With the incipient release of Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors (our full review here), so comes a new wave of Intel chipsets. We glanced over Intel’s new Z270 chipset in our Kaby Lake review but will take a closer look at the other chipsets here.
Intel announced five new desktop chipsets to support its new generation of Kaby Lake processors. This includes two consumer oriented chipsets (Z270 and H270) and three business oriented SKUs (Q270, Q250, B250). All of the 100-series chipsets introduced with Skylake also support Kaby Lake processors with a BIOS update. Intel opted not to create an H210 SKU, as low-end Skylake chipsets are already filling the market space that H210 would otherwise occupy.
As always, the Z270 chipset is the most feature-rich consumer oriented SKU, followed closely by H270. As this is the second generation of LGA1151 chipsets, however, motherboards based on the Z170 chipset will likely fill the already slim gap between Z270 and H270.
|Intel LGA1151 Consumer-Oriented Chipset Comparison|
|CPU PCI-E 3.0 Config Support||1x16, 2x8, 1x8 + 2x4||1x16, 2x8, 1x8 + 2x4||1x16||1x16||1x16|
|Independent Display Support||3||3||3||3||2|
|Memory support (Channels/DIMMs Per Channel)||-DDR4 2400MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2400MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/1)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/1)|
|CPU Overclocking Support||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|RAID Support 0/1/5/10||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Maximum HSIO Lanes||30||26||30||22||14|
|Chipset Maximum PCI-E Lanes||24 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||20 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||20 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||16 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||6 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes|
|USB 2.0 Support (USB 3.0)||14 (10)||14 (10)||14 (8)||14 (8)||10 (4)|
|SATA-III Ports (6Gb/s)||6||6||6||6||4|
Overall, the 200 series chipsets feature minor improvements over the outgoing 100 series. Their total number of HSIO lanes is increased by four on 200-series consumer chipsets, as does the maximum number of PCI-E lanes.
A key change inherent in the new Kaby Lake chipsets is that OEMs can now configure up to eight of the chipset’s PCI-E 3.0 lanes to a single device. Skylake chipsets were limited to just four lanes per device. It’s hard to judge what effect this will have on the motherboard market. On one hand, OEMs could enable x16/x8 multi-GPU configurations using the CPU’s 16 PCI-E lanes and an additional eight lanes from the chipset. This could ultimately make overclocking support the only reason to purchase a Z270 chipset board over a H270 motherboard.
As the DMI 3.0 connection between the CPU and chipset has less theoretical bandwidth than a PCI-E 3.0 x8 connection, however, GPUs connected in this manner could be data starved and underperform. Without testing, it’s impossible to know exactly how much the DMI 3.0 interface will bottleneck a multi-GPU setup configured in this manner. Until we test some boards that utilize this feature, we cannot be sure what kind of an impact this will have.
Although the memory controller is integrated into the CPU, it should also be noted that Intel increased the DDR4 RAM speed on Kaby Lake products to 2,400MHz across the board. DDR3L memory support is unchanged from Skylake. Kaby Lake also is not compatible with DDR3 RAM operating at 1.5V or higher, as it may damage the processor.
Intel’s business-oriented Kaby Lake chipsets see more enhancements than their consumer counterparts. There isn’t much to say about Intel’s Q270 chipset, as it doesn’t change much from Q170. Intel’s Q250 and B250 chipsets, however, are significantly improved.
|Intel LGA1151 Business Oriented Chipset Comparison|
|CPU PCI-E 3.0 Config Support||1x16, 2x8, 1x8 + 2x4||1x16, 2x8, 1x8 + 2x4||1x16||1x16||1x16||1x16|
|Independent Display Support||3||3||3||3||3||3|
|Memory support (Channels/DIMMs Per Channel)||-DDR4 2400MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2400MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2400MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)||-DDR4 2133MHz (2/2)-DDR3 1600MHz (2/2)|
|CPU Overclocking Support||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|RAID Support 0/1/5/10||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Maximum HSIO Lanes||30||26||27||20||25||18|
|Chipset Maximum PCI-E Lanes||24 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||20 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||14 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||10 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||12 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||8 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes|
|USB Support (USB 3.0)||14 (10)||14 (10)||14 (8)||14 (8)||12 (6)||12 (6)|
|SATA-III Ports (6Gb/s)||6||6||6||6||6||6|
Like the consumer-oriented chipsets, the Q270 features an additional four HSIO lanes and four PCI-E 3.0 lanes over its predecessor. Other than that, it is essentially the same as the Q170.
Intel’s Q250 and B250 both gain seven additional HSIO lanes, which considerably boosts the number of ports and connections that they can operate simultaneously. They also have four extra PCI-E 3.0 lanes.
This will allow OEMs to configure PCI-E 3.0 x8 ports connected to the chipsets without consuming all of the available lanes. It will also allow for up to three M.2 Key M ports to be configured with a PCI-E 3.0 x4 connection.
Because the key improvements in the 200-series chipsets are improved connectivity support, however, they will likely not tempt you to upgrade if you already own a 100-series chipset motherboard.
Update, 1/4/17, 8:30pm PT: Update: Intel informed us that the x8 connection we discussed above is actually only possible with a third-party bridge chip. These bridge chips are not limited to an x8 connection and could enable up to a PCI-E x16 connection from the PCH. This was also possible with Skylake chipsets, but it was not widely publicized by Intel prior to the introduction of Kaby Lake.