Intel’s Patsburg chipset in detail

Several different SKUs expected

AFTER SEVERAL RUMOURS and a lot of speculation we’ve managed to get our hands on what should be close to final specifications of Intel’s Patsburg chipset for its LGA-2011 processors and this is also what the X68 chipset will be based off, although today we’ll be specifically looking at Intel’s solutions for Xeon processors. Intel will launch no less than four different SKUs for Patsburg for its Xeon platform alone, not counting the X68 chipset.

What we’re looking at is an A, B, D and T SKU and no; we don’t know how Intel came up with the choice of letters, although the local Bingo parlor said their bingo ball cage has been “misplaced”. As with the current chipsets for the LGA-1156 and LGA-1155 platforms, Patsburg will be a simple PCH rather than a traditional chipset and as you can see it’s even being compared to Cougar Point, also known as P67/H67/C200, although as the CPUs don’t feature integrated graphics there’s no support for the related features found in the H67 and C200 chipsets. It connects to the CPU via a DMI 2 interface which means four lanes of PCI Express 2.0 worth of bandwidth.

Common features between all four SKUs include support for up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, four SATA 3Gbps ports, two SATA 6Gbps ports, ONFi interface for potential use of onboard Flash memory although we’re not really expecting this to be part of the final chipset and of course support for up to eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes and HD audio. There appears to be support for the older PCI interface as well, although it’s not clear if this is via a bridge chip or not.

The A SKU is the most basic model which sports support for an additional four SATA 6Gbps ports via what’s referred to as an expander. The B SKU swaps the SATA 6Gbps ports for SAS 6Gbps ports, but the count remains at four. Moving up to the D SKU things change a bit as the D and T SKUs connect via an additional four PCI Express 3.0 lanes to the CPU(s) as both support up to eight SATA 6Gbps or SAS 6Gbps ports. The T SKU finally adds support for RAID 5 on the SAS ports and it has built in non-volatile SRAM, presumable to be used as a data cache for the RAID in case of a power failure. The other SKUs have to make do with RAID 0/1/10 support, but it’s worth noting that the SATA 3Gbps and the first two SATA 6Gbps ports all support RAID 0/1/10/5, it’s just the additional ports that have a different feature set when it comes to RAID.

One problem with using the expander is that at least in the case of the A SKU, you end up with to separate RAID arrays, unless Intel can work out some trickery in its drivers that allows the two SATA 6Gbps connected directly to the chipset with the four connected to the expander. This is unlikely to be a major issue for most configurations as we can see it, but it begs to question how the consumer X68 chipset will be implemented as we’d guess it’ll be very similar to that of the A SKU.

One little tidbit worth pointing out that can be seen on the chipset diagram is that each of the Sandy Bridge EP processors will have 40 lanes worth of PCI Express 3.0 bandwidth, something which should be good news for those wanting to build a multi GPU system based on the LGA-2011 platform. Of course this is also great news for servers and workstations, as there’ll be plenty more bandwidth for various high-end data interfaces to take advantage of. On a side note as well, the LGA-2011 processors will apparently support different memory speeds dependent upon how many modules are fitted per channel, so on a board with one DIMM per channel the top native memory speed supported will be DDR3 1600MHz, but this will drop down to DDR3 1333MHz if two DIMMs per channel are populated and to 1066MHz if three DIMMs per channel are populated.

In as much as we expected Intel to use its LGA-1356 platform and the Sandy Bridge EN processors with triple-channel memory support for its high-end consumer desktop solution , it seems like in the end Intel wanted to make sure that nothing can touch its Extreme Edition processors in terms of performance and as such went with the LGA-2011 platform instead. It will be interesting to see how close AMD can get, especially if the rumours of an FX series revival are indeed true. The second half of this year is going to be intense in the CPU market and we’re actually quite looking forward to some serious competition between Intel and AMD again, be it in the desktop, mobile or server space.S|A

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