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Sandy Bridge processors are not compatible with Intel’s 5-series chipsets. I guess this is fine, since you already have to buy a new motherboard as a result of LGA 1156 getting abandoned. But that doesn’t make another platform upgrade an easy pill to swallow for the mainstream market—presumably folks who don’t have two or three grand to spend on technology every time “next-gen” becomes “current-gen” hardware.
At launch, there are two desktop-oriented chipsets to go with Sandy Bridge: P67 and H67. The former is intended for use with discrete graphics. To that end, P67 is your only option for dividing the 16 lanes of processor-based PCIe connectivity between multiple graphics cards. For a majority of enthusiasts, P67 is the way to go. The latter option, H67, is the only way for you to take advantage of Sandy Bridge’s integrated graphics engine.
Worried about P67's performance with multiple graphics cards installed? Don't be. We've already shown that you can get very X58-like performance out of a P55 board armed with Nvidia's NF200 bridge chip, even using a trio of Radeon HD 5870s.
Both platform controller hubs serve up as many as 14 USB 2.0 ports. Neither of them supports USB 3.0. The pair also exposes as many as six SATA ports, two of which run at 6 Gb/s transfer rates (the other four are limited to 3 Gb/s). Neither extends support for legacy PCI.
In return, though, the two chipsets finally offer 5 GT/s signaling, enabling 500 MB/s per direction, per lane. P67 and H67 both include eight lanes, just like P55/H57. Presumably, that’ll be nice for add-on USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers, though the fact that Intel’s data sheet still lists the DMI interface at 1 GB/s in each direction could still cause congestion.
|H67 Express||P67 Express||P55 Express|
|Interface||LGA 1155||LGA 1155||LGA 1156|
|Memory Channels / DIMMs Per Channel||2/2||2/2||2/2|
|Total SATA (6 Gb/s)||6 (2)||6 (2)||6 (0)|
|PCIe||8 (5 GT/s)||8 (5 GT/s)||8 (2.5 GT/s)|
|PCI Slot Support||None||None||4|
|Independent Display Outputs||2||0||0|
|Protected Audio/Video Path||Yes||No||No|
|Rapid Storage Technology||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Overclocking||Graphics-only||Processor ratio-only||Processor ratio / BCLK|
Being the only chipset able to expose Sandy Bridge’s graphics capabilities, H67’s differentiators are naturally graphics-oriented. The PCH can do dual independent display outputs, for starters. It’s also the key to a protected audio/video path—mandatory for Blu-ray playback and bitstreaming high-def audio to a receiver. Finally, H67 lets you manually overclock on-die graphics.
How about H67’s limitations? Well, H67 does not support processor overclocking. If you pay a premium for a K-series SKU to get the faster graphics engine, you’re limited to the chip’s highest Turbo Boost setting as its frequency ceiling. H67 is also locked to Sandy Bridge’s programmed memory and power limits. To get unlocked core, power, and memory settings, you have to use P67. More on overclocking after the jump…
Later in 2011, Intel will release a chipset called Z68, which will facilitate core and graphics overclocking on the same board. That’s not to be confused with X78—Intel’s next-gen flagship chipset, set to replace X58.