by Jacqueline Emigh
With the first PCs based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture widely expected to show up at CES in January, leaked specifications from mother board makers like ECS, MSI, and Gigabyte are giving big hints about what to anticipate.
Beyond their common support for Sandy Bridge, it seems that the boards – and the PCs to be built on top of them – will differ in areas that include size, numbers of USB 3.0 and PCI Express slots, audio and HDMI support, and types of support for multi-GPU configurations, for instance.
Until lately, information about Sandy Bridge-based PCs has been sketchy, except for glimmerings about Sandy Bridge itself, doled out by Intel in demos at industry venues like the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in September.
At IDF, Tom Piazza, an Intel fellow, contended that Sandy Bridge’s built-in GPU brings a “fantastic experience” for mainstream video gaming as well as for video editing and encoding.
Elaborating more, a member of Intel’s demo team maintained that through its AVX instruction set, Sandy Bridge offloads tasks like vector graphics, video and motion tracking from the main processor for “incredible performance,” permitting video producers to add special effects in realtime instead of in post-production, for example.
Other general facts have emerged along the way. Reportedly, Intel is initially releasing processors with two and four cores, with six and eight cores slated for later. Clock speeds will range from 2.2 to 3.4 GHz, with boost rates of up to 3.8GHz, and floating point performance will reach up to 32 Gflop/s per core.
The recently leaked mother board specifications, though, are highly specific in suggesting what kinds of new Sandy Bridge-enabled PCs will hit the market in January.
Evidently, the boards will come in two main form factors, and they will use a variety of technologies to support a multi-GPU environment for applications like advanced gaming. The board makers are also adding their own innovations to the second gen Intel core processors.
Gigabyte’s three Sandy Bridge boards
Earlier this month, the beans got spilled on three new motherboards Gigabyte is building around Sandy Bridge: the P67A-UD3R, P67A-UD3, and H67MA-UD2H.
All three will combine LGA 1155 Intel sockets – which support Intel i3, i5, i7, and unlocked K-Sku processors — and Intel’s 6-series chipset with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps interfaces; dual-channel DDR3 memory of up to 2200MHz; 8-channel audio; Gigabit Ethernet; and CrossFireX for support of multi-GPU configurations.
Also incorporated are proprietary Gigabyte technologies that include a 3x USB power design featuring on/off Charge USB ports, Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 3PCB design, and Gigabytes’ patented DualBios technology.
Gigabyte’s H67MA-UD2H will add an HDMI/DVI/Displayport digital graphics interface for VGA video output to TVs and other HD (high definition) displays.
MSI’s boards a mix of ATX and mini-ATX form factors
Specs also started appearing on the Web from MSI, another manufacturer which is producing three LGA 1155 motherboards. Like Gigabyte, MSI is prepping two boards in the ATX form factor, and one board in the smaller mini-ATX form factor.
MSI’s three boards – the P67A-GD65, P67A-GD55, and H67MA-ED55 – will each offer four DDR3 slots; two SATA 6.0 Gbps ports; four SATA 3.0 Gbps connectors; two PCI Express x16 slots; Gigabit Ethernet, and 7.1 channel audio. The P67A-GD65 will provide three USB 3.0 slots, and the others only two USB 3.0 slots each.
MSI plans to support two technologies for multi-GPU configurations: CrossFireX and SLI. All three boards will also support OC Genie, a technology for overclocking the system by pressing on a button.
ECS to include Lucid Hydra 200 chip
Meanwhile, rival board maker ECS shipped out a board to UK publication Softpedia. This week, Softpedia released a video showing that ECS’s P67H2-A Black Series motherboard will come with a Lucid Hydra 200 chip, for users wanting to augment Intel’s built-in GPU with discrete graphics cards from other vendors.
Also on ECC’s list of generous specs are a 12 phase power design; 14 USB 2.0 ports; 6 USB 3.0 headers; 4 SATA II and 2 SATA III device connections; and three PCIe x16 Gen 2 slots, operating at x16, x8 and x8 speeds. ECS is readying a second Sandy Bridge board, as well, known as the H67H2-M Black Series.