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Unique vPro Hardware Requirements

Intel vPro: Three Generations Of Remote Management
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Intel vPro-enabled processor and motherboard combinations look very similar to their consumer counterparts. However, the hardware is only part of the equation. There's a software component involved as well, which exposes the comprising features to IT managers working remotely. A vPro-capable platform doesn't affect performance. Rather, the technology bundle is focused on improving security and augmenting manageability.

One thing you'd need to keep in mind before building a PC able to expose vPro's feature set is that compatible processors and motherboards are a requisite. You can't just go out and buy an H67- or Z68-based board and hope to flip a switch to turn vPro on. Instead, you'd need a board based on the Q67 chipset, which is specifically designed to enable vPro.

Additionally, there are a lot of processors in Intel's lineup that don't support vPro. For a list of the CPUs that are certified vPro-compatible, check this list on Intel's site. You'll notice a complete absence of Core i3 processors there, for starters. Intel does facilitate a great set of features. However, you end up paying a premium due to the Q-series chipset and higher-end processor requirements.

For our purposes, Intel sent along a Core 2 Duo E8500, a Core i5-670, and a Core i5-2500, along with motherboards to go along with each. The Core 2 Duo E8500 represents the now 15-quarter-old Wolfdale generation. It's a fairly common processor in systems nearing a three- to four-year replacement cycle (incidentally, it was also a fairly popular enthusiast chip, thanks to its modest overclockability). Intel's Clarkdale design is represented by the Core i5-670, which is the 32 nm follow-up based on Intel's Nehalem architecture with an on-package graphics/memory/PCIe controller etched at 45 nm. Representing the newest Sandy Bridge architecture is Intel's Core i5-2500.

These CPUs are neither the fastest in their respective product families, nor are they the slowest. Businesses, unlike enthusiasts, tend not to purchase as many top-of-the line CPUs due to ever-present budget constraints. 

Intel vPro CPU Comparison
CPU
Core 2 Duo E8500
Core i5-670
Core i5-2500
Socket
LGA 775LGA 1156
LGA 1155
Process
45 nm32 nm
32 nm
Max TDP
65 W
73 W
95 W
Cores
2
2
4
Threads
2
4
4
Base Clock
3.16 GHz
3.46 GHz
3.3 GHz
Max Turbo Clock
N/A
3.73 GHz
3.7 GHz
AES-NI
No
Yes
Yes
VT-d
Yes
Yes
Yes
TXT
Yes
Yes
Yes

If you want a better idea of how these processor perform, check out Tom's CPU Charts. Performance isn't the issue here, though. Instead, we're interested in how the technologies these have evolved across three generations of hardware.

Along with a compatible CPU, exploiting vPro also requires a compatible motherboard. Generally speaking, the technology is enabled through Q-series motherboards. However, it's worth noting that not all Q-series chipsets support all of the features under the vPro umbrella. This is one of those areas where Intel could really help clarify for its partners, as it's currently difficult to get a clear bead on the precise demands for each piece of the vPro puzzle.

vPro Motherboard Comparison
Motherboard
Intel DQ45CBIntel DQ57TM
Intel DQ67SW
Socket
LGA 775LGA 1156
LGA 1155
Form Factor
MicroATXMicroATX
MicroATX
Memory Type
DDR2DDR3
DDR3
Graphics Output
DVI-I, DVI-DDVI-I, DVI-D, DisplayPort
DVI-I, DVI-D, DisplayPort
USB 2.0 Ports
12
14
12
USB 3.0 Ports
0
0
2
SATA II Ports
6
5
2
SATA III Ports
0
0
2
eSATA Ports
1
1
2
AMT Version
5.x
6.x
7.x
TPM
Yes
Yes
Yes
10/100/1000 NIC
Intel 82567LMIntel 82578DM
Intel 82574LM


Intel’s Q-series boards utilize Intel-branded network controllers to support vPro's out-of-band management capabilities (that is to say, features that still work, even when a PC is powered down). A quick glance at the controllers on the boards Intel submitted for evaluation reveals that each platform provides on-board gigabit-class connectivity. As part of the vPro platform, Intel requires that the system use the company's networking hardware instead of controllers from other vendors like Realtek, Marvell, and Broadcom.

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