On the last day of the IDF 2001 that took place in San Francisco, California, we decided to take a break from keynotes and technical sessions and walk around the showcase in order to find out the exciting details about the new Intel desktop processors, which should come out shortly. Yes, I am talking about the Sandy Bridge-E modifications targeted for computer enthusiasts and designed for use in a not yet announced LGA 2011 platform on Intel X79 Express chipset.
LGA 2011: New Functionality Overview
Frankly speaking, Intel wasn’t very eager to reveal a lot of details about the new Sandy Bridge-E and LGA 2011. And there are several reasons behind it. Obviously, we already know everything we wanted to know about these new products. They will come out very soon, so at this point you can even find some benchmark results of the engineering samples available online. The second reason why Intel was so restrained is the fact that there is not that much to tell about these CPUs, because they can’t boast any unique technological innovations. Sandy Bridge-E is the same exact Sandy Bridge, and for the most part the differences are actually in the number of processor cores and the connection between them.
In fact, the next slide shows very clearly that there won’t be anything particularly new about the Sandy Bridge-E processors and LGA 2011 platforms, which Intel codenamed Waimea Bay.
Desktop Sandy Bridge-E processors will be manufactured using well-familiar 32 nm production process and will have 4 or 6 computational cores depending on the CPU model. Note that they will lose the graphics core, but instead they will get a larger L3 cache and an enhanced four-channel memory controller supporting DDR3-1333. The L3 cache in this case will be 15 MB large. In other words, the main advantage of the upcoming LGA 2011 platform will be very high performance, which must be delivered at any price:
- Increased number of computational cores;
- Hyper-Threading technology support;
- Turbo Boost technology support;
- Larger L3 cache;
- Four-channel memory controller;
- High clock frequencies.
Unlike LGA 1155, the new LGA 2011 platform is aimed at experienced enthusiasts and gaming fans that is why Intel pays special attention to the ability to use high-performance graphics sub-systems made of several graphics accelerators. LGA 2011 systems have as many as 36 PCI Express 2.0 lanes. And by the way, Intel said that they will also support PCI Express 3.0, although at this point they haven’t even passed their certification yet. Later on, however, when actual AMD and Nvidia graphics cards featuring this interface come out, they will all work at full speed, without losing any of the graphics bus speed.
In fact, LGA 2011 is a continuation to the LGA 1366 platform that is why Intel makes sure you know that Waimea Bay will have native SATA 6 Gbps support.
However, in reality the new platform differs much more from the LGA 1366 one. And these differences primarily come from its structure. The thing is that Intel X79 Express chipset will not be a new fully-functional two-chip chipset, like Intel X58, for example, but will shrink to just one South Bridge chip. So the PCI Express bus support comes from the CPU as well as regular Sandy Bridge processors for LGA 1155.
As for the functionality of the new Intel X79 chipset, it will be very similar to the functionality of the other chipsets for LGA 1155 platform.
We can’t say that X79 is a functionally modern chipset. It doesn’t even have USB 3.0 ports. However, the number of supported SATA ports has been increased to 10, and the number of 6 Gbps ports – to 6. Overall, Intel is not trying to impress us with Waimea Bay platform functionality, and focuses mostly on its performance. And as for other hot contemporary add-ons, Intel makes it clear that it is the mainboard makers’ turf.
All this goodness should be announced in the middle of Q4 2011, so there is not so much waiting left at this point. The mainboard makers confirmed that they will announce three processor models on the launch day. Two of them will be six-core processors, and one – a quad-core CPU.
As you can clearly see, maximum frequencies of the new LGA 2011 processors will be higher than those of the LGA 1155 products, which don’t ever speed up past 3.8 GHz in Turbo Mode. Of course, the nominal frequency of the Core i7-2600K is 3.4 GHz, but it will obviously be slower than any of the LGA 2011 processors, because it will either have fewer cores, or will work at lower frequencies. In any case, it is inferior to the new Sandy Bridge-E processors in the number of supported memory channels as well as in the L3 cache size.