Unique vPro Hardware Requirements
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 775||LGA 1156||LGA 1155|
|Process||45 nm||32 nm||32 nm|
|Max TDP||65 W||73 W||95 W|
|Base Clock||3.16 GHz||3.46 GHz||3.3 GHz|
|Max Turbo Clock||N/A||3.73 GHz||3.7 GHz|
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 DQ45CB||Intel DQ57TM||Intel DQ67SW|
|Socket||LGA 775||LGA 1156||LGA 1155|
|Graphics Output||DVI-I, DVI-D||DVI-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|
|10/100/1000 NIC||Intel 82567LM||Intel 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.