Back in August 2010, AnandTech published its Sandy Bridge preview—an in-depth examination designed to tantalize consumers and industry alike as to what Intel’s latest production has to offer. I would like to review some of the major points as an introduction to the platform.

As you would expect, the new socket 1155 processors are incompatible with socket 1156 motherboards. The new motherboards will come in H and P varieties, with the H series taking advantage of the graphics on the processor die, whereas the P series will utilize discrete graphics only. At launch, both P67 and H67 chipsets will be available, with the H61 chipset released during Q1 2011.

Despite losing the on-chip graphics with the P series, these boards will support dual PCIe lanes running at x8 speed. The PCIe lane bandwidth of the new chipset is double that of previous Intel chipsets, firstly to increase correlation with chipsets, but also to help support SATA 6 Gb/s which runs over PCIe 1x, and future movement into USB 3.0.

The P/H67 chipsets will natively support two SATA 6Gb/s ports, with the possibility of some manufacturers adding an NEC/Marvell/Etron chip to increase this to four. Four SATA 3Gb/s will be included as standard. No USB 3.0 native support is included, much to the disappointment of some consumers, but again manufacturers at their own discretion can add an chip to give a couple of ports in the back panel, or a few more through onboard headers. USB 2.0 is provided copiously, with at least 10 ports available across the range, through either the back panel or onboard headers.

One major benefit, which I wholeheartedly approve of, is that the holes for the new coolers are identical to the socket 1156 coolers, and various board manufacturers may include socket 775 holes as well, allowing customers to keep their old air or water coolers.

You may remember the following comparison table:

Chipset Comparison
  P67 H67 H61 P55 H57 H55
CPU Support Sandy Bridge
Sandy Bridge
Sandy Bridge
Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156 Lynnfield / Clarkdale LGA-1156
CPU PCIe Config 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCIe 2.0 1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
1 x 16
PCIe 2.0
RAID Support Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 10 14 14 12
SATA Total (Max Number of 6Gbps Ports) 6 (2) 6 (2) 4 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0) 6 (0)
PCIe Lanes 8 (5GT/s) 8 (5GT/s) 6 (5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 8 (2.5GT/s) 6 (2.5GT/s)

Another major step over previous sockets and chipsets is the introduction of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). UEFI is a replacement for the older BIOS firmware present in most motherboards, designed to enhance the usability of the motherboard firmware over previous BIOS implementations. Major benefits include a graphical interface, the ability to use a mouse, improved possibility for overclocking on the fly, and the capability of booting from GPT hard drives (those with capacities over 2.2TB where the MBR partition table is unsuitable). Each implementation of the UEFI will be different from manufacturer to manufacturer, and we will look at ASRock’s implementation here today.

One other aspect of note with the new chipsets is the overclockability prospects on Sandy Bridge. Intel’s decision to integrate the clock generator onto the chipset die means that every BUS speed is a derivative of the clock speed. Various buses are highly sensitive to the clock speed, and will allow very little overclocking—maybe, at most, 1 or 2MHz above 100MHz. Thus, for the most part, people will leave the clock speed alone and end up adjusting the multiplier to increase the CPU speed (with the appropriate multiplier unlocked chip), and the divider to increase the RAM speed. For complete scalability, both will have to be adjusted in order for the CPU to reach optimum efficiency. On the P67 chipset, memory speeds up to 2133MHz are selectable, as well as adjustment of the memory sub-timings. We will examine the UEFI options ASRock provides, but please check Anand’s CPU overview for the full Sandy Bridge scaling picture.

On that note, let us have a look at one of the first Sandy Bridge motherboards to market, the ASRock P67 Extreme4.

Visual Inspection
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  • gobe - Saturday, March 26, 2011 - link

    I have the Asrock P67 Extreme4 motherboard and it has serious compatibility issues with USB2 devices.
    Devices such as webcams, USB modems, USB tuners, phones with USB connection doesn't work on the USB 3.0 ports which are built upon the low cost Etron EJ168A chip.

    It is nice that on some storage devices the performance is good, but what about the usability of the USB 3.0 ports?
  • wheretobe - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Same problem here. Fresh intall windows 7 64 bit and get random BSOD. And no problem in safe mode. Then I used system recovery to get rid of the Etron driver, the BSOD disappeared right away. Reinstall the driver and the BSOD is back again.
  • gobe - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Some of the issues are resolved by the latest Etron driver version 0.98 which is available only from the Gigabyte support site:

    I have the feeling that sometimes the mobo manufacturers consider the end users as beta testers.

    Etron USB 3.0 is junk.
  • sky_dvr - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    There is a label on top of my SATA connectors on my P67 Extreme4 motherboard. It reads "Connect HDD on SATA Port 0-5 as boot device."

    The problem is that the ports are numbered
    SATA3_M1, White
    SATA3_M2, White
    SATA3_0, White
    SATA3_1, White
    SATA2_2, Blue
    SATA2_3, Blue
    SATA2_4, Blue
    SATA2_5, Blue
    So there isn't a PORT 0-5 that I can see. Does the label mean that I can hook the hard drive to any port 0 THROUGH 5 or is it specifically calling out a port named "0-5"?
    Which one of these is "PORT 0-5"? I hope it is not "SATA2_5, Blue" because it is SATA2 and my SSD is SATA3.

    Thank you so much,
  • adennehy - Monday, September 19, 2011 - link

    I was hoping you would get an answer to your question. Im not sure which socket to connect my ssd to. Which of the 4 white slots are the Marvels (worst) ?

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