CHIPMAKER Intel has released its Z77 Panther Point chipset as it cranks up the hype for its upcoming Ivy Bridge processors.
Intel's Panther Point Z77 chipset will be the supporting act when the firm announces its successor to the immensely successful Sandy Bridge processors in the very near future. Intel's Z77 chipset has been released on a raft of LGA1155 motherboards. The Z77 chipset supports Sandy Bridge processors now and will support Ivy Bridge processors when those appear.
Intel's Z77 chipset brings 16-lane PCI-Express 3 support however that is only available with Ivy Bridge processors. Intel has also stuck SATA3 onto Z77, meaning motherboard vendors can get away without having to implement third party silicon.
Last week Intel confirmed that the Z77 chipset can use the PCI-Express interface to attach a Thunderbolt connection. The firm said a 10Gbit/s copper Thunderbolt interface can be attached, though it will require a separate PHY, with Intel saying that it expects a small number of motherboards to appear with the interface in the Summer.
For the time being, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI have all released Z77 motherboards, with Intel releasing its DZ77GA-70K Gasper motherboard, which we have reviewed. While most manufacturers have opted for similar configurations - after all, there are only so many ways you can package 16 PCI Express lanes and 14 USB ports and six SATA3 ports - Gigabyte has stuck an mSATA slot on its Series 7 motherboards to slot in solid-state disk (SSD) drives acting as caching units.
Asus also has an extensive range of Z77 chipset motherboards from the get-go, including its Maximus V Gene, a Micro ATX board that also has s PCI-Express based SATA controller to act as a cache drive.
From our testing, Sandy Bridge processors on Z77 motherboards offer minimal added performance benefits. However, if you need to replace an LGA1155 motherboard then the Z77 is worth considering, and if you are waiting for Ivy Bridge chips then the Z77 is really the only viable choice. µ
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