Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra Motherboard Review

Product: Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra Motherboard
Company: Sapphire
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: June 6th, 2011

Sandy Bridge Overview

Sandy Bridge is the codename for the new x86 architecture inside the second generation Core i-Series processors from Intel. Sandy Bridge is a not just a revamp of the previous Nehalem family design, but a new design based on a blend of previous designs with generous sprinklings of innovative improvements on the top. It was first discussed in detail at the Intel Developers Forum in 2010, and one of the best investigations into the architecture and design can be found at RealWorldTech, by David Kanter.

Intel Sandy Bridge Die

The Second Generation Core i-Series processors are branded with four digit numbers to indicate performance, and the series name indicating relative positioning. Decoding the product numbers is pretty complex, complex enough that there's an app for that, Intel has their own iPhone application, and an Android one too.

Sandy Bridge CPUs use the new LGA1155 socket, changed from the LGA1156 of first generation Core i-series mainstream desktop CPUs based on the Nehalem and Westmere archtectures. Intel split their mainstream and high performance platforms when Nehalem was introduced, using socket LGA1356 for high performance desktop, workstation and entry level server CPUs, and LGA1156 for the desktop performance, mainstream and entry level products. Sandy Bridge CPUs replace the LGA1156 CPUs, spanning the same entry level through performance segments, and stepping on the toes of the LGA1356 products, too.

Using Intel's 32nm manufacturing process, Sandy Bridge features up to 4 cores with HyperThreading, an integrated GPU with up to 12 execution units, with an integrated PCI-Express controller and memory controller. The four core SKUs measure approximately 216mm2 and have an estimated 915 million transistors, including the 8MB L3 cache, in a 95W TDP package. Turbo Boost Technology hits version 2.0, which brings with it single, dual and four core clock speed increases depending on workload, temperature and base frequency.

Intel Core i7 2600K

One important aspect of the new Sandy Bridge architecture is the new built in visual capabilities. This feature is more than just the integrated GPU (iGPU) known as Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA), which supports DirectX 10.1 and also Quick Sync and InTru3D/ClearVideoHD capabilities useful for video playback, transcoding and enhancement. Depending on the version of GMA enabled in the CPU, the GPU core can also turbo boost up to a 1350MHz core clock speed. The use of these features requires an Intel Cougar Point chipset that supports enabling the iGPU - which isn't the P67 chipset, by default. However, the AES-NI and AVX extensions are always enabled and deliver significant performance increases in supported applications.

Intel Core i7 2600K

The integrated memory controller (IMC) features two independent 64-bit channels, each capable of accessing two DIMMs, for a total of four memory slots. DDR3 RAM upto 1333MT/s is supported, with capacities up to 8GB per slot and a total of 32GB. ECC is not supported on desktop parts, reserved for the Xeon branded products. Also integrated into the CPU is a PCI Express 2.0 controller with 16 lanes, capable of running as a single x16 or dual x8. The CPU connects via Direct Media Interface (DMI) 2 to the platform controller hub (PCH), replacing the previously used Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) technology of Nehalem. Intel second generation Core i-Series CPUs use a single 100MHz base clock to drive all internal derivative clocks, making overclocking by increasing bClk unreliable. Intel offers special premium editions of their Sandy Bridge CPUs, denoted with a K suffix, that offer unlocked CPU multiplier for overclocking.