X79, Llano motherboards break cover at Computex

Computex — Intel's X58 chipset is in dire need of an upgrade, and we caught a glimpse of what that will look like while visiting with Gigabyte today in Taipei. The company was displaying an X79 motherboard equipped with a 2011-pin socket primed for "Sandy Bridge-E" CPUs. Check it out:

The next-gen socket looks pretty beefy and extends all the way to the heatsink mounting holes. Two DIMM slots line up on each side, allowing users to tap each of the CPU's quad memory channels with a single module. South of the socket, a stack of five PCI Express x16 slots provides loads of expansion capacity. At least some of those slots are based on the PCIe 3.0 standard, which doubles the per-lane bandwidth available with gen-two PCI Express. Add in 14 Serial ATA ports, and this puppy looks like one heck of an enthusiast board.

If you're in the market for something a little more sedate, Gigabyte was also showing Llano boards based on AMD's A75 platform hub. The model pictured above uses a full-size ATX form factor, but microATX flavors are on the way, as well. AMD hasn't officially announced when Llano will hit desktops, but if motherboards are already being displayed, the next batch of Fusion APUs can't be too far away.

When Gigabyte announced its G1-Killer series of high-end motherboards at CES earlier this year, we lamented the lack of love for Intel's newly launched Sandy Bridge CPUs. As it turns out, delaying the series' foray into LGA1155 waters might not have been such a bad idea. The first G1-Killer board designed for Sandy Bridge CPUs is based on the new Z68 Express chipset, which boasts switchable graphics and SSD caching capabilities—exactly the sort of features you'd want in a high-end motherboard. Gigabyte doesn't stop there, either. The G1-Killer also features an onboard X-Fi backed by audiophile-grade electrical components. There's an integrated Killer NIC, too.

Speaking of Z68 motherboards, Gigabyte has cooked up a feature called EZ Smart Response that allows Intel's SSD caching scheme to run with the storage controller configured in AHCI or IDE mode. Smart Response currently requires the storage controller to be in RAID mode, which can create problems if you're trying to add an SSD cache to a system that's already been set up in either of the other two modes. EZ Smart Response should be a good match for the four Z68 models Gigabyte is preparing with onboard mSATA slots. One of those boards, the Z68XP-UD3-iSSD, will be bundled with an Intel 311 Series 20GB SSD.

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