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Any gamer with an Intel P55 chipset can tell you about the advantages and disadvantages of P55 versus Intel's X58 chipset. Advantage: motherboards employing using the P55 chipset are more reasonably-priced than those using X58, on average. Disadvantage: P55 comes equipped with minimal PCI Express connectivity, instead relying on Intel Clarkdale- and Lynnfield-based CPUs with 16 lanes of second-gen PCIe built into the processor itself. Meanwhile, X58 leverages 36 lanes of PCI Express 2.0.
For P55 customers who want to use two graphics cards, both boards are forced down to x8 signaling rates. If you want to add a third card to a P55-based platform, it'll have to occupy the chipset's connectivity, which unfortunately runs at first-gen signaling rates and is limited to a maximum of four lanes on a board with the corresponding slot.
When I asked Al Yanes of the PCI-SIG group how many lanes we could expect to see in PCI Express 3.0-enabled chipsets from AMD and Intel, he responded that this was “proprietary information” that he “could not discuss.” I didn’t really expect an answer. But still, given the opportunity, the question had to be asked. We feel it’s unlikely that AMD and Intel, both members of the PCI-SIG Board of Directors, would invest time and money into PCI Express 3.0 development if they planned on using PCI Express as an excuse to reduce lane counts. Thus, we feel it’s far more likely that future AMD and Intel chipsets will continue to employ segmenting similar to what we see today, with high-end platforms sporting enough connectivity to support a pair of graphics cards at native x16 signaling, and more mainstream chipsets shaving off PCIe from there.
Picture a chipset like the P55, but with 16 available PCI Express 3.0 lanes. Since these 16 lanes run at twice the speed of PCI Express 2.0, you'd actually be getting the equivalent of 32 lanes. Then, it'd just be a matter of a company like Intel making its chipset compatible with three- and four-way GPU configurations. Unfortunately, we already know that Intel's next-generation P67 and X68 chipsets will still be limited to PCIe 2.0 (and the Sandy Bridge CPUs will similarly be limited to 16 lanes of on-die connectivity).
In addition to CUDA/Fusion/parallel processing, the expansion of mainstream capabilities through higher-bandwidth interconnects like PCI Express 3.0 is where we see the technology's true potential emerging. Without question, PCI Express 3.0 will enable moderately-priced motherboards with interfaces that were limited to high-end platforms in the previous generation. Those high-end platforms, armed with PCI Express 3.0, will naturally set new performance records, thanks to innovations in graphics, storage, and networking that exploit the available throughput.