules and it’s likely that Intel will move to supporting 1.35V modules. Supposedly only the Extreme Edition CPU will come with an unlocked memory controller, which sounds strange, as this has so far never been a limitation on any Intel CPU with an integrated memory controller.
The X58 chipset replacement, codenamed Patsburg, which we would tentatively guess will be called the X68, is set to get an additional four PCI Express lanes for a total count of 40 lanes. However, these will be PCI Express 3.0 lanes that should offer a data rate of 800MB/s, somewhat short of doubling the bandwidth of PCI Express 2.0. PCI Express 3.0 has much lower overhead thanks to a new 128/130-bit encoding scheme which only has about 1.5 percent overhead compared to 20 percent overhead for the 8/10-bit encoding scheme of PCI Express 2.0 and as such the actual bandwidth available is close to twice that of PCI Express 2.0.
We’re perplexed by the fact that the VR-Zone article claims that Intel is scrapping QPI alongside with the I/O hub. The latter is not so hard to see, but we’re fairly certain that Intel will retain the QPI bus, although it might just be internally in the CPU, just as with the Lynnfield and Clarkdale CPUs. Intel is also moving to VRM12 for the new CPU’s which will introduce a lot of changes to the CPU power regulation design. The Patsburg chipset is going to require active cooling which seems like a flawed design, but presumable the PCI Express 3.0 controller runs quite hot and requires additional cooling beyond a passive heatsink.
We’d expect Intel to give us a sneak peak of the new platform at Computex, although most likely it won’t be talked about until IDF San Francisco this fall. A lot of things can still change before the final platform arrives sometime in the second half of 2011, but the good news is that Intel will continue to offer a high-end platform not only for the overclocking crowd, but also for those who want more than four cores without having to splash out on a Xeon system. The Sugar Bay platform with the Sandy Bridge DT CPU’s will arrive in the beginning of 2011, but it’s limited to quad-core CPU’s with integrated graphics and that might also be a reason for some to chose the Waimea Bay platform in favour of it.S|A
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