Ivy Bridge chipset specs come into focus

Everyone is excited about Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs. There's good reason, especially since the next-gen processors will be able to slip into some existing motherboards. Most Ivy Bridge systems will probably be built up on fresh mobos based on Intel's incoming 7-series chipsets, though. Otherwise known as Panther Point, the 7-series chipsets will be Intel's first with native USB 3.0 support.

We got our first taste of Panther Point's capabilities back in March. Now, CPU World has published more extensive details on individual members of the 7-series lineup. Consumers will reportedly have their choice of H77, Z75, and Z77 chipsets. All three are supposed to offer four USB 3.0 ports in addition to 10 USB 2.0 ports. Like Intel's existing 6-series chipsets, four of Panther Point's SATA ports hail from the 3Gbps generation. Only two ports will enable 6Gbps speeds.

The same RAID support will purportedly be available in the H77, Z75, and Z77. However, only the 77-series models will come equipped with SSD caching via Intel's Smart Response Technology. Support for multi-GPU configurations appears to be the primary difference between the H- and Z-series designs. Only the Z75 and Z77 are said to be capable of splitting Ivy Bridge's 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity between a pair of graphics cards. While the Z75 will be limited to dividing those lanes into a dual-x8 config, the Z77 will also be able to run them in a x8/x4/x4 setup.

Thanks to the extra bandwidth available in gen-three PCI Express, the Z77's x8/x4/x4 config may support three-way CrossFire and SLI setups. Such configurations are likely to be rare, but I can see the appeal of running a dually graphics config alongside a super-fast PCIe SSD. The Z77 may be capable of hanging all those components directly off the CPU.

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