Report: Skylake chipsets getting massive PCIe upgrade

For years, the PCI Express connectivity in Intel's core-logic chipsets has been limited to Gen2 speeds. Now, a new leak suggests the next generation is due for a Gen3 upgrade with a lot more lanes.

Official-looking slides published by VR-Zone Chinese outline the specifications for Intel's upcoming 100 Series chipset family for Skylake processors. Enthusiasts will be most interested in the Z170, which shares the overclocking and multi-GPU support of its Z97 predecessor. According to the slides, the Z170 will trade its forebear's eight Gen2 lanes for a whopping 20 lanes capable of Gen3 speeds.

Intel appears to have upgraded the chipset's PCIe connectivity with solid-state storage in mind. The spec table indicates that 100-series chipsets will provide M.2 SSDs with up to four lanes of bandwidth. It also says Intel's Rapid Storage Technology software can manage up to three M.2 SSDs on the Z170. Additional M.2 drives can presumably be connected via PCIe lanes that fall outside the RST umbrella, but they'll lose out on the more robust boot support and other features available through Intel's drivers.

If the leaked slides are accurate, 100-series chipsets will also offer more USB 3.0 ports than their 9-series counterparts. The Z170 will reportedly boast 14 USB ports in total, 10 of which support SuperSpeed devices. The Z97 has the same number of total ports, but only six of them are USB 3.0.

Details on the chipset's CPU interconnect are conspicuously absent from the slides, but that component is surely due for an upgrade, as well. The DMI 2.0 link in 9-series chipsets is based on four PCIe Gen2 lanes with just 20 Gbps of bandwidth. I'd expect at least a Gen3 boost—if not additional lanes—to service the upgraded I/O in 100-series chipsets.

A processor roadmap leaked last week suggests Skylake will hit the desktop mid-year, so we may not have to wait too long to see the 100 Series chipset family in action. Given Intel's SSD business and the chipset's apparent focus on M.2 drives, the firm could have its first consumer-oriented PCIe drive ready in the same time frame. Fingers crossed.

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