Bringing LGA 1156 Up To Speed
Introduced late last year, Intel’s LGA 1156 platform was the subject of acclaim (it introduced impressive performance) and complaints (it totally wrecked the LGA 775 upgrade path). Enthusiasts on a budget could finally take advantage of Intel’s Nehalem architecture, but nearly every aspect of the design had a catch.
First, the CPU-based PCIe 2.0 controller had less latency than previous chipset-based controllers, but it only came armed with 16 lanes at full bandwidth (supporting a maximum of two devices). Second, the eight so-called PCIe 2.0 links emanating from its P55 PCH operated at a halved-bit-rate of 2.5 Gb/s. This editor believes that the PCIe limitation was intended to prevent its use with x4 RAID cards in non-mission-critical applications (don’t step on X58’s toes), but the practical effect on its intended market was that SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers were usually limited to half their intended performance levels. At any rate, something had to be done.
That something came to us courtesy of Intel's chief rival, AMD. AMD’s mainstream chipsets already had left-over PCIe 2.0 lanes before Intel even announced the P55, offering proper support for USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers in its legacy product. AMD even designed a new southbridge with integrated SATA 6Gb/s. What's worse is that, as a developer of USB 3.0, Intel knew about the bandwidth issue before it even designed the LGA 1156 platform. Even though LGA 1156 offered magnificent CPU and single-GPU performance, the P55 platform's bandwidth limitation remains an embarrassment.
Thankfully, that chapter in Intel's chipset history is about to close, and we actually have our readers to thank for making this happen. Customers are placing increasing pressure on Intel to include SATA 6Gb/s support in its mainstream platforms, and the firm’s strategy has always been to cave to customer demand about three seconds before organized protesters turn to riot (Ed.: does this mean we should be even more vocal about the crummy state of overclocking outside of the K-series models?).
In addition to improved hard drive performance, Intel’s upcoming P67 Express PCH ups the throughput of its PCIe-based DMI interface, enabling full bandwidth to at least four of its eight PCIe 2.0 lanes simultaneously. That means USB 3.0 controllers will also be capable of reaching full potential, and true support for PCIe 2.0 x4 controller cards will be an option on some motherboard designs.
Yet, as always, there’s a catch: Intel wants you to think you’ll need a new CPU. ASRock disagrees.